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Monday, October 21, 2013

"Becoming Myself" (Stasi Eldredge)

TITLE: Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You
AUTHOR: Stasi Eldredge
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook Publishers, 2013, (256 pages).

Do we want to be changed by circumstances or by self-grit? Perhaps, the question is not what we are being changed into, but who is changing us.What is change? How does one really change? Does anyone ever really change? These questions drive popular teacher and conference speaker, Stasi Eldredge on a quest for our dreams of life and of God. The key is not change per se, but who we are being changed into. It is not changing for the sake of change, but changed by the love of God. It is not us changing ourselves or our circumstances, but us being changed by God through the circumstances. This distinction becomes clearer and clearer the more one leaves through the pages of this book.  Beginning with some observations of the struggles of many women, she points out two unhelpful agents of change. The first is the use of "shame" which basically guilt trips and demotivates oneself. The second is the other extreme which sees oneself in terms of one's ability to keep up with the disciplines. The first paralyzes one into non-action. It constantly cries out a desire to be fixed. The second drowns oneself in non-stop activities that never seem to be enough. It struggles to fix oneself. Both have one thing in common. It lacks the understanding of what God's love for us means.  It enslaves one with chains that say: "Fix It or be Fixed." "Becoming Myself" is not about fixing. It is about faith. It is about hope. It is about love, in particular, God's love.

Eldredge then invites us to meander with her through the events that shaped us. Like how our childhood memories can be a blessing or how we can look back at our high school years on how we long for acceptance by others and self-acceptance. With frank assessment of our hurts comes an honesty that points toward healing and the Healer. In “Lanscape of our lives,” Eldredge provides a metaphors of change through a woman’s life comparing the physical bodies of women with the four seasons of nature: Preadolescence and rapid development (growing); Menses and child-bearing (busyness); perimenopause and irregular cycles (struggles with end of mothering period); and menopause (great opportunities for self-growth and acceptance) . As a woman, she laments about the external forces that impact women at large, such as violence and becoming victims of sex trade. On mothers, she reflects on the four vital roles of mothers that all communicate self-worth: nurturing, protecting, preparing, and most importantly, initiating. For any mother to be able to help initiate another toward the fullest expression of womanhood, one needs to be initiated herself in the first place. If a mother wants to give love, she needs to receive love. If a mother wants to provide care, she needs to learn what it means to be cared for. If a mother wants to embrace life, she needs to be embraced by the Giver of Life, God Himself. This triggers the transformation of a woman away from fearing life toward desiring God; away from petty expectations about friends toward grace and forgiveness; away from drowning in life’s challenges toward bold swimming in rough waters of life. As one begins to see life from the eyes of God, one will gradually learn about true freedom both outside and especially inside. For true freedom will make us less judgmental about people. It can free us from shaming ourselves. It can free us from spiritual lies and bondage. Most of all, it liberates us toward greater freedom to be ourselves as we cling on the Giver of all Freedom: God. Slowly but surely, Eldredge affirms that the full expression of womanhood is in becoming a woman of faith, a woman of worship, and a woman who is true to her name and her calling. Most importantly, one is most fully herself when one is fully God's. This is the beautiful paradox of life.

So What?

Eldredge has written a powerful book to help women discover themselves. In order to appreciate how she comes to her conclusion, it is necessary to journey with her through the many different emotional struggles through life. Like her use of the metaphor of the seasons of nature, women would probably appreciate the physical and emotional changes through each stage of life. Readers who are looking for a quick and easy solution about solving the problems of life will be disappointed. There are no quick and easy solutions in this book. There is simply an invitation to ride the rocky waves of life, to understand the unique challenges of women, so that one can learn how to relate better with them at different stages of life.

Is this book only for women? Not necessarily. Men can also learn about the unique natures of a woman and in doing so, learn to exercise greater understanding and patience so that they can encourage them appropriately. Husbands too can find this book helpful as they seek to relate more intimately with their wives. One of the most powerful chapters are the ones on motherhood. It reminds me of my mother and her many self-sacrificial acts of love to prepare, to nurture, to protect, and to help us children grow into adulthood.

If you are in a position of spiritual leadership in a group or community where both genders are present, this book will certainly equip you with this key idea: "The more God's you become, the more yourself you become."

Eight Session Study Guide

There is a group study guide that readers may be interested to know. It follows closely the main book and provides brief summaries of the main points in the book followed by questions for discussion. This study guide is a practical way to explore the issue of change and negative thoughts, and how to be transformed into freedom in God. The eight lessons are entitled as follows:
  1. Does anyone really change?
  2. Looking back with mercy / the landscape of our lives
  3. Our mothers, ourselves
  4. From accepting to embracing / From fear to desire
  5. The company of women / Beauty forged in suffering
  6. Stumbling into Freedom
  7. Becoming a woman of faith and worship
  8. Becoming our true name / take heart.
The main book itself invites readers to pray "Come for us, Jesus. Come where we did not know any such thing. Come for our hearts." The study guide invites readers to act: "Let us come to you, Jesus. Let us embrace You more, as we let You embrace us all."

If you are planning to buy, do include the study guide as it summarizes very succinctly the main points.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by David C Cook Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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