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Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Not Who I Imagined" (Margot Starbuck)

TITLE: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God
AUTHOR: Margot Starbuck
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014, (256 pages).

How can a God so big ever love a small little me? How does God's face look like? Is he an Authoritarian God; a Benevolent God; a Critical God; or a Distant God? How does our past affect our vision of God? What are the limits of God's love? Most importantly, will God accept me as I am? These questions meander constantly throughout the book, written by a regular contributor to Today's Christian Women. The author is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary, passionate about communicating the love of God to people she meets with. Underlying her enthusiasm is the single conviction that God loves us, and takes us as we are. In turn, we are urged to take God as He is.

Written in six parts, Starbuck believes that God is more often than not, much bigger, much more gracious than most believers made Him out to be. She goes all the way back to help us explore our own personal narratives, and to learn to see beyond our obvious physical selves, toward an inner being. We are cautioned not to let our identity be defined by outsiders. Slowly but surely, Starbuck leads us to stare at the challenge right at the face, using Brene Brown's words: "The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute." At the same time, we need to beware of deceptive voices and learn to cultivate a listening ear to the voice of God. Before that can happen, we need to remove our masks. We need to wash away our make-up. If we want God to accept us just as we are, we must approach God just as we are. With stories and heartwarming illustrations, Starbuck's gently guides readers to look away from false faces that mask our authentic selves, and to look at the True Face of God. Her final chapter on "Lookin' for Love" is an excellent summary of how a life liberated for God will look like.

Starbuck's favourite authors appears to be Brennan Manning, Lewis Smedes, and Henri Nouwen. Her use of the "face" metaphor is a helpful way to help us visualize God. I appreciate the way she weaves in the four popular faces of God, according to the Barna studies, and then integrates them into the book's main theme: God is more than what people think. God is more than what we think. In fact, God is much more incomprehensible than anybody can ever think. Yet, the mystery of faith is that, when we submit to God, when we truly acknowledge we need God, and we need God's help to see Him, strangely, the clouds of doubt will dissipate. The winds of change will be stilled. When the dust settles and the commotion stops, when we see God face to face, I believe we will be more than surprised. We would be so wowed that our natural response is to bow down and worship.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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