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I am currently leading a group of ladies in a study on consecration, using Havergal’s Kept for the Master’s Use (a verse by verse discussion of her hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be”). The chapter we are now perusing has to do with the line, “Take my will and make it thine—it shall be no longer mine.” That, in essence, is the theme of this book. Though the idea of self denial is not one that has women alone in the Scripture’s crosshairs, Kathie Reimer and her daughter, Lisa Whittle, discuss from a feminine viewpoint seven seeming paradoxes in the Word of God:
- Have a single focus, yet multi-task
- Be tolerant toward some things, yet intolerant toward others
- Fail, and simultaneously succeed
- Proceed, while also waiting
- Hold on and, in turn, let go
- Lead, and still follow
- Die, and consequently, live more abundantly
An apt sub-title for this book would be, What It Looks Like for Christian Women to Deny Self.
The chapters themselves are not deep in scriptural discussion for the most part, although Kathie (my favorite of the two authors) tends to offer more to chew on. Most of the book consists in offering what Kathie calls “snapshots” (ch. 7) of how dethroning self will appear in the life of the woman desiring to follow Christ.
If you are looking for sermon illustrations on the topic, this book is chock full of them. There are also some pithy one-liners such as, “Faith is confidence that something or someone is reliable” (p. 157); “The journey to the end of ourselves is a great and necessary place for all of us to go” (p. 78); “Your tongue, when unregulated, is a natural disaster” (p. 52); and “The one last human freedom that remains available to a man, after everything else has been stripped from him is his ability to choose the way he will react to his circumstances” (here quoting Dr. Viktor Frankl, p. 29).
I liked Lisa’s take on submission in Chapter 6 (“Lead and Follow”):
For many of us wives, our view of being submissive to our husbands tends to be somewhat skewed. We look at it as intrusive, controlling, humiliating; but it is not. Submission requires strength, not weakness. It takes courage. It requires a strong belief and trust that God knew what he was doing when he established this ‘chain of command’ back in the days of Adam and Eve. (p. 155)
I was pleased that each chapter offers a substantial list of Scriptures for further study, along with application questions. My inclination would have been to spend more time discussing these verses, rather than offering so many personal sketches for observation.
The final chapter (“Die and Live”) is, appropriately, the most lengthy. I feel it would also have been effective to place it first. The question of dying to self and living unto God really provides the tools for success in the other six contrasting areas.
I enjoyed Kathie’s application of each of the preceding “hard things” and how they come into play with regard to what some often see as the hardest thing—sharing our faith. Readers will find good scriptural discussion from the Gospels there.
One thing I found objectionable was a repeated setting up by both authors of Mother Teresa as an example. Yes, she led a sacrificial life, but for what purpose? With what ultimate motivation? Where is she now? Are there not good, solid, evangelical heroes of the faith to choose from without looking to the Roman Catholic Church? Someone else who worked selflessly in Mother Teresa’s native India comes to mind: missionary Amy Carmichael.
Various translations (NKJV, KJV, NIV, NASB, NLT) are used in the book. Discussions of particular Scriptures that were weak at times, or absent altogether. For instance, in explaining Colossians 3:2 in Chapter 1, Kathie states that setting your affections on things above means “to fall deeply in love with Jesus”—an expression that is not only inaccurate in this case, but which also uses a sentimentality that makes me squirm. She further refers to Jesus as “our loving, heavenly parent.” Parent? These references are both in the first chapter, which made me wonder if I was to slog through this type of thing throughout the whole book. Later on, Kathie posits of Psalm 55:22,
To all of us Jesus says, “Cast your burdens and cares upon me—and I will sustain you”—a promise from the one who cannot lie. To “cast” means we have to let go [I understand this to be correctly translated “to throw or fling”, which has a very different dynamic], and, like so many other verses in the Bible, this one is very likely a continuing action verb, not just a one-time-will-do-it word.” (p. 110, emphasis mine)
Jesus says? And, I wonder—is there a reason we are guessing about verb tenses? I understand this meaning could be implied, but she develops this idea of continued action even further, so would it not have been the better part of wisdom to find out for sure first? These “warm fuzzies” and “guesstimations” are what drive me away from this type of book and toward plain old study tools, time and time again.
I sensed a bit of incongruence between mother and daughter on the concept of self love/self hatred. Kathie tends to lay it out in Jim Berg-like fashion (low “self esteem” is rooted in covetous comparison and a selfish sense of entitlement), while Lisa addresses self-hatred as being a viable something that springs from self love (p. 55). It came across as sort of a psycho-babble/biblical counseling hybrid. I have perceived from various books and biblical counseling materials that self-loathing is not hatred at all, but rather a morbidly ironic manifestation of loving one’s self exceedingly. “I want________ to change; I don’t have ________; I’ll never be ____________” all seem to be at the root. This is self absorption masquerading in martyr’s clothes, a self-deception the Adversary relishes, no doubt. I’m with Kathie on this one.
Toward the end of the book, there is an interesting illustration regarding da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”
He asked a friend for an evaluation. The friend heaped superlatives on the masterpiece and especially praised the wine cup by the Lord’s hand. At that point, Leonardo da Vinci blotted out the cup. “Nothing,” he was said to have answered, “should distract one’s attention from the Lord.” (p 149)
This was my own personal paradox while reading this book—experiencing a draw toward spiritual ideas while often feeling distracted away from the Scriptures by creative analogies and entertaining or touching stories. Analogy and illustrations have their place, without a doubt, but I was disappointed that the greater portion of the book was typified by this, rather than deliberate inviting of the reader into a prevailing, deeper understanding of what Scripture says. I think I’ll stick to my friends, the dead guys.
Diane Heeney is a stay-at-home mom, who enjoys some freelance writing, blogging, and speaking for ladies’ retreats and functions. She received her BA (Church Ministries) in ‘85 grad from Bob Jones University and went on to serve at BJU as a secretary in the Extension office and later as Director of Girl’s Extension Ministries. Diane and her husband Patrick have helped a number of churches in the past 16 years, and are now assisting the ministry of a growing church in Lander, Wyoming. They have three children: Erin (breathlessly awaiting 13), Michael (all camo, all the time at 9), and Kate (their sweet surprise, now 3 yrs old).