A couple of years ago, my husband gave me a copy of the book “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge. He had read “Wild at Heart” and felt like it really encapsulated how he felt as a man. The book has been on my shelf since then. I did try to read it, but the first couple of pages did not grab me, so that was the end of that (I was probably distracted by something shiny). Since then, I keep getting encouraged by various women in my life to read it. Last week, a good friend mentioned that she had the book on CD and lent it to me. I spend a lot of time in the car and listening to books on CD is ideal for me.
I hate it. There, I said it. I don’t get it – I find myself looking at my CD player and saying “Whaaaaaat?” – and because of this, I feel like there must be something wrong with me. I don’t relate to the authors and I think their message is completely skewed by their own experience. I kept wondering how a Christian woman outside of the United States would feel about this book – with all of the references to movies, novels, songs and celebrities, I felt it was very ethnocentric….which Jesus is not. I’ve not taken the time to look up all of the scripture references, but even they don’t sit well with me. I believe the authors hearts are in the right place but nothing they say resonates with me.
As a child, I never wanted to be a princess or dreamed of my knight in shining armor rescuing me from…whatever it was that I needed rescuing. I don’t read romance novels, don’t listen to sappy love songs and I can’t stand “chick flicks”. Listening to this book, I began to wonder if I really am even a woman! At the same time, I am really uncomfortable with the idea of men as rescuers. How unfair is it to say that my husband can rescue me? Worse yet, how unfair is it to expect him to rescue me? He can’t rescue me — only Jesus can rescue me. The pages of scripture make this abundantly clear. So, if I expect a man to rescue me, I am only setting myself up for disappointment — and my husband for failure. Isn’t that man-centered, not God-centered theology?
And speaking of pride, these statements set me back: “Eve was given to the world as the incarnation of a beautiful, captivating God…” “Eve incarnates the Beauty of God and she gives life to the world.” Maybe I’m being nit-picky, but I don’t think that women give life to the world. I think they bring life into the world, but only God gives life to the world.
The romantic view of God that is presented makes me uncomfortable as well. The authors refer to God as a “Lover”. I do not disagree that God loves us with an everlasting love — the Bible tells us so! –, but I think we must also look at how the Bible defines love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV), the Apostle Paul tells us that love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Now, let’s look at how the Bible defines “Romance”. Wait, there is no definition of romance in Scripture. A search of the word at Miiriam-Webster Online offers many definitions of the word including “something (as an extravagant story or account) that lacks basis in fact”. One definition in Dictionary.com is “a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention”. To be fair, I even checked Easton’s Bible Dictionary and the word is “not contained in the index”. So, while in our popular culture, we use the words “love” and “romance” interchangeably, I don’t think it’s biblical to to have a romantic view of God. I think a romantic view is a low view. So, imagine my shock when I heard them say that “the root of holiness is Romance”. I nearly drove off the road. I had to scan back and listen again, just to make sure I heard correctly. Then, when I got home, I got out the book and sure enough, there it is on page 113. “The root of all holiness is Romance”. Wow. I am not even sure what to say to that. But, God has something to say about it. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” God is holy. We are only holy because He is. It has nothing to do with romance.
Finally, the box that the authors put men and women in is insulting! I think men and women each have masculine and feminine characteristics – just as God does. It’s unfair to suggest that only women can extol the gentle attributes of God — mercy, grace, love, tenderness, and “fierce devotion”….and that men hold the masculine attributes — God’s justice, strength, wrath. Certainly, men and women are separate and distinct and were created for different purposes. But, again…this book left me feeling worse about myself as a woman than I did before!
To be clear…I realize I am probably over-analyzing the book. And, I don’t mean to insult anyone who loved the book — I know there are MANY! I guess I found myself disappointed after all of the hype. But, as I reflect somewhat, I realize that had I read this book when it was first given to me, I probably would have just been confused. I suspect I would have had the same uneasy feeling about what it was saying, but I wouldn’t have known why. God has taught me so much in the past couple of years — I understand scripture better and I have learned to listen to the Holy Spirit more. So, in God’s providence, I didn’t explore this book until now. Now, I really understand that my identity is in Christ alone…and not how any book, other than the Bible, tells me I am or should be.