On the journey to being wholehearted, we need a lot of encouragement. So much of mine has come through my literary friends. These authors have been spiritual companions and guides, and I hope they may be for you as well. Let me know if you read them, so we can geek out about them together.
Brennan Manning grabbed my heart with The Ragamuffin Gospel, but this book was the one that cemented the importance of “defining yourself radically as one Beloved by God.” This is where I was introduced to the concept of the “imposter” or “pharisee within”-the false sense we present to the world that we think is more acceptable than who we are. Manning says of the heart, “wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed.”
To Be Told
I’m a huge Dan Allender fan-this man speaks the language of the heart. In this book, he encourages us to ask the question, “Do I really believe that God not only wrote my story but that He also loves my story?” There are two versions of this – the book and the workbook. The book is a great place to start; the workbook is like the book on crack. You could spend a lifetime answering the questions in it! If you find yourself wanting to dig deeper into your story after the book, then pick and choose questions from the workbook to help you. They would make great discussion starters for relationships!
Strong Women, Soft Hearts
I was given this book after a tough international move; it set me on a new trajectory. She touches on so many issues of the heart-trust, vulnerability, desire, control, relationships, fear, hope. It’s not a book on transition per se, but it has been one that I returned to each time my life has shifted significantly, because it reminds me that life is not found in staying in the safe, small places of my heart, but in embracing all that God gives me. Bottom line-it makes me want to be brave.
John Ortberg is one of my writing heroes. I have a theory that he shares the same Enneagram* type as me (I’m a huge fan of the Enneagram) which makes me like him even more. This book is a gentle punch to the gut reminder that we cannot thrive if we are not caring for ourselves at a soul level. It’s a call to slow down, recognize our needs, and learn to drink deeply from the Source of life. “The unlimited neediness of the soul matches the unlimited grace of God.”
I first encountered this book in audio form, read by Brené Brown herself; it was like walking with her every morning, which is ah-mazing. It was so good, I had to re-read it in paper form so I could take notes. My favorite quote? “grace will take you places hustling can’t.” It’s given me words for the moments when I hustle for my worth, instead of trusting that I am enough, and has given me a process by which to untangle the “story I’m making up” when I am tempted to doubt myself. I can’t say enough about how much this book encourages me to be brave in the arenas of life where God has called me.
The Faces of Rage
This book is out of print, which is a crying shame (but never fear – you can still get used copies!). In recent years, my awareness of how rage and contempt keeps us from being wholehearted has increased. This book reveals how we use contempt to avoid feeling pain and loss, and the ramifications of choosing contempt instead of moving into those areas of grief. More importantly, it gave me hope that God can heal those places of pain so that we don’t have to use contempt and rage to cover it. Perhaps most convicting, “When we spend our lives consciously or unconsciously avoiding loss, we aren’t available for meaningful relationships-not with God, ourselves, or others.” Uff da.
Inner Voice of Love
Henri Nouwen writes in a similar vein to Brennan Manning, which is probably why I love him. Both of them camp out in God’s amazing love for the broken hearted (which is all of us). This book is a collection from his private journal during a time when he struggled to hold onto the truth of God’s love for him. “Keep saying, ‘God loves me, and God’s love is enough.’ You have to choose the solid place over and over again, and return to it after every failure.” Indeed. These entries encourage me to keep listening to His voice speaking truth to me.
The Return of the Prodigal Son
Nouwen has been such a companion on this journey, he lands himself on this list twice! He wrote this book after an afternoon of staring at the painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt. He shows us how we can find ourselves in both the younger and older sons of the story, and how, ultimately, we are to become like the Father. I have always identified most with the older brother. What broke me from this book is that the older brother is just as lost as the younger brother, because he lived like a servant who had to earn his place, rather than as a beloved child. But, “whether I am the younger son or the older son, God’s only desire is to bring me home.”
Hands down best parenting book I’ve ever read! Yes, I tend toward hyperbole, but I am not exaggerating in this circumstance. I love it because it’s not a how to book. It’s a “here’s how God wants to shape you through parenting” kind of book, and I needed that. Two principles stood out to me. First, I can’t be a perfect parent who never sins against my kids, but I can be a confessional one who apologizes to them when I do sin. Second, when I apologize, and when I discipline, these are moments to show our kids not how to behave, but that they desperately need Jesus. It was challenging and encouraging all at once.
It’s hard to find good books about relationships for women, but this book nails it. I love that she casts a vision for loving extravagantly, which involves embracing the deeply vulnerable desire for relationships while trusting God for the fulfillment of them. This encouraged me not to kill that desire but to seek healthy ways for it to be lived out.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram
I was introduced to the Enneagram about eight years ago from some other leadership coaches. My initial reaction was, “This is a load of crap,” which is how I respond to most personality assessments. Mostly, that was because I didn’t want to own the results it was showing me. (I’m a 3, by the way). Not surprising, because the uniqueness of this personality typing is that it doesn’t just tell you what you do-it tells you why you do it. It reveals core desires, needs, sin, and how you live those out. For me on this journey toward being wholehearted, it has helped me see where I seek life and love apart from God, trying to meet my own needs through less than satisfying ways. It’s also helped me understand my family members and friends in such a way that I can love then better (I think. I hope). A word of caution: if you search for the Enneagram online, you may find sites that have a new age bent. I recommend The Enneagram Institute, from which this book is derived.
So there they are-some of the books that have changed my life. What has God used to help you grow in wholeheartedness? I’m always looking for a new read, so tell me!