A guest post by Lindsay
I admit it, when I saw Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, sitting on our bookshelf my high opinion of my husband’s book acquisition skills began to teeter. What was he doing bringing that book into our house? Doesn’t John Eldredge tend to lump men into huge, stereotyped categories? Isn’t he the guy who is a little too “in love” with God for my taste? Now he’s writing about women? Why in the world did my husband buy this book? Then I remembered: he gets a lot of books for free nowadays. Voila! Opinion restored.
However, my automatic reaction against the book fueled my curiosity. I casually picked it up and flipped through the pages…I’ll just glance at it, I thought to myself. An hour later I was still reading, a few days later I had finished it, and the next thing I knew I was recommending it to my husband. What did I think of Captivating? It was well, uh… captivating, I have to admit it.
So why did I have a hard time putting the book down? The writing style is very accessible and there is an abundant use of good quotes and stories which make the book easy to read. But that’s not the main thing that kept me turning the pages. The premise is essentially the same as Wild At Heart, so it wasn’t originality and creativity that hooked me.
The authors ask believing women to step away from insecurity and fear and ask God to show them how to best offer others their beauty with a heart of bravery and vulnerability.
What particularly captured my attention was the Eldredges’ claim that there are three desires that fuel the heart of a woman: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil her beauty. And though I wanted to shrug these off as over-generalizations, the more I read, the more I found myself resonating with the Eldredges’ observations. They contend that these desires are good and essential to the way God made women. The problem comes when women seek the fulfillment of these desires in something other than Christ.
Each of these three points is examined in individual chapters of the book. This section invites the reader to contemplate past wounds that crushed or frustrated these desires. I found as I read that the Holy Spirit was directing me to examine how my past wounds in these areas have effected the way I interact in relationships as well as how I view myself. This section also offers guidance in bringing healing to those areas of injury. Thankfully, this section is not merely focused on blaming others for our relationship problems. There is an emphasis on the ways women twist, misuse, and misdirect these longings of the heart as well.
The concluding chapter was another highlight of the book. There is a strong call for women to use their specific, God-given loveliness to bless the church and the world. The authors ask believing women to step away from insecurity and fear and ask God to show them how to best offer others their beauty with a heart of bravery and vulnerability. The Eldredges’ also call the Church to open its eyes to ways in which it has failed to affirm and encourage the God-given beauty (inside and out) of believing women and encourage women to aspire to be more than childcare providers and bake sale organizers. (Not to understate the need for these roles to be filled—I can’t imagine my husband organizing a bake sale, nor would I want him to!)
While there is much insight to be gained from reading Captivating, there are some cautions I should mention. The Eldredges tend to be overly person-centered. There are sections of the book that suggest God needs women in an almost dependent, boyfriendish fashion. There is also a tendency to overplay the incredible loveliness of the creation (in this case, women) and understate the loveliness of the Creator. I think their intent is to say the loveliness of women reflects God’s beauty, but the language throughout the book tends to subvert this.
Another weakness is the Eldredges’ less-than-biblical idea that God is somehow each woman’s individual lover or date partner. The Eldredges affirm varied “romantic encounters” with God that include having a date–type experience with God where women can sing “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera as an expression of worship (an illustration from the book) as they light a bunch of scented candles. Also, Captivating tends to over-simplify and overstate certain observations on womanhood that veer away from having a biblical foundation such as the idea that women are the prime enemy of the devil.
These weaknesses aside, I found myself crying at the end of the book. Why? God’s Spirit was at work as I read through Captivating. He used it to cleanse wrong desires, affirm progress He is making in my life, and ultimately, speak words of love to my heart. Yes, I, as well as all God’s daughters, am captivating to Him. And yes, as the book states, it is because I reflect the beauty and loveliness of God, but as His Spirit made clear to me (and not so much the book, explicitly), that loveliness is completely given me through the amazing redemption of Christ who has taken this stained and unlovely woman, washed her clean, placed a crown of beauty (instead of ashes) on her head, and joined her with all the other once-unlovely saints that He now calls His beautiful Bride, the Church.
After careful consideration, I give Captivating a strong B+ grade and a place on the Master Book List. Recommended.
[Lindsay is a 20-something, married, stay-at-home mom who loves to get two hours of sleep in a row and take showers more than once a week. Her writing has been influenced by her husband A.J. and Squeaky the Mouse from the Usborne Touchy-Feely Books.]