I’m afraid I may have gone into this book with a slight bias: I’ve read Hannah Anderson’s writing (via blog and contributed articles elsewhere) over the last few years, and have almost always profited from her writing and thinking. When I heard and read reviews for her upcoming book, my heart skipped a few beats with excitement, both at the topic and my knowledge of her gift for writing.
As I immersed myself into Hannah’s forward, I again felt the same excitement.
Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image is an invitation for women to step back from our culture’s myopic view of life (both inside and outside the Church), and to take in the full scope of our identity in Christ. In the front portion of the book, Getting Started, Hannah states her purpose in writing this book:
“This book is not a call to deny womanhoood in order to embrace being made in His image. But it is a call to understand that womanhood, and everything that comes with it, serves a greater purpose. It is not a call to abandon labels or categories, but it is a call to step back in order to lay a solid foundation before we build those categories. It is a call to wrestle with what it means to be made in His image and to believe that you are made for more than what you often settle for.”
Ensconced within the final sentences of that paragraph, I believe, is what makes this book’s message so crucial. So much of today’s “Biblical womanhood” teaching has not been laid as a solid foundation, but instead upon bricks of flaky theology and a chronistic view of womanhood. Sadly, many of us with such a foundation under our feet have indeed settled for far less than what we were created to be and to do.
The scope of this book is primarily a one of providing a foundational overview of living imago dei, yet under that umbrella, Anderson also offers a robust and corrective theology of vocation and education (learning).
“[P]erhaps the most profound section[s] of the book (and I hope the author writes more extensively on this topic in a future book, because I think she nailed it) is Anderson’s description of integrated identity. That is, rather than chasing the have-it-all thing, or attempting to compartmentalize different facets of our identity, Anderson advocates a convergence and flourishing that comes from seeing our different callings and roles–from personal to professional, expressing our giftedness to accomplishing mundane tasks–as a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to reflect the unity and wholeness of the Trinity. And, she writes, when we love God with the fullness of our identities, and seek Him in every aspect of our lives, we will enjoy His peace and see those seemingly disparate parts of who we are “work together in beautiful coordination for our good and His glory.” I love the way she puts this:
The fact that I am a woman, that I am a mother, that I am a writer—even where I live—all work together to enable me to image God in a more complex, more brilliant way than if my identity were simply one-dimensional. So even as we strive for wholeness, we do not reach it by diminishing the multidimensional nature of our lives. We find it through the complexity of them. We find wholeness as each facet is cut to capture and reflect the radiance of Christ Himself.”
As God has shifted my paradigms of theology of vocation and Biblical womanhood over recent years, I’ve come to accept and appreciate this sort of “integrated identity” in myself. Because of my many interests (not all of which can be explored during this particular season, or even during any one particular life season, really), I’ve come to terms with seeing myself as a “renaissance soul,” a concept explored in the secular book by the same name (my review here). And in reality, we are all renaissance souls, as perhaps no one is gifted or called to simply one realm giftedness and ability over the course of a lifetime. But this exploration is particularly helpful to Christian women who have often been relegated to seeing their identity as a “one-dimensional caricature” of a rather superficial view of womanhood, at that.
Written for More
As Matthew L. Anderson shared in his back cover blurb, “Here is a book for women that has something to teach men. Made for More is wise and well-written, and I heartily commend it to everyone made in the image of God, male and female alike.”
This is a book that I want my children, both sons and daughters, to read. This is a book that I want my husband to read. (Thankfully he already has a good grasp on imago dei, and has not been afraid to learn theology or otherwise from women, either! :))
This book was healing and hopeful, freeing and spiritually challenging, edifying and empowering, and bears an important message for all those who bear God’s image, which is all of us. Anderson writes with theological precision and academic accessibility, and demonstrates her own giftedness for writing in a way that promotes the human flourishing she speaks of in the book.
“Thankfully, He’s the kind of God who welcomes our questions, who can wrestle with us through the confusion and still bless us in the process. He is the kind of God who desires true faith, even at its weakest points, and looks for mustard seeds instead of mountains. He is the kind of God who delights in the plea, “Help my unbelief” and then holds on to us because we can’t hold on to Him anymore. He is the kind of God who can handle all our doubt, all our fear, all our questions if we will simply commit to letting Him.” (27)
“Instead of being fully formed, multi-dimensional people who radiate the complexity of God’s nature, we [mistakenly] become one-dimensional caricatures, as limited and superficial as the thing we have devoted ourselves to.” (50)
“Our God doesn’t bear grudges. He doesn’t hold Himself back to punish us. He doesn’t “teach us a thing or two.” Instead, in the face of unbelievable rejection, even as we turn from Him again and again, He patiently, generously, abundantly extends Himself to us. And when we finally return to Him, and to each other, He faithfully, freely forgives and makes us whole once again.” (91-92)
“And yet Scripture does not differentiate between sacred wisdom and secular knowledge. In Psalm 19:1, David sings that even “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Everything you could possibly learn — from the physics that enable a suspension bridge to straddle San Francisco bay to the social habits of whales to the tenderness of a mother’s touch — everything reveals the majesty of God ‘who established the world by His wisdom.'”
“Because of this, imago dei knowledge is by necessity more than a dry, crusty intellectualism; it is more than a ‘worldview.’ At its root, imago dei knowledge means searching for Him with childlike curiosity, wide-eyed and eager to discover who He is and the world He has made.” (99-100)
“Too often as women, we have restricted ourselves to the ‘pink’ parts of the Bible. When we identify first and foremost as women, we can begin to believe that knowledge of ourselves will come primarily through passages that speak to women’s issues or include heroines like Ruth or Esther. But when we do this, when we craft our learning and discipleship programs around being “women,” we make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.
And we forget that these “pink passages” were never intended to be sufficient by themselves. We forget that we can never understand what it means to be women of good works until we first learn about the goodness of a God who works on our behalf. We forget that nothing about them will make any sense if they are not first grounded in the truth that we are destined to be conformed to His image through Christ.
Because you are an image bearer, you must allow the entirety of Scripture to shape your sense of self. You must begin to see every verse as a “pink” passage because every verse speaks to who God is and therefore who you are as His daughter. You must begin to believe that theology and doctrine are not men’s issues but that they are imago dei issues because they reveal the God in whose image you are made.” (103)