The Longing In Me: How Everything You Crave Leads To The Heart Of God, by Sheila Walsh
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]
This book opens with a quotation from C.S. Lewis’ essay “Weight of Glory” that expresses his well-known feeling of sehnsucht, the longing for something that cannot be fulfilled by anything on this earth . Yet although the author at least implicitly recognizes that longing is not simply a matter for women, this book resolutely acts as though the sole intended audience for the book is female. Perhaps the title of the book may be of most interest to women, but to assume that Christian women would be the only ones who would be interested in reading about how our every longing points ultimately to God is a very false assumption, and one that alienates a possibly substantial amount of readers. This is not a new problem, but this book assumes so often that its readers are female without any remote conception that men would read this book and find its subject matter worthy of reflection is worthy of being pointed out and lamented .
In terms of its contents and structure, this book is written in a very personal way, almost embarrassingly confessional. The author means her title very literally–when she writes about the longing in her, she talks about her longings very personally–her longing to be accepted by others, her guilt at having defended herself against her abusive father and giving him a brain injury that led him to be institutionalized until he escaped and met his death, her fierce protectiveness of her first husband, despite the fact that it alienated her from friends and colleagues, and the disastrous bankruptcy she faced with her second husband because of the housing bust. Her stories will likely be relatable to many of her intended audience, and more than a few men who have had disastrous experiences with catty women and broken family backgrounds and relationships. The book itself is divided into ten chapters totaling a little over 170 pages and focusing on ten longings: the longing to be chosen, to be protected, for what used to be, for control, for your rights, for that one thing you think you need to be happy, to make everything right, for what would glorify God, to share the grace and mercy we’ve received from God, and for God alone. The book begins in anguish and difficulty, with a story of a car accident on the drive with her first husband to their honeymoon, and ends in optimism and encouragement, like most of the psalms.
There is a lot about this book that is worthy of praise. The author speaks about a subject of great importance and does so in a thoughtful and compassionate way, showing her own wounds and scars and also the truth of God’s grace and love. The book contains a large amount of personal stories to make it more emotionally relevant while also including a large amount of biblical quotations and sound exegesis, particularly of the story of David throughout his life, making the story biblically sound in its approach. The book is written about a subject that many millions of people can relate to, and does so in a way that encourages repentance and an honest acceptance of the consequences of sin, which is a worthwhile and important lesson if not a particularly enthusiastic one. Even so, although there is much to praise about this book, the author’s misguided assumption about her audience, and her apparent desire to deliberately insult any unlucky guy who happens to read the audience by simply talking past and not recognizing such an audience makes this book an immensely frustrating sort of read, one that offers a great deal of worth, but one that comes with the sting of the insult of being mocked and entirely marginalized by hostile and unfriendly assumptions. If the author gets the chance to write a second edition of the book, that would be a massive error to correct with a relish.
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