Sometimes, working in the book publishing world has its perks. Okay…a lot of the time. 🙂 One of those perks happened to be getting an advanced reading copy of Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. Now, I should start out by saying that I’m relatively late to the Jen Hatmaker game. I started following her on social media probably around two years ago. By that point, she’d published several books that were highly regarded by my reading friends. This was my first Jen Hatmaker book and I was excited to dive in. Jen is, to me, a refreshing voice in the Christian sphere. She somehow manages to pull off being hilarious—even a touch irreverent at times, relatable, and powerfully insightful. Here’s what I mean:
So, let’s be clear…I’m a Jen Hatmaker fan! I love her voice, her humor, and the “tough love” approach to truth. I think she’s an authentic and incredible woman–a force to be reckoned with! And it doesn’t hurt that on the Gilmore Girls front, she’s #teamlogan. (Finally a heavy-hitter in our court…)
The book was written into chapter-long essays. Roughly half of the essays were humor-driven and half of them were thoughtful, deeper essays.
There were two essays that completely bowled me over. (Is that still a phrase? Let’s say that it is, okay?)
Chapter 3 – On Calling and Hatian Moms
This chapter convicted me. Here’s a summary in just a handful of quotes from the book:
- “It has taken me forty years to assess the difference between the gospel and the American evangelical version of the gospel. I filtered the kingdom through my upper middle class, white, advantaged denominational lens, and by golly, I found a way to make most of it fit! …But then God changed my life.”
- “Theology is true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere.”
- “If it isn’t also true for a poor, single, Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”
- “Maybe we can exit the self-imposed pressure cooker of ‘calling’ and instead just consider our ‘gifts’.”
Of course, the chapter is better as a whole, so you should read it in context. But these thoughts jumped out at me. Especially that quote about the poor, single, Christian mom in Haiti. How often do I try to bend truth to my own reality instead of bending my own reality to truth? A sobering thought.
Chapter 22 – Dear Church…
Jen talks about how she and her husband, Brandon, have been on a church staff since ages twenty-one and nineteen respectively. They grew up Southern Baptist, but have attended and served in many types of churches over the years.
“I pretty much love all of the church. Each expression is a bit of a hot mess, but bless her, she’s our mess.”
She goes on to say that she is “weirdly protective” of both church leaders and church people because she belongs to both groups.
Her thoughts for church leaders were incredibly enlightening (forgive the long quotes, but I thought anything less would diminish her points):
“The stats are not on your side and should be heeded: 90% of you work between 55 and 75 hours a week; 70% of you fight depression; 80% of you believe ministry has negatively affected your families; and only 10% of you will retire as a pastor. For Pete’s sake, 70% of you don’t have one close friend. This is not good.”
“I wonder if the American church is positioned poorly? If church structure—which is geared toward meeting every need, developing everyone spiritually, and organizing all inward and outward ministry—results in a 90% fail rate, perhaps we should re-evaluate…most churches are small or mid-sized with a modest staff that cannot handle such demands.”
And then this really, really true statement:
“You are afraid to be transparent, sometimes with good reason. Not every congregation is safe for an honest leader. Some churches prefer the illusion, because leaning into a pastor’s humanity is hard and uncomfortable. But fear is a terrible reason to stay silent. Fear is a terrible reason to do anything…Scripture tells us plainly that fear is not of God, so operating out of self-protection takes us further and further away from a life of the Spirit, and that is an impossible fracture for any pastor to navigate.”
“Spiritual abuse thrives where pastors are untouchable and people are commodities.”
But she leaves us with a dose of hope:
“If you show up brave and true and leaders show up brave and true, if you own your place and I own mine, the kingdom will break through in every possible way. God is big and good enough to lead us all, and together we might see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
A few other quotes I loved:
“I don’t like when people minimize their gifts. There is a difference between humility and insecurity, and self-effacement does no one any favors.” – From Chapter 5 – Run Your Race
“Self-criticism sometimes improves best practices, but it can also lie to you and probably has.” – From Chapter 9 – Hope for Spicy Families
“Boundaries come after grace, because compassion minds the fragile places but boundaries keep them from compromising the rest.” – From Chapter 18 – Difficult People
“It is no wonder humanity has long preferred legalism, which involves much cleaner territory.” – From Chapter 25 – Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Crappy
“The Bible constantly elevated love over knowledge, mercy over sacrifice. Knowledge is a tricky bedfellow, because it can sometimes shield us from the gospel. Doctrine is tidier terrain than flesh and blood.” – From Chapter 25 – Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Crappy
WHAT I DIDN’T (for the) LOVE:
- Four essays were dedicated to the Jimmy Fallon “Thank You Notes” model. Since I’m such a big fan of James Fallon, you would think that I would have been excited about that. But, no. It felt like a lot of fluff and a cheap knock-off of the original. I’m sure all those that contributed them are lovely people, as is Jen herself, but that was just too much for me.
- The Dear Kids chapter was just basically her writing notes to her own kids. Listen, I’m a SAP and this concept appeals to me on many levels. But in the privacy of your family. I don’t need to read a chapter of your letters to your kids unless you’re JFK or something. I don’t know them. I found this to be a little self-indulgent.
- In general, there was just too much trivial-ness for me. Since I found the essays that had more depth the most appealing and there were too few of them for my liking. The book is only 201 pages (at least in my version), for goodness sake! And the retail price for the hard cover is $22.99, if I’m not mistaken. If I had paid for the book, I would have been pretty disappointed.
I heard from many of my friends that are moms that this book was just the right balance of light-heartedness, motherhood encouragement, and insightful truths. I definitely could see that. Without the motherhood connection, I felt that there were only a few essays that applied to me, so my perspective was admittedly a bit skewed. And I can understand why this might be a refreshing read for many people. But for me, I’m glad I read the book and I’m glad for Jen’s point of view, always, but I hope the next book is a little meatier.