Books that were crucial to my spiritual awakening:
Several years ago, I went through a metamorphosis. To this day, I still don’t know what to call it. I feel like I’m too young to call it a mid-life crisis (plus, there was no affair or sports car purchase that went along with it). At times, I speak of it as my emotional breakdown, but that’s only part of the journey. There was my reawakening into a new identity. I suppose it was more like a spiritual awakening, as cheesy as that may sound.
This awakening for me didn’t happen by chance. Many things in my life converged for this process to take place. There were life challenges that were putting pressure on me in a way that made me think, “Something’s gotta give.”
At the time, I was a part of a great group of women—about 4-5 of us—who read books, but mostly just came together to share life and pray for one another. These women encouraged me and prayed for me, as well as confronted me when necessary. They were there for me when I was in the midst of all my junk. They saw it all–stuff no one else in my life had ever heard or seen. You know, that ugly junk we all like to hide. They listened, empathized, and prayed for me. I am so thankful for these women.
Another important factor in all this was that I had just recently had my third child and I spent hours alone in her dark, quiet nursery feeding her. Why is this important? Well, the needs of my infant forced me to spend time doing nothing but listening and talking to God. At first, this felt like torture. I would usually be in there for 30-40 minutes at a time. But the more I began hearing from God as I rested in my baby’s room, the more I craved it. My husband would joke around with me, saying that every time I came out of Cozette’s nursery, I would shout, “God just told me…!” But it’s true! I heard from God very easily during that time in the quiet of that tiny room. (For more on this topic, read Embracing Silence).
Books were another key to my spiritual awakening. Without these books, I would not have had the knowledge and understanding about deep-rooted issues in my life. These books gave me the tools to know how to move forward. Below is a list of books that I read during this time in my life. Each one of these books played an important part in this journey.
“Daring Greatly” pretty much started it all. The subject of this book—shame–seemed rather depressing at first, but when I began to understand how much of my life was steeped in shame and how much of my unhealthy behaviors were a result of undealt with shame, I realized that this was exactly the book I needed. Brene Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, goes into great detail about the anatomy of shame and why it’s so destructive. Fortunately, Brown also gives us the key to fighting shame—vulnerability. This was the first time in my life I had ever heard of vulnerability being a good thing! Although Brown is very knowledgeable and professional, she’s also very down-to-earth and relatable. The topics she’s writing about were also the very things she had to work through in her own life.
This book would not have had the same effect on me if I had read it alone. Thankfully, I read through “Daring Greatly” with my book club. As I read more about vulnerability, I was actually able to practice the concept with these ladies. The combination of knowledge and experience of Brown’s concepts began a journey for me that has lasted to this day. I went on to read Brown’s “Gifts of Imperfection” (written before “Daring Greatly”) and “Rising Strong”, both of which I strongly recommend.
When I read my first “Boundaries” book (“Boundaries with Kids”), I was floored. I felt like I was getting my hands on the best kept secret for life and relationships. I thought, “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?!” I grew up in a home where boundaries were disrespected or completely nonexistent. I believed the lie that to be a loving Christian, we need to say yes all the time and allow others to just walk all over us. After reading “Boundaries with Kids”, I moved on to the original “Boundaries” and then “Boundaries in Marriage”.
Henry Cloud and John Townsend have a way of de-mystifying the topic of boundaries while also countering anti-boundaries arguments that Christians have held on to for decades. Using examples from scripture, Cloud and Townsend explain how boundaries are not only biblical but also absolutely necessary for all relationships. Without these books, I would have continued to let others walk all over me, all the while stewing in resentment (for more on my story with boundaries, read I Thought I Knew What Love Was). “Boundaries” helped me to regain authority over my life, my home, my children, and my marriage while freeing me from the pressure and obligation of the needs of others.
Another Henry Cloud book that was important for me during this time in my life was “How People Grow”. This book was like a personal inner healing ministry for me. It probably would have been more effective for me to read this along with one or two other trusted friends in order to process through some of the more difficult subjects, but nonetheless, this book launched me into spiritual growth. Using a biblical foundation, Cloud explains how all growth is spiritual and it is all related—you grow in one area, it affects other areas. If you feel stuck in certain areas of your life or you’re confused as to how to utilize scripture in a practical way regarding your own growth and healing, this is the book for you.
“Keep Your Love On” was the book that brought the idea of boundaries back into perspective for me. Danny Silk explains boundaries in very practical ways, but also explains how the goal of boundaries is to protect your heart so that you can “keep your love on.” Silk talks about the difference between powerless people and powerful people. Powerless people are victims and choose to hand over the responsibility of their lives to others. Powerful people, on the other hand, are those who take responsibility for their lives. They refuse to blame others for their choices and always remain in control of how they respond. If you need further convincing that boundaries are necessary or if you just need some good, practical instruction on maintaining healthy relationships, I definitely recommend this book.
“Seven Desires of Every Heart” is another book that delves into the inner workings of the heart. As the title alludes to, we all have deep, God-given needs or desires within our hearts. When those needs are met in healthy ways, we develop into healthy, mature adults. When those needs are not met, it results in unhealthy and sinful behaviors. This book helped me to pinpoint some of my deeper unmet needs and discover how this was affecting my life. Mark and Debra Laaser also instruct their readers on how to get needs met in healthy ways. If you have unhealthy behaviors in your life, simple behavior modification will not help. This book will help you get to the root of your issues so that you can experience real, lasting change. And it’s not just for you! This book is very helpful in understanding your children’s needs also.
The funny-sounding name of this next book, “Supernatural Ways of Royalty”, made me a little hesitant to read it, but it was recommended by a trusted mentor, so I just went for it. I can’t tell you how much this book meant to me. When I read this book, it was the first time I had heard theology that spoke of me as royalty, as a daughter of the King. I had been immersed for so long in a doctrine that centered on the depravity of mankind that this book was a breath of fresh air. “Supernatural Ways of Royalty” helped me to discover my true identity—not thinking any more or any less of myself, but seeing myself the way God sees me. When it comes down to it, identity is everything. Everything we do flows from who we are or, rather, Whose we are. There are few books that truly feed my soul and this is one of them!
“The Emotionally Healthy Leader” and “The Emotionally Healthy Woman” were recommended to me by my worship pastor and now I recommend these books to everyone. “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” was written by Pastor Peter Scazzero and “The Emotionally Healthy Woman” was written by his wife, Geri Scazzero. Their combined stories of the pastor who never said no to ministry and the wife who was left to raise their four kids alone while her husband had “more important” work is eye-opening yet typical in the church. Peter Scazzero discusses the four points of emotional health: Facing your heart issues (your “shadow”), leading out of your marriage or singleness, prioritizing your relationship with God, and slowing down for Sabbath.
Geri Scazzero centers her book on the eight things she is “quitting”, such as being afraid of what others think, blaming, and overfuctioning. I believe all women will be able to relate to aspects of Geri’s story and gain freedom in knowing that we, too, can quit these oppressive and unhealthy behaviors.
Along with all of these books, the Bible is the foundation for all of my growth. Without an understanding of scripture, the books above don’t mean much. Scripture serves as my plumb line for all knowledge and every book I read. That being said, I recommend reading the Bible every day. Read it. Study it. Consume it.
I hope you appreciate this list. Let me know what books you’re looking forward to reading and what other books have been important and life-changing for you!