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Captivating, chapter 3

Captain’s Log, Stardate 06.30.2006

Blog book giveaway:
My Monday book giveaway is CONSIDER LILY by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt.
My Thursday book giveaway is LOVE ONLINE by Kristin Billerbeck and Nancy Toback.
You can still enter both giveaways. Just post a comment on each of those blog posts. On Thursday, I'll draw the winner for CONSIDER LILY and post the title for another book I'm giving away. Stay tuned.

Haunted by a Question: Sorry, this is really long again. As before, some things I liked and some questions.

Eve—What Happened?
The authors say: “[Eve] brought strength to the world, but not a striving, sharp-edged strength. She was inviting, alluring, captivating.”

I don’t know if I buy that. I don’t know if I really see how being inviting, alluring, or captivating is a strength. I understand how restfulness (restful inner beauty?) can be a strength, or solidity like a rock. To me, that’s strength. But being alluring? Captivating?

Then they talk about “Why do so few women have anything close to a life of romance?” In the guided journal, it asked, “Are you aware of loneliness deep within your heart?”

I kind of understand what they’re looking for. I know there are many women who bury their pain and it’s probably healthier for them to acknowledge it rather than deny it exists.

But on the other hand, I’m not very lonely in my life, and I felt like they were trying to make me look for places in my life where I’m discontent. And I don’t really want to start seeking out things just to complain about.

They mention how tired women are, and I do believe that’s true. Women, especially mothers, are striving to do their best for their children. All the mothers I know do a lot with and for their kids. It’s to their credit, but they always seem tired and overcommitted.

I don’t particularly feel tired. I really enjoy my work and the specific places where I volunteer. I guess maybe I’ve been good about not overcommitting myself.

A Woman’s Deepest Question:
Again, she mentions how girls like their twirly skirts and “capturing attention,” being captivating. I didn’t quite relate. I don’t like being the center of attention—anytime that happens, I turn beet-red, or else I’m having early hot-flashes.

I think it might depend on the personality of the woman. Some women were incredibly shy as children and didn’t like to call attention to themselves. Others loved the limelight or just being silly and girly.

So I didn’t feel like the “haunting question” of the chapter—Am I lovely? Am I captivating?—applied to me as much as it might to other women.

For me, a better question—which is similar, in some ways, to the lovely question—is: Am I important?

All my childhood fantasies were about women who were integral to the salvation of the space-time continuum, or the key to Enchanted Forest’s survival, or the top warrior of the Amazon tribe. They were important.

Maybe that’s why I wanted to be a writer. To be important. To influence and entertain at the same time.

Maybe it’s the same thing the authors are talking about. I just don’t like the words they choose. Those words have very specific meanings and connotations to American culture, and if they really are talking about those specific meanings, then I don’t agree with what they’re saying.

Eve’s Fall:
I really like how the authors point out that the consequences of Eve’s disobedience—dominance by her husband—is NOT how their relationship was supposed to be. I had never thought of things that way. I knew in my head that a result of the fall was that men would “rule” over women, but it never occurred to me that the specifics of the punishment meant that God had never meant for this to happen this way.

They also mention how women are cursed with loneliness (relational heartache) and the urge to control, both of which I completely relate to.

The guided journal asks more probing questions about heartaches, worries, emotional aches, emptiness. I can’t say I have a lot of those—I have a few minor ones—but I’m sure many women DO have several of those, and for some women, it’s quite deep and painful.

Then they talk about women being guarded rather than inviting—but aren’t all human beings this way? Aren’t men guarded the same way women are?

They talked about women who over-control, and women who hide away. Both extremes. Both a result of not trusting God.

The guided journal asked, “In what ways are you a controlling, dominating woman?” I just laughed. I’m still laughing. I can’t even begin to count the areas in my life where I’m a control freak.

The thing is, I’m aware of it, and I’m constantly struggling to remember to give my control up to God. I don’t succeed all the time. I don’t think I even succeed most of the time. But I am working on it, and I don’t feel condemned for it because I know about the problem, my husband knows about the problem (and he married me despite of it), and God knows about the problem and is helping me with it.

The authors say, “We are not saying that strength in a woman is wrong. Not at all. However, thanks to the Fall, far too many women use their strength in self-protective ways, ways that violate love, tenderness, and mercy. They forfeit their femininity in order to feel safe and in control.”

I can relate to that. But I guess I’m at a point where I already see that’s what I’m doing and I’m trying to stop it. I’m trying to trust God more, and fully. I’m not saying I’m succeeding at it, but I’m not in denial about it, either.

The authors discuss how women indulge to ease the pain. I agree with that, I know I do it. Food gives me intense pleasure, and I am constantly overindulging in that.

I did take offense that they lumped romance novels with soap operas, talk shows, gossip, and women’s magazines, which all “feed an inner life of relational dreaming and voyeurism that substitutes—for a while—for the real thing.” They did a sweeping generalization that romance novels were “cheap” and ways to indulge in fantasy. That women picture themselves as the heroine in order to feel winsome, beautiful, pursued.

Now, I’m sure that’s true for many women, but certainly not for all. I mean, raise your hand if you view your contemporary romance, or romantic suspense, or fantasy/chick-lit/thriller/women's fiction with romantic elements novels as just entertainment rather than a way to deal with life’s problems or emptiness?

Do women have to read a literary fiction book, or a Biblical fiction novel, or the Bible itself in order to not be labeled as emotionally needy? Come on, people.

The authors say, “All of our hearts are at some level unsatisfied and longing. It is our insatiable need for more that drives us to our God.”

I would hope that’s what it does. That when women become aware of their dissatisfaction, that they’d look to God rather than blame their spouses, children, friends, neighbors.

But do you hear my skepticism? I confess that when I become aware of dissatisfaction, my first reaction is to blame somebody. That’s not a godly reaction, but it’s my first.

I guess I need to trust God is in control and will point women to Himself, rather than worrying about women who start pointing to others.

Eve’s Lingering Fear:
The authors end the chapter by saying that both being over-controlling and hiding away are the products of girls whose Haunting Question—Am I lovely?—was wrongfully answered, and so they have grown up to be this way, wounded and believing lies about themselves.

I can definitely see how this would apply exactly to some women. It makes perfect sense, logically and psychologically.

The problem is, it doesn’t seem to fit me. I know I’m over-controlling. It’s part of my personality, just like Elisabeth Elliot when she wrote Passion and Purity. After reading that book, I, too, saw the need to submit my preconceived notions and my control to God.

(I had guy friends in college who hated that book because they felt it made women too submissive. I’m wondering if they had known too many women who were the other extreme of controlling—too submissive, hiding—and they didn’t want those women to validate their behavior. Whereas I was an Amazon with too much mind of her own, and needed Elisabeth Elliot’s message.)

I did grow up believing lies about myself, and maybe it was because my Haunting Question was answered wrongfully by the people around me. I really don’t know. I do know that after I gave my life to Christ, I started learning the truth about those lies, little by little.

Maybe that’s why I’m confused. Are the authors talking about Christian women who still believe the lies despite their faith? Or non-Christians who don’t know to turn to God for the truth?

I guess the former, because in the guided journal, they ask, “. . . is this fear there? The fear that you will end up abandoned and alone?” And then they say, “Take a moment and invite God in . . . to give you the courage to begin to trust him with your life in ever deeper ways.”

Which is a nice way to end the guided journal, but in reading the book first, I was left at the end of the chapter with just kind of . . . Um, okay.

I should also mention that even though there are things I both like and don't like about this book, that's ME.

I'm sure it would resonate differently with different women.

The only way to know is to read this book for yourself. It's easy to get the library to order it if you request them to.


Lucy T said…
Long but lovely Cami. I'm still composing mine in my head but I could just cut and paste yours, changing the facts to cover the crime . . . ? No? OK, I suppose I will have to write my own. LOL
Anonymous said…
Hi Camy,
Just wanted to drop in and invite you take a look at our novels sometime on If you like spiritual warfare novels, you'll find The Legend of Delfin Deverell very interesting.
Have a great evening!
Sharon Foster
Susannah said…
An interesting summary of the Eldridges' chapter. Thanks! I've read three of his other books... sounds like a rewrite of those. He's a moving writer, but this sounds like a little too much "psycho-babble" for me!
Mary DeMuth said…
Camy, I really appreciate your balanced approach. Part of the maturing and deepening process as a Christian involves being able to exegete books well, to sift through the words and determine which ones are true. The Bereans come to mind.

Admittedly, I haven't read this book, and I probably won't. I get pretty freaked out about generalizations about women. But I appreciate your tender and kind way you've approached the text.
Pfingston said…
I agree with Lucy . . . I just want to cut/paste. But mostly with the feeling at the end. "I was left at the end of the chapter with just kind of . . .Um, okay."

LOL! Yet my state of mind may be affecting my ability to THINK! I am a tierd mom, more so now since I started blogging. The problem is that the kids are an alarm clock set at 6:30am no matter what, and evening (after they're asleep)is when I blog (except when my moms here on weekends like now!) and so I will blog until 1am!
How do mothers go insane? One lost hour of sleep at a time!
PatriciaW said…
What about all of the women who struggle not with control issues but with passivity? Twirly skirts?

Like in fiction, there's a non-fiction book for everyone. This one's not for me.
Anonymous said…
I really appreciate your insights into this book and must say it sort of gives me the "willies". I can't relate very much to what they are writing and in many respects I agree with patricia w. above. I have more issues with passivity and have had for a long time, perhaps even all my life. I know that with a few exceptions, I always did what I was told to do. Does God want me to be a doormat? I know I like to have control over certain areas of my life and have tried to give them over to God and then take them back again or at best still cling to them.

Something that Stella Cameron on the Running with Quills blog wrote this week really struck me as highly appropriate to my life and situation at this very moment. If you'd like to see it and my comment with Stella's in return, it's just at that of the blog(as one word).com. It really showed me what is lacking in my life. Well, not totally lacking, but lacking from the person who tells me almost constantly to focus on the positives in my life. I was over there for lunch today for Canada Day and for my niece's 23rd birthday on July 3. He drove me home and we talked about inconsequentials because he doesn't really want to know how I feel.

Of course, I might be doing what you were mentioning, blaming others for my shortcomings.

Too bad it's summer with so many people away on holidays. I've been left hanging in so many areas at the moment that I feel like a puppet or someone that's going to be hanged permanently. Everybody else is pulling strings. There's little chance that my sister will be able to come back anytime soon. Her being able to come last weekend was a little bit of luck and God's gift. She herself has acknowledged that not having the closeness of a marriage partner is what I lack. But I'm not going to get married to just have that supposed close person and have it turn out to be a disaster. Anyway, I've never yet met anyone that I've wanted to marry and I really have left that totally in God's hands.

But you're right about the book you're studying. Even the title "Captivating" somehow strikes me as strange. Are we really supposed to be captivating as women of God? It just seems a strange "worldly" word to use. Doesn't it, more or less, mean "making captives of others"? Not even God wants to make "captives" of His children. I had been trying to remember the title and came up with "captivating" but it just didn't ring right. Then to find out it truly is the title...

I just found some other books again. One is "The Secret Place of Joy" by Lindell Cooley, the other "Miracles Happen When Women Pray". Maybe I should get at those and internalize them if I feel God is truly speaking to me through them.
Camy Tang said…
I should also mention that even though there are things I both like and don't like about this book, that's ME.

I'm sure it would resonate differently with different women.

The only way to know is to read this book for yourself. It's easy to get the library to order it if you request them to.

boomama said…
I tried not to "argue" with the book as much in my head when I read ch. 3 because I was SO frustrated last week. And I did get several things out of this week's reading, I really did...and I love your faithfulness to talk about every area of the chapter - you help me catch stuff that I miss when I read, and I'm most grateful. :-)
Lucy T said…

I love the way you were able to cover every topic that hit you. I try to write the details but get overwhelmed. I guess that's part of what makes you a writer and me not? Back to Stasi, don'tcha just want to get her in person and tell her face to face your reactions to her book? LOL - I want to.
sarahgrace said…
Camy- I'm lovin' your thorough posts about the chapters. Way to eat the hay and leave the sticks ; )
Vicki said…
Always appreciate your thoughts,Camy, but I've stayed away from this book after realizing what poor theology Eldridge had in his other books. They were/are wildly popular--yes--but it's so scary because Eldridge depicts God wrongly. These kinds of books appeal to our flesh, but in the end, they just elevate man over God. These books are misleading women today, I fear.

Hate to sound like a party pooper, but it's the truth.

Here's a few interesting book reviews that might help someone sort through the book:

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