"You will not think clearly about your life until you think mythically. Until you see with the eyes of your heart," wrote John Eldredge in his book, WAKING THE DEAD. The words can be read again in his latest book, THE RANSOMED HEART, a collection of devotional readings culled from his many popular titles including WILD AT HEART, THE SACRED ROMANCE, and EPIC.
Helping people to see "with the eyes of their hearts" is a good way to describe Eldredge's mission. As a survey of his work to this point, THE RANSOMED HEART is both a good introduction to Eldredge's take on life and spirituality, and a helpful compendium for those who have already grown to appreciate his thoughts. As this reading from Day 230 articulates, Eldredge advocates a kind of Spirit-enabled empowerment that he hopes will help people more fully engage the world, relationships, and God:
"The deeper reason we fear our own glory is that once we let others see it, they will have seen the truest us, and that is nakedness indeed. We can repent of our sin. We can work on our 'issues.' But there is nothing to be 'done' about our glory. It's so naked. It's just there --- the truest us. It is an awkward thing to shimmer when everyone else around you is not, to walk in your glory with an unveiled face when everyone else is veiling his. For a woman to be truly feminine and beautiful is to invite suspicion, jealousy, misunderstanding. A friend confided in me, 'When you walk into a room, every woman looks at you to see --- are you prettier than they are? Are you a threat?'
And that is why living from your glory is the only loving thing to do. You cannot love another person from a false self. You cannot love another while you are still hiding. You cannot love another unless you offer her your heart. It takes courage to live from your heart. My friend Jenny said just the other day, 'I desperately want to be who I am. I don't want the glory that I marvel at in others anymore. I want to be that glory which God set in me.'
Finally, our deepest fear of all…we will need to live from it. To admit we do have a new heart and a glory from God, to begin to let it be unveiled and embrace it as true --- that means the next thing God will do is ask us to live from it. Come out of the boat. Take the throne. Be what he meant us to be. And that feels risky…really risky. But it is also exciting. It is coming fully alive. My friend Morgan declared, 'It's a risk worth taking.'"
Eldredge has been accused of repeating himself in his books, but this liability becomes an asset in this collection as the themes of the daily devotions compliment each other nicely despite being drawn from several different books. In addition to his collected work, THE RANSOMED HEART also includes three prayers that Eldredge has found helpful in his own personal spiritual life.
But other less-than-positive critiques of his work are still valid, even in this format. Chief among them is that Eldredge's ideas appear to stem from a heavy diet of movies and canoeing more than from Scripture itself. His ideas seem to be shaped more by Braveheart than the Bible. And indeed, his references to "supporting" Scripture are often taken wildly out of context.
Additionally, his vision of what it means to be masculine is largely informed by his own love of the outdoors and adventure sports like rappelling. Those with more sedentary passions are virtually ignored. Similarly, his discussion about beauty and femininity (drawn from CAPTIVATING, the book he co-authored with his wife, Stasi) seems to be rooted in a very specific experience of loving (and being) a beautiful woman. Those with other experiences might find little that speaks to their own lives.
Having said that, Braveheart is a great movie. And what Eldredge has to say isn't heretical, even if it is just one person's vision of what constitutes a well-lived life. Indeed, as millions of readers can attest, Eldredge's vision --- the value he places on relationships and living with a fearless generosity --- can be inspiring and regenerative.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on October 4, 2005