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For the Love by Jen Hatmaker is not a new book, nor is it even a new-to-me book. I just read it for the second time, which should give you an idea of how much I love it. I am currently on a mission to read all of Jen Hatmaker’s books, because I love her so much. However, I felt the need to start with “For the Love” since it had been so long since I had read it. If you are not familiar with Jen Hatmaker. She is a Christian author and speaker from Texas. The mix of her Southern charm with her sassy, straight-forward attitude makes reading her books feel like you are simultaneously sitting down with your best friend for a chat and getting your butt kicked in a powerful sermon. Her and her husband, Brandon Hatmaker, have five kids (y’all I can’t even comprehend that!) and pastor Austin City New Church, which they founded a few years back. The thing I love most about her is that she is real. She doesn’t put on a front that everything is perfect, which makes her very relatable. She also has a podcast by the same title as this book, which I absolutely love and highly recommend.
For the Love is a compilation of essays focused around the idea of loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves well. The book is divided into four categories: (1) Your Very Own Self, (2) All These People Who Live in Your House, (3) Friends, Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies, and (4) Church, Church People, Not-Church People, and God. Each category has six to eight essays in it. The essays vary between serious, hard-hitting, funny, and sincere, but all of them are relatable. For the sake of this review, I will discuss one essay from each section that I found particularly powerful. I, of course, had difficulty narrowing it down to just one per category because this book is chock full of goodness.
On Calling and Haitian Moms
In this essay Jen discusses how there are things she used to believe about God that simply aren’t true. They were true for her in her middle class, white, Christian context, but were not true for everyone, thus they actually weren’t true of God at all. So she came up with a little gauge, “If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true”. She then spends the majority of the rest of the chapter discussing how this idea relates to the main topic she receives questions on – the idea of a calling. She goes on to essentially say that our calling is simply to live a life worthy of the grace and love we have received, and this can be done no matter what career (what we are typically referring to when we talk about our “calling”) we have. I have thought things similar to this for quite a while. We search so hard for our calling, but it is clear in scripture that our calling is simply to love God and share His love with others. How we do that will change throughout our lives, but our calling doesn’t change.
I loved this chapter so much! In fact, it was important enough for me that I brought it to our college group to discuss. This is in the section “All These People Who Live in Your House”, so it is actually directed at moms, but the statements in it hold true for whoever is reading it. It’s about how kids are dropping out of church and what she suggests that we do about it. She lists a multitude of statistics and reasons for this (all based on research). One of the things she said in this chapter that I agree whole-heartedly with is that “we cannot be more committed to our methods than our message”. So many times we tell kids that things have to be done a certain way in the church and/or in our faith, and there are things that absolutely do have to be done a certain a way. However, many of the methods that we hold tight to are merely traditions and not actually based on scripture. Kids have questions about why we do the things we do, and we need to be willing to have those discussions with them, not bend on the truth, but hold true to scripture and truly evaluate whether our traditions line up with scripture.
This section isn’t what you would necessarily think by the title. I thought it would be about how we have to love difficult people because Jesus loves us, which definitely is true, but what Jen talks about here is drawing healthy boundaries. She talks about how our friendships should be reciprocal, not draining. She wisely says, “you have a limited amount of time and energy and must steward it well”. I do not believe she is talking so much about ministry here, but the core people in your life. The ones that are supposed to be a spiritual support to you, the ones that are supposed to be life-giving. She talks about giving grace, but not becoming a doormat for people. I think this is so important to talk about in Christian circles. So many times we think that because we bear the name of Christ that gives other people license to treat us however they want, and we just have to take it, but I don’t believe that is true. In fact, I don’t even believe that it is Biblical, and Jen gives a good case for standing up for yourself in this essay.
Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Lame
Besides being hilarious this section is just so true! Early in this essay she says, “Honestly, I love Jesus but sometimes His followers give me a migraine,” and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a truer statement. This section is essentially about how Christians treat each other and how that largely determines how the world will view Jesus. We bicker so much among ourselves that we often times forget the calling we have from Christ and the Good News that we have received. She makes the case in this essay that we still need to have some of the difficult conversations that tend to cause these arguments, but that we need to do so with dignity and grace. How true this is!
There are so many more essays in this book that I loved…like all of them. I would absolutely recommend this book. It will make you laugh, while also making you think deeply about issues, and if you’re an emotional basket case like me you’ll cry a few times too.