Read an Excerpt
By Stasi Eldredge
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Stasi Eldredge
All rights reserved.
The Heart of a Woman
(Captivating, Chapter One)
As we begin this study together, know that it is a study of discovery. A journey, really. For you to discover who God meant when he meant you. What does it mean to be a woman? What is my calling in life? What does God value? What does He want from me? What do I want? And is that okay?
We are not carbon copies of each other. Not at all. God loves diversity and he has fashioned each one of us uniquely and well. But it is a very good thing to know that we are not alone on this journey of life; we have much more in common with each other—simply because we are women—than we don't. We share more than most of us realize.
For instance, we have a feminine heart. We have to start there, because as the Scriptures tell us, the heart is the center of it all.
Look up Proverbs 4:23 and write it below.
Think about it: God created you as a woman. "God created man in his own image ... male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). Whatever it means to bear God's image, you do so as a woman. Female. That's how and where you bear his image. And not in your body. The Trinity does not have a body. No, you bear God's image in your heart.
Is this a new thought for you?
Your feminine heart has been created with the greatest of all possible dignities—as a reflection of God's own heart. You are a woman to your soul, to the very core of your being. And so the journey to discover what God meant when he created woman in his image—when he created you as his woman—that journey begins with your heart. Another way of saying this is that the journey begins with desire.
What are some of your favorite stories or movies? In them, who do you want to be?
The stories we love reveal much of the secret desires of our deep hearts. If you take a close look, talk with the women in your life, you'll find that we share themes in our core desires. They are not all that we want and they play out differently in our lives, but in her heart of hearts, every woman longs to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a heroic adventure and to unveil beauty.
It is right that we do, for it is in these desires that we bear the image of our God.
In the DVD, Sue shared that she related to the horse, Pilgrim, in the movie, The Horse Whisperer. Why?
In your own words, define the desire to be romanced.
Do you remember some of the games you played as a little girl? What were some that you really enjoyed?
Are you aware of a longing to be someone's priority? What would you like that to look like?
How would you describe the desire to play an irreplaceable role in a heroic adventure?
What were your dreams for your life when you were a little girl? What did you want to be or do?
Allowing yourself to dream a little bit, think about this: If you could do or be anything you wanted now, what would it be?
Let your mind drift over that idea, imagining what your life would be like if you could follow that dream, the people who would be around you. Would you characterize that dream role as one that would be easily replaced or one that is more on the side of essential?
How would your living that life impact others? How is the life you are living now impacting others?
Beauty to Unveil
Who is beautiful to you and why?
Do you want to be beautiful, inside and out? Do you think you are or could be beautiful?
Describe the desire for a beauty to unveil.
The core desires that God placed in our hearts have a great dignity to them. We don't have to diminish them or be embarrassed by them, for it is in our desires that we bear the image of God. God wants us to delight in him, to seek him. God wants to be irreplaceable in our lives. God wants to reveal his beauty to us and to receive our worship.
A Loss of Heart
As a young woman, I, like the women around me, got busy with the business of life. I worked hard and tried harder. I slept less, aimed higher, and failed more. At church, often I was exhorted to do more. Be more. Be better. Follow these seven steps, these six lifestyles, these twelve concepts. But in all of my trying, I didn't feel I was growing as a woman. I just felt tired. I came to the place that Nicol Sponberg describes in her song "Resurrection": my life had turned cold, without life and without passion.
I know I am not alone in this. Most of us feel that we are failing in some areas of our lives, maybe even the most important areas. And aware of our deep failings, we pour contempt on our own hearts for wanting more. Oh, we long for intimacy and for adventure; we long to be the Beauty of some great story. But the desires set deep in our hearts seem like a luxury, don't they—granted only to those women who get their act together. The message to the rest of us—whether from a driven culture or a driven church—is try harder.
How have you felt the message of "try harder" come to you? How has it made you feel and/or expressed itself in your life?
Do you believe the message of "try harder" is coming from God? What do you honestly believe God thinks about you/feels about you?
How do you handle your heart when your core desires are not being met?
In all the exhortations—"Do this, and then you'll be a worthy woman"—we have missed the most important thing of all. We have missed the heart of a woman.
And that is not a wise thing to do, for as the Scriptures tell us, the heart is central. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Above all else. Why? Because God knows that our heart is core to who we are. It is the source of all creativity, courage, and conviction. It is the fountainhead of our faith, our hope, and of course, our love. This "wellspring of life" within us is the very essence of our existence, the center of our being. Your heart as a woman is the most important thing about you. God loves you—more than you yet know or believe. Your heart matters to him.
God did not place these longings in our hearts to torment us. Rather, they reveal the secret of who we truly are and the role that is ours to play. There is so much hope here, hope to become the woman you secretly long to be, the woman who is romanced, irreplaceable, and utterly beautiful!
React to that thought. What if it were true?CHAPTER 2
Created Eve/Fallen Eve
(Captivating, Chapters Two and Three)
The story of creation is a wondrous and beautiful thing. God creates the Heavens and the earth and everything on them and in them. And his creation is utterly, perfectly glorious! Sometimes we forget that our story, the human story, begins with glory and beauty and goodness. In Genesis 1 we read the account of God setting his own image on the earth. He creates a being like himself. He creates a son.
The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7)
It is nearing the end of the sixth day, the end of the Creator's great labor, as Adam steps forth, the image of God, the triumph of his work. He alone is pronounced the son of God. Nothing in creation even comes close. Picture Michelangelo's David. He is ... magnificent. Truly, the masterpiece seems complete. And yet, the Master says that something is not good, not right. Something is missing ... and that something is Eve.
And the Lord God cast a deep slumber on the human, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs and closed over the flesh where it had been, and the Lord God built the rib He had taken from the human into a woman and He brought her to the human. (Gen. 2:21–23 Alter)
She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master's finishing touch. Eve is ... breathtaking.
Woman wasn't created as an afterthought but as the pinnacle of creation.
Before reading this, did you think that because God created woman second to man that women are second to men in the heart of God?
What does your heart do with being called the "crown of creation"?
The essence of woman is Beauty. What are some aspects of the power of Beauty that have struck you?
How have you experienced the healing, restorative power of beauty through another person?
Much too soon into our first parents' lives, Adam and Eve fell. They chose to disobey God and to distrust his heart.
Why did Eve take and eat the forbidden fruit, really?
Look up Genesis 3:10. Write it below.
Why was Adam afraid? What did it cause him to do?
If we understand Genesis 3:10, we understand the human condition. Every person breathing is to some extent afraid and hiding. For women, this deep distrust of God plays out in our lives in various ways. Depending upon the story of her life, each woman tends to express her "fallenness" on a spectrum varying between being extremely controlling or extremely desolate.
We are in this together, gals. We need to look at our fallenness in order to find the redemption available to us in Christ and become the women we are intended to be. There is mercy for us. Even here.
Which way did your mother or the women who influenced you most while you were growing tend to fall? Give some examples.
Which way do you tend to go? Controlling and driven or desolate and needy?
How does that play out in your life?
The core desires that God placed in our hearts as women go largely unmet on this side of Eden. We ache. God longs for us to bring our aching hearts to him so that he can speak to and touch our deep hearts. Where do you take the ache in your heart when you don't take it to God?
Underneath our sin is a deep fear. What are you most afraid of?
Read Hebrews 4:14–16.
God knows why we do the things we do. He understands us. Look to him now with your confession. There is mercy in his eyes. He would like not only to forgive us our fallen ways, but heal our fear, and reveal his love to us in the depths of our soul where we have yet to trust him.CHAPTER 3
(Captivating, Chapter Four)
Fallen Eve is not the truest thing about you, but we have to look at our fallenness first because it is in the way. It is in the way of God's desires for our lives—and our own desires—but it is not the deepest thing about us. Underneath every striving, controlling, indulging, hiding, or desolate woman is a wounded little girl.
It's true that some women's lives look perfect to us from a distance. But only from a distance. Often we are tempted to compare ourselves with other women. We compare ourselves to their looks, their lives. We can diminish the sorrow of our own personal histories by knowing a friend with a much more painful history. That is an unwise thing to do. Your life matters. Your joys, your sorrows matter.
What does Psalm 56:8 tell you about how precious your tears are to God?
Read Ecclesiastes 12:1. What does the author (Solomon) assume about "the days of trouble"?
We don't revisit the wounds of our lives simply to feel sorry for ourselves, but for the purposes of God to heal us. He invites us to grieve our wounds and to receive his comfort and then his healing. But to be healed, we must once again let God tenderly open our wounds and expose them to his light, to his love, and to his truth.
What are the core questions in every little girl's heart?
How was your heart handled as a little girl?
Think back through the story of your life. Can you remember an instance where you were hurt? What happened?
What did you come to believe about yourself through this event?
Was this a one-time event or did similar things happen throughout your life that reinforced the message against your heart? What were some of those events, situations or words?
The wounds that we received as young girls did not come alone. The wounds brought messages with them, messages of who you are as a woman or messages of who you will never be. And because they were delivered with such pain, we believed them. As children, we didn't have the faculties to process and sort through what was happening to us. If we were overwhelmed or belittled or hurt or abused, we believed that somehow it was because of us—the problem was with us.
Do you know what horrid things you have been wounded into believing about yourself? Try to put it/them into a sentence.
How were your heart's questions, "Am I lovely?" and "Do You delight in me?" answered in your youth?
Ask God to reveal to you the ways that believing these things has shaped your life. Has it shaped your style of relating to others? Birthed fear? Mistrust? Journal your thoughts below.
Are you ready and willing to consider that the secret, awful things you have come to deeply believe about yourself are not true and that you did not deserve the wounds you received? Take a risk. Consider it. What if they are lies? What would that mean about you and your life?
What if the message delivered with your wounds simply isn't true about you? Let that sink in. It wasn't true. What does it free you to do? Weep? Rejoice? Let go? Take your heart back?
And sisters, you still have a Question. You still want to know. Do you see me? Am I captivating? Do I have a beauty all my own? You must ask God what he sees. Take this to him.
Read Isaiah 62:1–5, and put your name in where the text reads "Zion" and "you." Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. He came for us! And we don't wait for all of it until we are in Heaven. Yes, then it will be perfect. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more tears. But there is much available for us here, now, on this side. So much.
There is hope. There is healing. There is life. For you. For me. For all of us. Let's turn to God now and receive the more that he has for us.CHAPTER 4
Healing the Wound
(Captivating, Chapter Six)
When Jesus first entered the synagogue to begin his earthly mission, he opened the Holy Scriptures and read from the book of Isaiah. When he finished, he proclaimed that in that moment, the Scripture had been fulfilled. Jesus read Isaiah 61.
Read it now for yourself: Isaiah 61, verses 1–3.
Jesus could have chosen so many Scriptures to announce his ministry and his mission yet he chose this one. Why? Because it is central to God's purposes and God's heart.
In your own words, what is Jesus offering?
Who is he offering it to?
When you first became a Christian, what did you think Christianity was primarily about? Did you know it is primarily about your restoration?
The offer from our God is to heal our broken hearts and to set free the places that are held captive within us. All of us have broken hearts. All of us are held captive to varying degrees. In order to receive the healing that God has for us, we must bring him our wounded hearts.
Revelation 3:20 says what?
Although we primarily understand that verse in terms of our initial salvation, there are doors within our hearts that remain closed. And Jesus will come knocking. You see, Jesus is kind and gentle. Yes, he made our hearts, but he will not force healing upon us. There are chambers in our heart that remain locked from the inside, and Jesus waits for us to invite him in there, to give him access.
Are you willing and ready to give him deeper access to your heart in order to heal you? What would you like to invite Jesus into, to heal you? Write it below, be specific.
Jesus heals our hearts through many ways and through many people. Receiving counseling from a caring believer has been helpful for many Christians. The Holy Spirit is called the Counselor and will come to us through the Word of God and in the quiet places of our hearts. Other people find healing and courage in a God-given strength to attempt something challenging. In the DVD, Sue shares that God was doing a work of healing in her heart through ballroom dance classes. It took enormous courage for her to begin, but God has met her every step of the way. Dream a little of what that might look like for you.
How might God be inviting your heart to come alive?
Excerpted from Captivating by Stasi Eldredge. Copyright © 2007 Stasi Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.