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LONGING FOR MORE
It Helps to Know You Aren't Crazy
I remember a time in my early forties when I discovered the importance of knowing and honoring the ought-to-be life. It was a sultry summer evening, and I'd just come from a five-o'clock church service. Taking Communion and sing- ing corporately had been particularly sweet joys for me — moments where the veil between heaven and earth seemed to grow thin and the fragrance of eternity wafted in. As I received the bread and the cup, my worship had flowed with abandon.
Driving away from that service in my convertible, I realized that I had been refueled for the work that lay ahead of me. We have all been called to cultivate fruit just as Adam and Eve were; my current version was working for an international ministry — writing, speaking, and mentoring. And that night, after I encountered the Lord so deeply, the life-blood for my work seemed reinvigorated.
But in that same moment, even as I felt fundamentally grateful for God's gifts, I also felt the concurrent, too-familiar twinge of unmet longing. I was — after years of praying and getting hundreds of others to do the same (and even writing a book on the topic) — still single. This didn't bother me most days anymore. But every now and then, sitting unpartnered at church touched this place in me. It was a strange irony: With my heart opened wide in the Lord's presence, my quiet, background disappointment was free to come to the light. I could stroll with the Lord in the Garden, so to speak, and I could cultivate good fruit in the world around me. But nakedness — intimacy, being known — with an Adam? And a family of my own? Well, all of that was perpetually elusive.
Of course I knew — intellectually, and even in a chunk of my heart — that finding a partner was not the whole story. So much relationally good, substantive human connection was woven like gold thread into my life — friends close by and around the country with whom love flowed back and forth. In that sense, I really did have the relational piece at least halfway there. But if I were honest, the relational gap still felt real. As if this was not how life was supposed to be, at least for me. And tonight, I felt tired of this snake pit in an otherwise beautiful Garden.
I legitimately doubted that it was purely in my power to fill the gap, to meet my own longings. I'd done my part for the past twenty years. Worked on my stuff. Been open to date a lot of men, even when we weren't a very good fit. Recently, I'd even ventured with a friend into my first-ever speed-dating experiment at a snazzy bar.
But at this moment, driving in my car, I suddenly felt the very strong pull to do anything possible to get rid of the gruesome gap. It just felt too bad. Why should I put up with this ridiculously noisy, unmet longing that I didn't have the power to fill?
I considered ways to silence the noise. Maybe that longing for a literal bridegroom needed to be totally spiritualized — I could forget flesh-and-blood guys and realize that Jesus was my husband and my ministry organization, my family. There was some truth in that, after all.
Or perhaps that longing for someone special to build my life with needed to be treated as dead weight, no longer meriting my time, attention, and care. Or cynically tossed — with rolling eyes and a knowing scoff — into the "cheesy" category by this smarter woman who now knew better.
But even as I contemplated these options, something else crept into my imagination: that Genesis-shaped mosaic of how life ought to be. It glimmered, faint at first, like gold in the light of a dim candle. But its light grew, and in no uncertain terms, it radiated its ancient, simple truth: These longings for connection — with God, with others, and with creation — are right and good. I've made you for this.
There was no promise of a certain kind of future. No insight into big next steps. No guarantee I'd get that for which I was made. Only the increasingly vivid reminder that wholeness came into being from the heart of our good Creator God. This was the way he'd originally designed life for his beloved image bearers. For you. For me.
It was admittedly painful to recognize that a beautiful aspect of life as it ought to be was frustratingly beyond my control. Perhaps you've felt this too: the pain of a genuine good always just beyond your reach. But I didn't have to excise a piece of my heart. To risk wanting that goodness — while accepting that it may not ever be mine — was not and never could be foolish. Risk meant remaining a human with an open and a living heart.
Laying my head down on my pillow that night, I realized how close I had come to buying the lie that there's no such thing as an ought to be in this life. The lie had such appeal. How simple it would be to tidily decide that good worship, good bonds, and good work were nice if you wanted them and could get them. But if you didn't or couldn't, no worries. Just pick the bits of the package you liked or could make happen (like worship or meaningful work), discard the rest, and watch the gaps disappear. Cut yourself off from the achy parts of your own humanity, and then — presto! — pain gone. Move on with your life.
This lie had come so close to sounding like wisdom for the journey.
God had not shut off that desire in me that, for whatever reasons, had remained an open ache for longer than I would have ever imagined. But that meant I was actually holding on to God's gift of my own heart. That gentle, Genesis-shaped reminder had done its work, telling me that my urge to merge wasn't crazy, nor should it be unnaturally aborted. To the contrary, that reminder gave me the courage to once again offer my whole heart — gaps and all — to my creator. Then, while gratefully laying hold of the real good in my life — like a great church, a lot of friends, committed extended family, and meaningful work — I could keep moving forward.
KNOW HOW IT WAS SO YOU CAN LIVE WELL WITH HOW IT IS
When Connally and I teach about life as it ought to be, there's a predictable reaction. We brace ourselves for it. People get angry. Frustrated. They are only more aware that their "best life now" is a far cry from what they envisioned. Good worship, relationships, and work feel like tales from another planet.
In the Garden, everything we were created for was abundantly present. And if we put ourselves into the first few chapters of Genesis, I suspect we'll find our breath taken away.
In the Garden, we know who we are. Our Father is the one who has been in relationship with the Son and the Spirit forever. Our Father is the creator. Our Father is the one who has made us, male or female, in his image. From the outset, we are relational and creative, strolling with our Father in the cool of the day. Can you sense the contentment?
We stroll, too, with one another. For Adam has seen Eve and knows that "at last" he has one to whom he can hold fast. And Eve, made of the same stuff as Adam, knows the goodness of oneness with this man. They are naked, but there is no shame between them, no self-conscious preoccupation, no quiet disappointments. Words like lonely or lost haven't even made it into the lexicon. Our identity is secure. Surveying the situation, our Father declares it all — and you can almost see the smile on his face — very good.
But it's not just good in our relationship with our Father or each other. We are planted smack in the middle of a world where instead of fighting with the creation around us, we are blessed in our stewardship of it. Imagine bluebirds, dolphins, cows, and earthworms all delighting in their place in the created world, even as we delight in them. If there were mosquitoes, they weren't biting. And our work in this garden? God's instructions are simple: Cultivate this amazing creation; bring out its fruitfulness. Multiply the edible beauty that surrounds us. We get to grow tomatoes, so to speak, without the slightest threat of aphids. And we are called to turn our ripe tomatoes into a salad that would make the Barefoot Contessa proud.
Sigh. Our hearts ache for what we lost. If we stare at the here and now of our lives, we know that even our best relationships and achievements are missing something. We can see litter in the landscape of the dreams that have died. And that ache can turn to anger and frustration easily. Very easily.
There's a great temptation to just deny the ought of life as God intended. To pretend it doesn't matter. To numb out and take a class in French cooking. But even though we're tempted to pretend that things are okay when something inside us knows they're not, here's the truth: Pretending and avoiding is a crazymaker.
Some part of your soul knows the real scoop. Your family gatherings should indeed be glorious affairs — with no one kicking you under the table. Ministries are meant to flourish, not fall apart. Your body is literally made to bear children.
The world should not be this way.
Oh, that you could hear the heart of God echoed in your disappointment. You really aren't crazy. There's something terribly amiss. What you are dealing with is so far from God's intention that he gave his Son to transform what is to what could be.
And one day what could be — will be.
One summer, after surgeries and infertility treatments had failed, Brady and I sat on the back porch, overlooking the Appalachian mountains, both, in our own way, mourning. For Brady, I think it felt like God had played a dirty trick on him. None of his friends had, as yet, encountered a road- block this severe. I remember saying, as though the words were put in my mouth, "You know, every single cell of my body — and yours — is fallen. Every cell bears the mark of the Fall." Eventually, that reality is inescapable.
The Fall, the brokenness of what ought to be, might show up as diabetes or infertility or a chronic illness. But it shows up for everyone. You aren't crazy to feel the loss.
If that Genesis story is really something more than just an old fable, your disappointment makes perfect sense. Your lament is just as it should be. You aren't crazy to feel the ache.
Rather, the ache is the first stop on the train to hope.
The contrast between how life ought to beand what hap- pens in a fallen world can take your breath away. But the truth in that gap opens up something extraordinary: the opportunity to experience your longings — with hope, without bitterness, and with out shame.
LEARNING TO LOVE YOUR LONGINGS
Years ago, I stumbled on a book called Addiction and Grace. The author, Gerald May, wrote it mostly for the community of recovering people who suffer from a tangible addiction.
But the further I read, I realized that May was saying something more: Addiction is our universal human dilemma. I, me, us ... we become overly attached to states of being, particular experiences, people whose approval we crave, familiar identities, and sometimes, a substance like alcohol or food.
In a profoundly human sense, our addictions are where our longing for the Garden shows up.
So what intrigued me was May's claim that in the recovery community, people do not make progress until they come to love their longings. He said that to live as a child of God is to live with love and longing, an ache for a fullness of love that's never quite within our grasp. That ache is meant to prepare us for the embrace of God. And so, in the meantime, we must come to love our longings.
To live as a child of God is to live with love and hope and growth — but it is also to live with longing, with the ache for a fullness of love never quite within our grasp. Our attitude toward that ache can prepare us for an embrace with God. We must come to love our longings.
In our longings, God is pulling us back to his original intent for us, to a deeper understanding of the Garden. As we own those longings and take them to God, we can wholeheartedly receive whatever fruitful directions he opens to us — day to day, moment to moment. Or in a phrase my recovery friends have taught me well: We take the next right step. Only in owning desire, taking it to God, and risking with others can we be delivered from the shadow world.
Loving your longings can take endlessly different shapes, but it is not an esoteric exercise:
Perhaps you have moved to a new city and don't have anything like a sense of community there. Let the longing in this moment give you courage to seek out the community you were created for.
Or you are painfully aware that your job doesn't remotely fit your gifts or your desires. Let your longings take you past the fear of making the phone calls that could open a door.
Or you long for healthier, more trustworthy relationships. Perhaps for you, this means admitting to God and a friend or two that your occasional snarky comment might be cutting off the relationships you were meant to enjoy — the first step toward wholeness and trust.
LONGINGS AS A GUIDE TO HOPE
Our longings point us toward the goodness of God. When we look at how life ought to be — how God created it in the beginning — we see clearly that God wills our good.
Look at what he made you for in the beginning — really look there. Do you think he will leave you stranded outside the Garden forever? Will not his goodness track you down in a hundred meaningful ways? That's how the familiar Psalm 23 ends: God will pursue you, tracking you down — not to nail your hide to the wall but to show you his goodness and mercy. Now, goodness and mercy may not appear in the form you pictured, or in the time you thought was right. But your longings can keep your eyes open — because in due time, God's goodness will appear. And you don't want to miss seeing that because you stuffed all those longings away.
Loving your longings widens the lens for how you look at life. You were created for more than this world will allow you to experience. But all is not lost. There are tastes and glimmers of God's original mercy now — and that helps us trust him in places where the fog is thick and heavy. There is permission to exhale.
Going forward, live with one eye looking over your shoulder, a gaze that includes all that God longs to give you — his original intent for you. That gaze will steer you down the path that leads to life now. It will comfort your disappointment. You won't just stuff it all in the attic, behind the notion that you're crazy.
Though they are just the beginning of the story, your longings for what ought to be are essential to the journey.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "... And Yet, Undaunted"
Copyright © 2019 Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
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.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Larger Story 1
Reflections on The Larger Story 15
What ought to Be II Creation 19
Chapter 1 Longing for More: It Helps to Know You Aren't Crazy 23
Reflections on Longing for More 35
What Is II Fall 37
Chapter 2 Grappling with What Is: Outside the Garden … and Feeling It 39
Reflections on Grappling with What Is 55
Chapter 3 Naked, Afraid, and Not So Nice: Sin Is Not a Dirty Word 57
Reflections on Naked, Afraid, and Not So Nice 79
What Can Be II Redemption 81
Chapter 4 The Starting Point: What Redemption Looks Like 83
Reflections on The Starting Point 105
Chapter 5 Seeing Redemption in Interior Spaces: Wound, Lie, Choices, Truth 107
Reflections on Seeing Redemption in Interior Spaces 123
Chapter 6 Redemption Always Includes Others: You Can't Have Deep, Relationships on the Cheap 129
Reflections on Redemption Always Includes Others 147
Chapter 7 Saying Yes to God: Where Might That Yes Take You? 151
Reflections on Saying Yes to God 165
What Will Be II Restoration 167
Chapter 8 How Hope Plays Backward: Little Tastes of Goodness Leave You Hungry for More 171
Reflections on How Hope Plays Backward 189
Chapter 9 And Yet, Undaunted: Living Well in the Unfinished Symphony 191
Reflections on And Yet, Undaunted 209
What People are Saying About This
Sooner or later, and not without pain, we all come to realize that the world is not as it ought to be. We are also not as we should be. This book exposes our longings for a better world and then points us forward to the way things can and will be redeemed by Jesus Christ. Because of that, we can live realistically and joyfullyeven undauntedin this beautiful but broken world. Sharing openly about their own lives, Paula and Connally invite us to do the same and live not our best life now but our real life now.
If life has turned out differently from what you expected, read this book. Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam skillfully write about our longings, our realities, our disappointments, and our hope for a life that’s more perfect. And Yet, Undaunted will take you into a deeper understanding of God’s Larger Story. The authors aren’t afraid to ask hard questions about why a good God allows bad things to happen. You’ll learn how to experience fresh faith, restored joy, and rediscovered hope as you apply Scripture to your life and find yourself surprised by God’s goodness. This book is powerful, thought provoking, unsettling (in a good way), and chock-full of biblical wisdom. Don’t miss it!
It’s rare to find a book that encompasses gorgeous writing, authentic and hopeful storytelling, and sound biblical truth, yet Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam have pulled it off in their book And Yet, Undaunted. When life doesn’t live up to our expectations and our world is full of more disappointment, pain, and suffering than we ever imagined, Paula and Connally help us see the goodness of God as it breaks through the clouds both in our present life and in God’s promises for our future. If you have been longing for something more in life, pick up this book and get ready to discover what C. S. Lewis once observed: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” My prayer is that this book will be read by thousands of men and women as it provides the grounded and joy-filled message we all need to hear.
This wise, beautiful book will undoubtedly serve as a guide and friend through the dark valleys of life, a balm and a spur to those weighed down with regret, disappointment, and unmet longing. And Yet, Undaunted shows the possibilities of finding courage and joy in your life story, by pointing at the Larger Storywhat ought to be, what is, what can be, and what will beand the ways in which Love himself unites the plot and pervades each scene.
These women’s sage words are a beacon for those of us desperate to find him within the chaos and ache and uncertainty of our lives.
In their lovely new book, And Yet, Undaunted, coauthors Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam invite women to dwell with the tension between what we long for and what is. Sharing stories from their own lives, Paula and Connally invite us to see the gospel at work, redeeming our broken lives and offering us hope we can cling to when we encounter our own sinfulness, unfulfilled dreams, and deepest losses. The gospel, with its promise of a full and future redemption, is powerfully at work now, providing the only true answer to the despair we may incline toward as we face what is. Tears and hope mingle in these pages, a gift to their readers.
Connally and Paula’s writing makes my heart acheache for the way things ought to be and ache for the way things will, one day, beall while dignifying the longing, disappointment, and suffering wrapped up in the now. I am so grateful for these two women: for their wisdom, honesty, and call to hopeful courage. This book will faithfully point you to Jesus as you are drawn in to engage with the deep longings and questions rumbling inside your heart.
I’ve been a fan of Paula Rinehart since my twenties. Her ability to combine sound, biblical theology with her sensitivity as a counselor is remarkable. This book is no exceptionit’s a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of their story in light of God’s greater story.
Hopeful and tender, And Yet, Undaunted is for anyone whose life hasn’t turned out as planned or who yearns for something more. With remarkable candor and insight, the authors tell their own stories of loss and longing, asking the question we all secretly wonder: Is God really good? Their answer, underscored throughout the pages of this book, brought me to a new understanding of my own story and God’s redemptive power in it. I highly recommend this book!