I received an early copy of this book as part of being a member of the launch team for me to write this review in preparation for the release. That in no way affects what I am about to write. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my genuine excitement.
Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are
I first heard about this book because Alyssa is Jeff Bethke's wife. I follow him on Twitter, so I've known since the day that Alyssa signed her book deal. What I didn't know at first is that she was co-writing this book with Robin Gunn, a well-known Christian writer, who, ironically, wrote a series that had greatly impacted Alyssa's walk with the Lord. If that doesn't tell you this was just meant to be, I don't know what will. :) Then, I heard about the title. It was one of those things that hit me right in the heart. I knew immediately that I had to get this book. I joined the street team because I instinctively knew that this book had a message that girls and women everywhere need to hear.
Well, I was right. I would buy a copy of this book for every female that I know if I could afford it. I read this book all at once, in one long car ride, because I just couldn't put it down. I found myself thinking "Wow, that's so true," more times than I can count. Every sentence serves a distinct and powerful purpose soaked in God's Truth to remind the reader of how passionately she is loved and how she is seen by the God who created her. Robin and Alyssa each make themselves so vulnerable throughout the book, sharing pieces of their pasts to let you know that they get it, that someone else has walked through the heartache you face now or have faced before. They share details of their romances with their husbands from their beginnings, which gives so much insight as to what true, God-focused relationships look like and how even Christians face hard times, questions, and doubts. Those stories prove yet again, however, that God will take those painful experiences with your boyfriend or fiancé or husband and grow you both. Robin and Alyssa show you that the pain, as awful as it is in the midst of it, becomes so beautiful with time.
As beautiful as the stories of the relationships with their husbands are, though, they don't even compare to the mission that Robin and Alyssa have from the first word of the first chapter. Each chapter title is a truth about God and who we are in God's eyes. An Epic Love Story - Yours, You Are Wanted, You Are Pursued, You Are Loved, You Have Been Called, You Are of Great Value, You Are a Peculiar Treasure, You Are Set Free, You Are Covered, You Are Promised, and last, You Are Spoken For. In the first chapter, they write, "The desire to be loved, cherished, and adored never goes away. All of us long to believe someone is out there who wants us. Someone who will come for us. Someone who will take the role of the hero in our lives and love us, deeply love us, not for what we do or how we look but simply for who we are. What if you could know that you are loved that intensely? You are sought after. You are the bride-to-be in a love story that's unfolding in your life right this minute. You are spoken for......Our goal is simple. We want you to see what happens when you respond to the invitation of the true Bridegroom and step into the center of an epic love story - yours." I had tears in my eyes that early on, and people who know me know that I don't cry easily at books or movies or anything like that, so I knew that something big was going to happen as I worked my way through these pages.
I was right. I found such healing in these women's words. When I applied for the launch team, I told them that my identity has always been something I struggled greatly with. Growing up as a girl who lost her father before I was old enough to remember him left me without the immensely valuable lesson of what I was worth and how I was supposed to be treated. A father is the first male figure to teach a little girl how loved she is and how beautiful she is, and even though everyone tells me that that's the kind of father my dad was, I lost the chance to grow up with that imprinted on my heart. Add into that the fact that I grew up as a non-believer, and I had absolutely no understanding of my worth. I let myself be abused time and time again by guys who never cared about me, let alone respected me, because I was so desperate for attention, for a guy to validate my existence, that I thought it was all I could get, and I believed that it was my fault when I turned out not to be "good enough" to keep any of them around.
"You Are Wanted" was a particularly powerful chapter for me, because it focused right in on some of my most persistent fears - that I'll never have a husband and children, that the fact that I'm almost 22 years old and have never had a boyfriend says for itself what a freak I am and how unworthy I am, that the lies I've heard from my sister for as long as I can remember about how no man will ever want me romantically will actually turn out to be true. (I laughed a little, I'm not going to lie, when I read that Jeff was Alyssa's first boyfriend and they didn't start dating until she was 22.) I often tell myself I'm too emotional, too intense, too _______ for anyone to want to be with me. I spend so much time focusing on my imperfections, my shortcomings, my failures, that it's terribly difficult for me to imagine anyone wanting me, let alone the King of the Universe. But God wants me. God is calling for me. Even now. I gave my heart to the Lord almost two years ago, but my Father still desperately wants me to see Him as my First Love.
Through Robin and Alyssa's book, I finally began to wrap my mind around what God sees when He looks at me. That God looks at me not just as a proud father looks at his daughter, but as a groom passionately in love with his bride. The love story I've spent so long waiting for has already been here waiting, and I didn't even realize it. For every time that I've felt utterly heartbroken, the One who loves me enough to die for me has been there waiting for me to see what is greater, what He has wanted to give me all along.
This is one book I'm sure I'll be reading more than once. These lessons aren't going to stick the first time, that's one thing I've learned by now, but they're ones I need and ones that are spelled out so kindly and patiently and compassionately in this book. I can stop searching for boys to tell me I'm worthy of love because I'm going to start listening to the One who knows better than they do, the One who created me and loves me more fiercely than I can imagine. When a man comes along who models THAT love in the way that he loves me and fights for me, the relentless, unswerving, passionate, selfless love of the Lord, then I'll explore the possibilities for the future, but until then, I'm more than okay. The Lord has claimed me as His peculiar treasure. I am already Spoken For.
And guess what, sweet sister. So are you. Read this book if you want to see what I mean.
"Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are" by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke releases on April 15, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon here or at Barnes & Noble here.