Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Review: Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality is the third book by David Benner I've enjoyed in the past few months. It is actually the first book in a trilogy which includes The Gift of Being Yourself: the Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, which I reviewed previously and Desiring God's Will: Aligning Our Hearts with the Heart of God, next on my list.

Benner is a gifted psychologist who has written extensively on Christian counseling and the care of souls, but his writings concerning spiritual growth are definitely intended to be enjoyed by the layperson. I read Surrender to Love in less than two days while on my recent retreat and found myself surprised several times as I read.

What surprised me first was his suggestion that the parable of the Prodigal Son be renamed as the story of the Prodigal Father. Not having a dictionary handy, I couldn't immediately verify a less popular definition of the word prodigal: lavishly abundant; profuse. Indeed, isn't that a perfect description of the father in this story? And an even more beautiful picture of God? A loving Father who, in spite of knowing what's best for us, allows us the freedom to exercise our free will? And yet, after we turn our backs on him, he lovingly runs to us with arms wide open, welcoming us back. We always talk about the prodigal son returning home, but the beauty of the story is when the father breaks into a run to greet his wayward son.

The other surprise in this book came in Chapter 2, entitled Love and Fear. I just wasn't expecting to read about fear in a book on love. But as the author says, "Love and fear stand in complex relationship to each other." Benner suggests that much of our Christianity is still in bondage to fear, and yet most of us will deny that we are afraid, unless our fears are focused on something tangible (such as heights or water). But the fears we fail to identify or manage to hide – fear of losing control, of intimacy, rejection, or failure or a host of other fears – can keep us from experiencing the transformational growth we so deeply desire. The antidote for these fears is to submit them to the love of God as stated in I John 4:18: In love, there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love.

One thing I appreciate about all of Benner’s books is their practical aspect. Even though they are introspective in nature, dealing with our inner being, each one ends with an outward-looking challenge. If we surrender to God’s love, what will that look like in our day-to-day interactions with others?

Overall, I found this to be a very beneficial read. I think the love of God has been a hard concept for me. It’s something I took very lightly and never stopped to comprehend the personal aspect of it. The fact that God loves me was just that; an intellectual fact. This book helped me understand the transforming power of that love, and the need to surrender to that power.


Katrina said...

You're always introducing me to such interesting books, and this is no exception. I really appreciate the thoughts on fear, since I've been realizing lately that fear seems to be a constant underlying theme for me, one that I need to make sure I'm aware of and dealing with consistently. Thanks for this review.

gail said...

Lots of stuff here in this one....I have loved that about the father in the prodigal son story, that he broke into a run to greet his son and if I remember correctly, was actually looking & waiting for him to come back. And if an earthly father does that, how much more God does that for us.
Thanks for sharing it Dianne.

Islandsparrow said...

I will remember that author. I have heard of the story of the Prodigal son from the perspective of the Father - it really is all about His faithful, extravagant love.

I'll be looking forward to your review of the next book in the trilogy.