Saturday, October 13, 2012

Altared | Book Review

I set out with high expectations for this book and they were not unfulfilled!  Altared by Claire & Eli was a fantastic book summed up perfectly by this statement from the cover: "The true story of a she, a he, and how they both got too worked up about we."

I'd love to be able to perfectly sum up this book within a few short paragraphs but I feel that would rob you of the joy of reading it for yourself.  Instead, I shall just wet your taste buds and hope that this unashamed act of manipulation will cause you to rush out to the nearest bookstore (or better yet the ever-fast-shipping Amazon) to buy this book and experience it for yourself.  The rest will merely be my musings on singleness in the Christian world today - take it or leave it for what it is.

Being a single woman in today's society I have experienced most, if not all, of the responses, accusations, judgments, hypothesizes, and conclusions this book discusses.  Some have come from others, some from my own mind, and some from articles or other forms of media out there today.  All of these things combine to create a confusing, if not inaccurate view of what it means to be a single person, namely a Christian person, in the world today.  The pressures put on singles to be married are faced almost daily in some cases and you can’t help but wonder, “What if God is less worked up about marriage than we are?” (from the back cover)

The first unusual thing I noticed about this book was its brilliant combination of story and theology.  This is not merely a book telling you what to think or reason about God, but rather a story of two people who have found their intertwined lives impacted by the realization that our story is really more His story (or, at least, it should be).  Their playful combination of loves first-looks and the residual sense of confusion as like turns to dating, draws the reader in, subtly giving way to deeper thoughts on such concepts as what true love is (as modeled by Christ), self-denial and what that actually looks like, and even the taboo topic of loneliness and how that can be a positive thing when turned into accurately-focused solitude.

One of the themes of the book I resonated with the most was the fact that our modern Christian culture is heavily saturated with “marriage-happiness” which is (in their definition): “having an inordinate preoccupation with marital pursuits, sometimes at the cost of other Christian priorities, commonly seen in evangelicals” or “a giddiness stemming from all things related to marriage”.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve slipped into this but also the number of times others have pushed me into this or have spoken about my singleness out of a “marriage-happy” perspective.  Are we really that focused on marriage that being single is now a sin or is it, at the very least, a passing phase that we must endure in order to make it to the high spiritual plateau of marriage?  I think not.  

Obviously marriage is a beautiful thing.  A refining thing.  Something the Bible holds in high regard, but it is not an ultimate thing nor the only way to be refined.  If it were, then passages like 1 Corinthians 7 would be very out of place in the Bible.  I wont get into this argument too much because I think the book does a great job of discussing it – much better than I could.  But it is something to think about.  Why is the idea of singleness anathema in Christian circles? More over, why is marriage upheld as the best thing a single person could enter into with no regard to their personal relationship with the Lord.  Have we really considered the fact that it may be better for us singles to remain single and devoted to the Lord?  Sounds like I’m either making the case for complete singleness or just justifying my own single status huh?  Well, that is not at all my platform.  I want to be married as much as any other girl, but these are questions that have arisen from Altared and I think they are legitimate.  

I shall close this haphazard book review by merely saying this: no matter your Facebook relationship status (ie: married, in a relationship, single, it’s complicated….) you should check out this book.  The refreshing way it’s written will not only entertain you (at the least) but it will also challenge you.  You don’t need to be single to gain something from this book – in fact I’d highly recommend reading it if you are married as well!  I believe it could change the way we view relationships and friendships within our church, community, and life while simultaneously affecting the way marrieds and singles interact.  The principles relayed in the book are Biblically based and therefore appropriate in all areas of life.

I will leave you with a quote from the end of the book.  It’s so simply stated and Biblical, and I feel it perfectly sums up the ultimate goal to this book: “To follow Christ, we must lose our lives to gain them.  To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily” (228).

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