Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jennie Allen Teaches Us We Have Nothing To Prove

I do not believe it was a coincidence that on the very day the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that it isn't about working to be self-sufficient but about resting in the One who is all-sufficient, that Jennie Allen's book Nothing to Prove arrived. While I am familiar with her previous books, though I had not read them, and with her founding If:Gathering, I had never read anything by her. Yet from the sentence, "The voice has been in my head most of my life. I am not enough," her words rang true in my own. I think far too many Christians suffer from the fear of not being enough, of desperately wanting to please others and God (unfortunately, often in that order), and of constantly striving and falling short. We live in a very performance-driven culture and this has also pervaded much of the Church. 

Yet ". . . to get to the place where God can be enough, we have to first admit we aren't." This is a difficult first step for the author and for many of us. We want to perform well. We want to exceed expectations. Yet too many of us struggle with the insecurities of not measuring up as a parent, spouse, coworker, friend, or follower of Christ. "I am realizing," she writes, "it's not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it's my sin that I keep trying to be." 

In this book Jennie Allen is deeply vulnerable and honest about her struggles of faith and how it's so often easier to turn to Netflix than to Jesus in our day to day lives. All of us constantly second-guess ourselves, doubt ourselves and wonder how we measure up as a parent, spouse, coworker, friend and follower of Christ. We question: 

Am I good enough?

Am I smart enough?

And we measure ourselves not by how God views us, as His beloved, but by other's Pinterest-perfect lives, Instagram-worthy moments, and Facebook facades. We gauge ourselves not by our Savior's love for us but by social media. It often causes us to feel deflated and defeated, just as Allen writes about her adoptive son and getting stars on his behavior chart.

Yet all of us need to hear the truth that she declares, "God doesn't need you, He loves you." There's a big difference and a profound truth in that simple sentence. 

The thing we long for the most is also that which we tend to fear the most: connection. 


Because connection requires honesty, vulnerability and transparency. Most of us tend to shy away from admitting our failures, our flaws, our screw-ups and our brokenness. Yet this is how the Church needs to be with each other. 

"Healing and wholeness," Allen writes, "are found only when we step into the rushing stream of forgiveness, of intimacy, of connection." 

Certainly I find myself drawn to authors who share their stories with such openness: Ann Voskamp, Shauna Niequist. and Jonathan Martin are just a few recent examples of writers whose books have moved me and deepened my conviction that this is how we, as the Church, need to be with each other. Not just in the pages of a book, but in the day to day of our very lives.

As well as being painfully honest, Jennie Allen writes beautifully. Some of my favorite passages come in the chapter entitled "The Stream of Fulfillment": 

"Again and again Jesus showed up at everyday common occasions and turned them into symphonies. He didn't just teach with words; He often illustrated His hopes for us through unexpected metaphors."


"We were made for wonder, but we've settled for entertainment."  


So much of what Allen had to say, I needed to hear. She reminded me that Christ is found in the ordinariness of my life (as messy, overwhelming or boring as I might think it to be). We are not to live our lives "for God" but "with God."  

Like Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect, Jennie Allen has written a book for all of us who "feel afraid, broken, overwhelmed, inadequate, stretched beyond your capacities." 

Jennie Allen's official website:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Elliott. I had seen some tweets/posts about this book and thought it looked so interesting -- and the concept also reminded me of Present Over Perfect, which I loved.

    I think the "I am enough" concept has gotten twisted a bit, so I appreciate Allen's clarification of it. Some people think it means "I am fine on my own without Jesus and don't need Him to change me" -- which of course couldn't be further from the truth. This book sounds really good and I'm glad you've written about it. I also think it's great when MEN review books like these favourably -- not that a book by a woman should get positive reviews from anybody if it is not worthy of them, but so often books like this by women get pigeonholed and men don't bother even reading them because of the assumption that the books are lightweight.