Jen Pollock Michel – Teach Us to Want [Feature Review]

August 15, 2014


[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0830843124″ cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”107″]Page 2: Jen Pollock Michel – Teach Us to Want


How does this happen, then – the forming and re-forming of God’s will in us? Michel points to the cruciform pattern of the Lord’s prayer. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in the simplest and most profound way: to our Father, seeking His kingdom here on earth.


For a generation of first-world believers whose lives and educations all teach us to Dream Big, and who also hear the gospel calling us to Surrender All – Michel’s words are a lifeline. We are a people who WANT. We are ambitious. We go to college and polish resumes and network. We risk and invest and we build. But how do we train those ambitions in a way that surrenders them to Jesus?


Aye, there’s the rub.


Michel’s book offers us a great gift in that it helps us ask the right questions. However, she takes us further – using the stories God has given in Scripture and the story God has given her herself – she points us towards a pattern of discipleship where we need not be afraid of wanting. Rather, we confess that it is not the wanting which is wrong, it is wanting the wrong thing – and God is in the business of reshaping our heart’s desires after his own.


I sighed very deep sighs reading this book: sighs of recognition, of conviction and repentance, of encouragement and gratitude. I underlined sentence after sentence, wanting to soak in the wisdom and the grace and the Gospel-spelled-out… all of it. By the time I got to page 100, though, I began to get nervous with the sweaty “the preacher’s preaching right at me” kind of anxiety. It made me nervous to write this review.


For the truth is, Michel’s story runs close to my own: a mom of more kids than she can hold with her two hands, a grateful stay-at-home mom who has felt some calling to ministry and some calling to write – but also some guilt and confusion about how to sort through the tensions that presents. Michel and I are of similar age. We have put husbands through grad school. We live in upper-middle class affluence. And here she was, writing words which bore into my soul on the angst-inducing topic of our deepest desires.


Was I feeling the connection because I was hearing the Spirit speak truth? Or was it the common connection of woman-mom-writer-suburban-northamerican-mama? Was it because some of her descriptions (for example: on interrogating naughty children, “my owl eyes coerce no confessions”) made me laugh out loud in recognition? And if it was the latter, how could I recommend the book to others in a different life stage? Particularly, how could I recommend the book to men, when the book contains gender-specific sentences like “brave is she who owns her story of desire”? (49)


I read the rest of the book on high-alert, and finished it with yet another sigh – this time, of relief that this truly is a book for everyone. Yes, it is written by a woman, and she tells her story as a woman, but the questions of desire and discipleship run deeper than gender, career or geography. It is a book rich in gospel and grit. Drawing on the stories of both men and women in Scripture, from literature through the ages, and the faithful cloud of witnesses who cheer us on in the faith, Jen Pollock Michel’s Teach Us To Want is a call to courageously ask of Jesus, “teach us to pray”, that we may want what he wants, and have our lives ignited with holy desire.
Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama raising kids in California, and raising questions online. You can find things that make her think and things that make her laugh at, or say hello on facebook and twitter.

One response to Jen Pollock Michel – Teach Us to Want [Feature Review]

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