A Review of
Chasing Vines: Finding Your Way to an Immensely Fruitful Life
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
I’ll be honest. Chasing Vines is the first book by Beth Moore that I’ve ever read or reviewed. Granted many of her books are oriented toward women readers, and have been marketed toward a more conservative evangelical audience, exactly the sort of crowd that I had been trying to distance myself from throughout the last two decades. But over the last three years, I have watched as Moore stood courageously against the evils of Donald Trump and against the powers of patriarchy in her own denomination, the Southern Baptist Church (SBC), and I have grown deeply appreciative of her work. This rising appreciation, combined with my own deep love for John 15, the key passage of scripture on which this new book is based, made me want to read this book.
The heart of the book’s message is simple. Moore gets right to the point in the introduction:
Here’s what I know after decades of life and ministry among myriads of people: we all want to matter. The yearning to matter is no respecter of persons. Man or woman; adult or child; religious or irreligious; rich or poor; black, brown, or white – such a longing is sewn in permanent thread within the fabric of every human soul.
The great relief is finding out that the hope is not deferred. You do matter – already – without making one single change. But everything changes when you let your Maker show you why you matter and how He can take all that concerns you and, sooner or later, here or there, subtly or astonishingly, make it matter. (1, emphasis added)
This central message echoed a Key theme of Jean Vanier’s work. Vanier was the founder of the L’Arche communities, in which non-disabled and intellectually disabled people live together and seek together to know the presence of God with them. “To love is not to do things for people,” Vanier has said, “to love is to reveal to them that they have value.” And in this regard, Beth Moore’s Chasing Vines is a deep and extraordinary work of love.
I’m speculating here a bit, but given the controversies in which Moore has been dragged into over the last few years, I have to wonder if there is isn’t a gentle, yet powerfully subversive, slant to this book. Given that the primary audience of the book is likely conservative evangelical women, many of whom are in the SBC or similarly patriarchal church traditions, Moore’s message – You are loved by God and you matter – is resounding. You are not the inferior, second-class person that your church makes you out to be. No, you matter, and even more than that, God intends to bear wonderful and flavorful fruit through you!
Beth Moore’s words are timely and profound. We matter, not because of our socioeconomic privilege or because of the job title on our business cards or because of the image we are constantly projecting on social media, but because God has created each one of us and because God loves us more deeply than we can imagine. This love is liberating, it cannot be contained within patriarchy (or racism or another other oppressive system).
The depth of Chasing Vines is conveyed in simple, easy-to-read prose that is infused with scripture, and with stories from Moore’s own experience. It is one of the most unrelentingly hopeful books that I have read in a long time. Hope, no doubt, is hard to come by these days, but Beth Moore locates that hope precisely where it should be, in the unfathomable love of God, who has created us and who is healing and restoring all creation and who is bearing fruit through every one of us in the work of healing. How can we hear this message as anything but extraordinary news?
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He has authored a number of books including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks.