Book review: ‘Worthy’

Jun 18, 2018 by

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Someone once suggested to me that advertising exists to convince us we aren’t good enough. Whether it’s shampoo, car or a smart phone app, all can (and should) be improved upon.



In my more cynical moments I wonder if our entire society doesn’t exist for the same reason. The medium of social media becomes ever more integral in building community — and what is social media if not a viral advertisement for our lives? As we preen and prance for others, we squirm under their idealized children, vacations and craft projects. All the while, the ads pop up and scroll down. The algorithms assemble the clues for how best to convince us that we are less than we could (and should) be.

Into this brave new world comes Melanie Springer Mock’s timely new book, Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else, which passionately argues that, “we are all inherently image-bearers of God; that we are worthy of love, simply because we exist.”

Memoirs can easily become a Facebook account on paper, another venue to brag and self-justify. This is not the case with Worthy. Springer Mock, with honesty and lots of humor, shares her life experiences in a way that lets the reader in on the secret that, in the insecurities of being human, we are not alone.

Springer Mock is also passionate about noticing. Everything.

If we affirm that people are inherently worthy, Springer Mock says we must “go about challenging the images, the language, the narratives, the mythologies that demand that all differences be blurred away.”

We’ve been schooled on the use of pronouns and politically correct language for so long, it is easy to wave it all away as old news. Springer Mock asks us to look closer and listen more carefully.

Is it significant that a well-meaning professor worries that the “girls” in his class aren’t as vocal as the “men”? Why do I feel my blood pressure rise when Christians, of all persuasions, preface their comments with, “According to the Bible . . . ”? (Answer: Because the implicit meaning is, “If you don’t agree with what I’m about to say, you don’t care about the Bible and therefore are not as good a Christian as I am.”)

“Language matters so much because our word choices set up expectations for others,” Spring­er Mock says. She proves her point when she recounts her personal faith journey and how it did not meet the expectations of her college community. Each week, Springer Mock went to a worship service to listen while her peers gave their testimonies.

The formula for these testimonies was surprisingly consistent: dramatic sin (drugs, porn, crime), a dramatic encounter with Jesus leading to a dramatic change of lifestyle. Because Springer Mock’s experience did not fit the formula, she doubted the legitimacy of her relationship with Jesus, even her salvation.

Eventually, she believed that she wasn’t less of a Christian because her testimony was so boring (indeed, she had invented sins to spice it up a bit!). Rather, her faith story simply didn’t fit the dominant pattern.

I well remember my own years of spiritual angst over the fact that I couldn’t (and still can’t) point to the moment that I accepted Jesus as my Savior. How I wish Springer Mock could have told my young adult self, “Your story bears witness to the unique ways you have encountered Jesus . . . your story is acceptable —even amazing — just the way it is.”

While Springer Mock continuously points to Creator God as the source of our worth, nowhere in Worthy does she mention the Deceiver, Satan. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it is significant.

If we are to believe in Creator God, we cannot dismiss the Snake and its influence. Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit because it was so very beautiful and tasty. They ate because the Snake convinced them that because they could know more, they didn’t know enough now. Humans have been biting into that lie ever since.

The human desire and ability to change for the better is a gift from God. So why does it also bring shame and doubt?

It is the Deceiver who turns our capacity for growth, we could even say redemption, into the lie of unworthiness. The Deceiver tells us that because we can be better, we must be unworthy now.

We see this when Christians qualify God’s unconditional love — what Springer Mock calls the “church’s problem with the big but.” Two of her examples:

  • Love the sinner, but hate the sin.
  • You are worthy just as you are, but you need to change.

I would throw in pious statements like, “God loves us too much to leave us where we are.” Why would we ever connect God’s love for us to our actions? Unless, of course, we believe the Deceiver’s lie that there is, in fact, a connection.

I find it important to give the devil his due, so we remember to fight the Deceiver and not each other.

In this spirit I found the closing section of Springer Mock’s book to be the most hopeful.

She recounts finding a supportive community that offered her acceptance, understanding and healing. This, in turn, made it possible for her to “lean into communities and friendships that had seemed too risky a few short years before.”

Returning to a story told earlier in the book involving homemade granola bars and mommy guilt, Springer Mock writes, “By rejecting those messages telling me exactly how Christian mothers should be, I could more clearly see the grace, rather than judgment, that these book-club women offered me.”

As someone who has made my share of homemade granola bars, I am grateful for this story of restored relationships. Our differences don’t define us so much as remind us that in our need for acceptance we are not alone. This is a gift indeed.

Sarah Kehrberg lives in Swannanoa, N.C., and attends Asheville Mennonite Church.

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