People often talk about food memories – remembrances of a loved (or not loved) meal that left an impression long after the dishes have been cleared. More powerful for me, though, are book memories. Certain books, read at certain seasons of my life, dramatically changed my thinking, my vocabulary and my choices, sometimes by freeing me from wrong thinking about God, or orienting me towards the kind of right thinking that produces a deeper love for God and joy in my identity in Him, or both. To a list that includes John Piper’s “Finally Alive” and David Needham’s “ Birthright”, I can now add “Made For More.”
In Made For More, Hannah Anderson considers the question many women ask regularly – “Who am I?” and proposes that the usual answers –wife, mother, single, married, black white – overlook the most essential answer. Women are people, made in the image of God. With Romans 11:36 as the book’s backdrop (“For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things), Anderson lays out how returning to this fundamental understanding of our identity as image bearers provides a foundation for the flourishing of our secondary identities that is simultaneously more solid and more freeing.
The book is divided into three sections, each with a central idea:
From Him – To understand what it means to be made in God’s image, we need to know who this God is whose image we bear.
Through Him – Pursuing God through the person and work of Christ revealed in all of Scripture, not merely what Anderson calls “the pink passages” (pg. 105), enlarges and deepens our capacity for being true image bearers in a way that will flow into every area of our life, including the identities described in those passages.
To Him – Living as image bearers in a fallen world means that we will both stumble and fall, and that we will grow in both desire and ability to be more like the One whom we were made to image, until the day we see God and are made fully new.
All three sections are strong, but the middle section on the character of God was the section that was most moving to me, and the one that prompted the most thought. Aspects of God’s character such as His love, His grace and His all-encompassing wisdom are laid out as traits with which our characters are to to be infused holistically, not mediated or distilled through roles like wife or mother. For example, in the chapter on Lady Wisdom, Anderson challenges the line of thinking found in some evangelical circles that the goal of women’s education should to be to equip them for homemaking or educating their children at home. Rather, Anderson argues, the goal of learning should be to know fully the One who is the Logos, the embodiment of all knowledge. As a woman whose work at home lately has been partly focused on sweating (sometimes literally, albeit happily) over balancing chemical equations as homework for a master’s degree in nutritional science, this affirmation that the pursuit of learning simply to pursue more of the mind and character of God is not selfish, but in fact important, was both liberating and motivating.
The concepts Anderson describes are deep, and perhaps familiar to some, but what makes them compelling is the way in which they’re described. Readers familiar with the tenets of Christian theology will recognize the creation / fall / redemption structure of the book, and the descriptions of such fundamental doctrines as justification, sanctification and the imputed righteousness of Christ. But Anderson chooses to focus on the implications and out workings of these doctrines, without often calling them out by name. In doing so, this book will serve those for whom those terms have become so familiar that the beauty behind them is in need of rediscovery. And it will also serve readers for whom doctrinal and theological terminology seems intimidating.
Anderson delivers on this front particularly well, because while the content of “Made For More is beautiful in and of itself, so too is her style of writing. She has a remarkable ability to condense a wealth of insight into a single sentence or phrase. Of our attempts to justify ourselves through the law she writes “ Legalism is trying to be an image bearer without relying on the Image.” Of the oft-quoted passage in 1 Timothy 5 regarding a woman’s need to do good works she reminds us that “…we forget that we can never understand what it means to be women of good works until we first learn about the goodness of a God who works on our behalf.” When ideas are presented as succinctly as this (in both the text and the footnotes), they have a way of lingering in ones mind long after the book has been closed. Indeed, I have found myself thinking about, and even referring to, many kinds of people, from my children to the customers in Costco who try my patience, as “image bearers” far more often than before. This has in turn altered my behavior before them in more God-honoring ways. And that is entirely Anderson’s aim.
When a book is written as well as this one is, about a topic Anderson makes plain is worthy of reexamination, it’s easy to identify many different types of people who would benefit from it. Women in all seasons of life, especially those who have found themselves in a situation where their hopes and expectations for a particular identity are being tested, will certainly find much in “Made For More” to both comfort and challenge them. But this is not a book only for women. Husbands looking to live out 1 Peter 3:7 in an intentional manner will be given real help in that effort. Pastors looking for ways to inform their preaching and ministry to women will find themselves challenged to think more holistically about how all of the Bible speaks to women for all of their life.
I even think this a book to be offered, strategically, to women who are not yet Christians, but who are coming to the end of the world’s arguments for self-realization, and are discovering them sorely wanting. While Anderson’s focus is more broadly on the implications of the gospel than the gospel directly, those implications are described so winningly that the entire book reads as an invitation a life of true flourishing and freedom, not of confinement to aspirations to roles and identities that can never ultimately satisfy. It is a life that, as she shows clearly, can only come from new life in the perfect image bearer – Jesus Christ Himself.
Because every person is an image bearer, any person can read this book and be challenged and blessed by it. It is highly recommended.