I suspect women of all ages and the men who love them will be interested in this new book by George Fox University English professor, Melanie Springer Mock. To give you a taste of what’s inside, here’s the foreword I was privileged to write.
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Every once in a while, a book lands on my desk that I wish I had read when I was in college. The book you now hold in your hands is one of those books.
I doubt that reading Melanie Spring Mock’s Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else would have spared me from the deep personal struggles I experienced when my own story veered off the script I, as a woman, had inherited from my family, church, and culture. But it would have been worth a lot to have her company on the journey and to hear her voice of experience in the process.
This book is part memoir, part sage advice—a compelling mix of Mock’s own story and the kinds of struggles she’s encountered along the way that left her believing she didn’t measure up as a Christian, a woman, a mother, and a professor. Her story isn’t unique, which is why this book is such a gift. I suspect all readers will find themselves somewhere in the struggles she’s experienced.
I was only a few paragraphs into the book when I started seeing my own story in hers. Like Mock, I grew up in Oregon with the expectations that come with being a pastor’s kid. Like her story, mine also veered from the church’s “biblical” script for women when, post-college, instead of marriage and motherhood, I entered a long and unexpected stretch of singleness. Marriage didn’t recover that script. Instead, I became the family breadwinner in a career I loved while my husband completed his academic training. Like Mock, I too became a working mother, sharing the same sense of isolation and disapproval she describes as she juggled her twin loves: mom to two boys and college professor.
Mock is a lover of narratives and a wonderful storyteller herself. By weaving her own story in and through the issues she addresses, she draws us in to think more deeply about pressures and negative messages that hinder us from embracing our own uniqueness and the stories we are living. And Mock is right there in the struggles with us.
Early in the book, she writes, “I am not a biblical scholar or a theologian.” I understand what she means and why that might be good news to readers. But I reject her disclaimer. She may not be a professional theologian, but her down-to-earth theology is what gives this book the kind of relevance we need. This is theology at its best. It is both pastoral and personal. The brand of theology embedded in this book is deeply rooted in real life. It speaks into our own stories and engages the tough questions and self-doubts we all encounter. It gives us courage and hope when life unexpectedly detours into painful circumstances that leave us feeling lost, abandoned, and unworthy. It makes a difference when our feet hit the floor in the morning.
That’s what Mock so beautifully pulls off in this vulnerably honest book.
What prevents this book from being merely another attempt to dispel our insecurities and empower us to “live boldly for Jesus” is this: Mock lodges her assault against unworthiness with a truth that shatters the slightest suggestion that we or our lives don’t matter. The heart of her message is the fact that God created his daughters to be his image bearers. This is the ultimate antidote to any sense of unworthiness.
Because we are God’s image bearers, God—not our demographics, circumstances, or whatever chapter of our story we happen to be living—defines us. God has blessed us with the highest possible identity, meaning, and purpose, regardless of how others judge us or how our stories are playing out.
I still wish I’d read this book as a college student. Even now it is a saving grace, for those negative messages never stop. Yet no matter what season of life we’re in or how convinced we are that we are unworthy, those who read this book will end up standing strong on solid ground. And that alone makes it a worthy read for all of us!