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Beware the Ideal Woman in the Age of Self

In days when bestselling books aimed at women peddle a message of self-confidence in fluent Christianese, quotes like What we need right now is more women who are full of themselves receive thousands of views and hundreds of positive comments on Instagram. The influencers who tout these messages are selling todays ideal womanthe confident, successful, and beautiful woman. Its not hard to see the appeal. Dont we all want to be those things? These types of messages aim for empowerment, and doesnt it feel good to be powerful and in control?

But when the next post says, If you want the energy, you have to make the energy, dont we all just wither a little inside? We know deep down we cant make our own energy. In fact, were exhausted.

This is nothing new. An eight-year-old article in The Atlantic about the myth that women can have it all still circulates regularly, and last year Buzzfeed called millennials the burn-out generation. But somehow, despite this exhaustion, its easy to feel that were the problem. Despite doing everything weve been told will bring joyself-care, education, promotions, abandoning the challenging people in our liveswere still unhappy.

Enough about Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self

Jen Oshman

Enough about Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self

Jen Oshman

Crossway. 176 pp.

Women today feel constant pressure to improve themselves and just never feel like theyre enough. They live their daily lives disheartened, disillusioned, and disappointed. Thats because joy doesnt come from a new self-improvement strategy; it comes from rooting their identity in who God says they are and what he has done on their behalf. This book calls women to look away from themselves in order to find the abundant life God offers themcontrasting the cultural emphasis on personal improvement and empowerment with what the Scriptures say about a life rooted, built up, and established in the gospel.

Crossway. 176 pp.

As a timely alternative to this exhausting ideal, Jen Oshman’sEnough About Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self offers a welcome splash of cold water for women worn out from washing their face.

Me-Ology

Oshmanwife, mom, and writeroffers a Scripture-driven rebuttal to the message of self-reliance Christian women regularly receive. In her decades as a ministry wife, Oshman has seen the effects of our cultures emphasis on pulling ourselves out of insecurity, shame, and failure by the bootstraps of autonomy and self-empowerment.

This book is a welcome splash of cold water for women worn out from washing their face.

Oshman argues this self-reliance has led to a self-deificationsomething she and others have called me-ology. As a worldview, it is frail, precarious, and dependent on you and me who grow tired and weary and make mistakes. [It] is only as good as we are (91). Scripture, Oshman says, offers an alternative. If being true to ourselves is the key to happiness, we should do what we were created to do (57).

Following the progression of Colossians 2:67 and including discussion questions along the way, Oshman encourages readers to be rooted, built up, and established in Christ. Although I wouldve enjoyed an earlier and clearer explanation of how Colossians related to each chapter, Enough About Meis bathed in and built on solid biblical teaching.

Rooted, Built Up, Established

First, Oshman says we need deep roots in the gospel.If were rooted in ourselves and this world (75), well languish in our frailty. Oshman argues that moralistic therapeutic deism and prosperity teachings have led to a self-centered faith where one relies on faith in her own feelings and works. [This] [s]piritual junk food, she writes, tells us how to behave rather than calling us to behold . . . Jesus (89). With only our behavior to keep us near God, we become unhappy and spiritually malnourished. But real joy comes through confession. Specifically, we must remember and say . . . that we bring nothing to the table. He alone is the one who holds everything together (94).

Second, Oshman explains that we must also be built up by properly ordering our affections and setting our gaze on Christ. She gives insight into means of renewalconfession, reading Scripture, and communityand argues that in rooting ourselves in the gospel and renewing our minds we will be built up in Christ.

Third, she encourages her readers to be established in Christ. Oshman makes a keen observation in writing that our culture’s obsession with choice is motivated by fear. We survey the options for fixing what we fear, she says, we choose one, and we will it to work for our good (120). But since we werent created to bear the weight of controlling our own destinies, we should focus on Godchoosing and redeeming a people for himself. Resting in his choices, rather than our own, brings true joy: The antidote for the angst . . . and uncertainty of our day is knowing that he is the ultimate choice-maker . . . he is good and powerful and kind, and that he loves us so much he laid down his life for us (134).

Lasting Joy

Enough About Me climaxes as Oshman proposes that true joy is found in imitating Christ by giving our lives for others. She asks pointedly: Is your life marked by an ever-increasing desire to look like our Savior? (146). She continues, If you and I are going to be willing to come and die as Jesus insists, then we must first be convinced that following him is better than following ourselves (149). Is this not the sort of prompting we need?

If following Christ is our true desire, Oshman urges, we should pursue gospel joy with intention. Its easy and popular to put effort into becoming ourselves (dont we all know our Enneagram type by now?). But being rooted, built up, and established in Christ requires grace-driven effort (161). Oshmans advice is counterintuitive to modern sensibilities, but we will only find insecurity if we’re rooted and built up in ourselves. Instead, with Gods help, we find deeper joy when we pursue him.

And, as it turns out, this is exactly what we need. Despite what we may think, we arent reallylooking for the beauty, success, and confidence promised by the evangelists of me-ology. Were looking for something better. Oshman rightly assesses that this pursuit of God instead of self will lead to that greater and better thingChrist, the powerful antidote . . . to the discouragement and disillusionment created by the age of self (164).

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