Full disclosure: A free complimentary book of Free of Me was provided through Baker Books in exchange for a review. This was provided to me shortly before the official release date. So why did I choose to accept this book in the first place? Well, with a narcissistic culture that has never been more prevalent than ever before, and with no signs of it slowing down, I wanted to see if Sharon Miller's work would touch on this important issue.
While Free of Me is Sharon's first ever publication, she is no stranger when it comes to writing. Miller's passion for writing has been on display with her 'SheWorships.com' blog. Miller wears several hats in her life with a PhD, being a pastor's wife, and a mother of two boys. To balance all these areas in her life on top of publishing a book makes this an impressive accomplishment.
The enormous extravagant calligraphy script font used on its front cover got my attention. It's large yet simple three words and three syllables clearly gave me awareness to a major issue not often talked about. That issue is the 'me-centered' culture that is silently plaguing many lives which is described by its subtitle, "Why Life Is Better When It's NOT ABOUT YOU". The background of the cover has seven shapes consisting of circles, squares, and rectangles. I would guess these seven shapes represent the seven "mirrors" Miller talks about in great length and how we can make them "about us". She identifies those seven mirrors as 'God', 'family', 'appearance', 'possessions', 'friendships', 'calling', and 'church'.
Free of Me speaks to a culture drowning in self-focus, self-idolatry, self-promotion, and self-centredness throughthe 'mirror reflex' in which a self-esteem saturated society has turned into one giant mirror pointing back at us.Miller shares how we can free ourselves to embrace a Jesus-centered vision.With an insecure culture rooted in self-focus, Miller identifies two root causes of insecurity: low self-esteem and self-preoccupation.She prescribes two solutions which are direct opposite of insecurity: affirmation and self-forgetfulness. She also provides four ways to be 'Free of Me' all starting with the letter P: Praise, People, Purpose, and Passion.
Miller effectively balances her own words with sources from scripture and words from other authors without it dominating her writing. Her personal stories display accurately how we confuse true humility with 'thinking less of ourselves' rather than 'thinking of ourselves less'. Miller explains how we also confuse freedom with the worldly perspective of "being free to live for yourself" rather than the gospel perspective of "being free from yourself". The greatest takeaway from this book is how Miller spills her heart out onto the pages of her writing. I love the complete vulnerable transparency she shows in her life. She brings out a full array of her feelings both positive and negative which she diagnoses the insecurities she creates by making her life all about herself. You never sense she has any feelings hidden or buried as she digs them all out and exposes them.
"For many Christians, our niceness isn't about witnessing to Jesus but getting people to like us. That's why kindness, not niceness, is a fruit of the Spirit. That's also why the prophets are never described as being "nice." Speaking truth and living courageously means people won't always think you are nice. God and "nice" are two allegiances that often compete." - page 24
"Dissatisfaction is a torment, but it's also a teacher. It reveals our false idols, and it forecasts our future. It's a cautionary tale of the life we think we want, and in that sense, it's a grace. God is beckoning us, oh so lovingly, away from false satisfaction and into satisfaction that is true." - page 108
"The problem with self-focus is not simply what it does to our souls, but what it does to the world. When we are so distracted with ourselves and our own lives, we never get to the work of actually living out our faith. There is a whole world out there of brokenness and poverty and hunger and pain, begging to hear the good news of Christ, but we will never reach them if we're too focused on building our best lives now. That is Satan's great achievement: using good, true messages of Jesus to steal our attention from Jesus' work." - page 152
Let me be clear, the majority of this book carries stories and wisdom everyone can benefit from, but I did notice a few areas where Miller shares stories of her life which focuses on issues that particularly affect women. While it is Miller's intention that her writing is meant for both women and men, there are a few sections of reading that women will relate to far more than men will. This is not to say that men cannot relate; They can. This is also not to say men do not struggle with these same issues that women do; They do. However, it seems women struggle with these issues more than men do. In no way do I believe these parts of her writing alienates men, but I do warn they may not be able to relate as strongly to some of the issues Miller brings to light as women do.
This is certainly an exciting time in Sharon's life. There is nothing like publishing your first book, especially when it addresses an issue that is more important in our time than ever before which few authors have spoken about. Miller provides a quality source of practical solutions and strategies to obtain freedom from the ever-growing problem of a self-centered culture. While her words do not exactly cure and eradicate the disease of self-centredness, her foundational wisdom and engaging life stories provides a much needed antidote of medicine and sheds light on the utmost importance of dying to self. Free of Me is a platform of inspiration that helps readers renew their souls and find their joy that was once robbed or lost from the burden of self-focus.
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