Title: Undivided Heart
Subtitle: Finding Meaning and Motivation in Christ
Author: Lucy Mills
Publication Year: 2017
Length: 171 pages
Reviewer: Norman Graham (Editor of Through Another Lens)
Possibly the best compliment I can give this book is that when at the end of the first chapter the author Lucy Mills (click on name to visit her blog) invites the reader to accompany her on her journey it’s an invitation you want to accept. In the early chapters you can see yourself in the fragility and longings the author expresses, her disarming honesty and openness and the vulnerability this brings. She expresses her desire…
“…to know who God is – who God really is…” (p16)
It’s a compulsion which lies at the heart of all who call on Christ’s name and in a sense the rest of the book is an attempt to do that by examining who we are as humans, the elements that shape us both within and without and in that very questioning of the self we open up spaces in our minds and hearts and invite God to be himself in our lives. As this process develops our divided hearts seek to unite with God’s heart, the ultimate undivided heart.
It’s both an exciting and scary prospect but throughout the book you sense you aren’t taking the journey alone, you journey with others, with the author herself and most importantly with God and that propels you forward with both the plea and the promise that:
“Whatever our weakness, God is stronger. Whatever our foolishness, God is still wiser…What if we stripped it down and just came to seek God together, consistently and constantly? You and me, together, with all of our differences? If we believe in this God, if we both claim truth, it should be a delight, not a threat, to direct our puzzlement to the One we both worship. Let’s come to God, saying together, your kingdom come.” (p138)
While the context of this quote is general rather than specific, seeking the coming of God’s kingdom, as I read it I couldn’t help thinking of current divisions within the Church along gender and LGBT+ lines. I think the above quote should be a foundational starting point and guiding principle in current debates but quite how that is worked out in a way that produces an undivided/united church of undivided hearts is another question, especially when both/all sides claim truth yet the perceived threat quenches the promised delight. This theme of Christ at the heart of unity is continued in the penultimate Chapter 19 entitled ‘Above every name’ reflecting on Galatians 3: 28-29:
“Together, they were named, all of them, ‘in Christ’. In Christ, they were neither Jew nor Gentile. There was neither slave nor free. There was no male and female. These ‘labels’ may have denoted something about them and their circumstances, but they were not what mattered most. They needed no longer to divide them, because of the unifying act of Christ. It wouldn’t be easy. It would get messy, and still does, as we try to work out how to be together in Christ despite our differences, our backgrounds, our previous assumptions.” (p158)
At a time when we remember the start of the Reformation with Martin Luther’s thesis (allegedly) pinned to the door of the church in Wittenberg, I think the above two quotes from Undivided Hearts should be pinned to the doors of the Church of England and Church of Scotland for future debates!
With many books I read a chapter or two then put them aside intending to return to later and sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. With Undivided Heart I wanted to keep reading and felt a momentum growing as I read. In fact I started it whilst sitting in the car outside a shopping centre in Glasgow waiting for the rain to stop (living in Glasgow I knew this might take time – I’ve never understood why Glaswegians haven’t yet evolved to the stage of being born already wearing hoods – but I digress…) and the next time I looked up the sun was shining and I’d read through several chapters but instead of leaving the car I read on.
I think the book itself grows and develops as it builds layer after layer. It reads as though each word and sentence has been deliberated over and choices made about which genre suits which subject. Poetry, illustration, snippets of autobiography and playful vocabulary intermingle with ease as the writing flows and carries you although I frequently stopped to re-read sections, think about their meaning and application to my own faith and life.
While I read the book through over the course of a few days going straight from one chapter to the next, I suspect it would pay dividends to read it more slowly and reflect as you read. At under two hundred pages long and with relatively short chapters it’s not an intimidating read. The last book I read was a fairly intense headache inducing theological tome so this time I wanted something lighter but still meaningful and Undivided Heart provided that. By lighter I don’t mean superficial, it’s anything but. It will make you think, challenge you, inspire and hopefully propel you further in your walk with Christ. I even liked the brief reflection questions at the end of each chapter which is unusual as I confess I usually skip those!
There were a few places where I wasn’t sure I agreed and penned question marks in the margins but this is a good thing as it meant I was engaging with the thoughts, ideas and suggestions presented. Overall this is a highly worthwhile read although in my view more geared towards Christians than non Christians but there are sections which non believers would find thought provoking. I strongly recommend it and give it a five star rating.
Thanks for reading.