Whenever Christa Black looked in the mirror, she was waging a war with herself. Her hatred of her face and body drove her, as a young woman, into frantic overachievement, addiction, and an eating disorder that landed her in rehab. A preacher's kid, she'd grown up imagining God as a "thou shalt not" tyrant. It was only when she miraculously discovered God's unconditional love for her--physical imperfections, moral failings, and all--that she finally began to accept herself. As she tells her story, Christa shares the tools she uses to combat the self-rejection that harms so many people's lives.
In this raw testimony, Christa Black takes women on a step-by-step journey of faith and positive belief to reveal that if God loves ugly, then we can too.
To start, in compliance with FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
I laughed out loud when I saw that I was being sent this book as I had forgotten why I had put my name down for it. A self help, memoir book about religion being sent to a highly cynical person that does not read self help books and an Atheist/Humanist who respects all religions but does not appreciate being preached to about anyone's religion! Like every book though I started it with a fully open mind but a part of me was dreading it as I read for enjoyment and this would appear to be a book that I would not normally enjoy.
Let's start on a positive note. It was actually well written and I liked the author Christa Blacks' attitude and the way she talked. She came across as a real person and talked about her beliefs without being to preachy or coming across as if her beliefs are the only beliefs in the world.
I was brought up in a very religious family and attended church, Sunday school, bible class, Youth Fellowship etc etc so could empathise with her own upbringing. I also fully agreed with her views on most Church goers that I and she encountered being the most judgmental and hypocritical people we had come across. As that was one of the main reasons that I left all religion, it was a breath of fresh air to me to hear a Christian actually acknowledging my own thoughts on that matter. I loved the following quote from Graham Cooke that was in the book:
"The biggest problem in our world is simply a lack of goodness"
Just think about that for a minute and if everyone tries to be good to each other then the world would be a better place. Do unto others as you would have them do to you, Luke 6 (yes an atheist is allowed to quote the bible. Even if I think of it as a work of fiction, I can still appreciate the poetry and emotion of the words like any book I have read).
Her discussion of turning ones anger at events outwith ones own control around so that it does not consume your life also hit home for me. I used to spend a lot of time being angry and resentful at events and people, where I had no control over the outcome or happening so the anger was just pointless and would just consume me and suck any joy out of the rest of my life. I am a lot more laid-back myself now and know how it is just not worth "sweating the small stuff" in life.
I am British so, in the words of the author, "everything sounds better with a British accent" and here are some criticisms of the book.
I struggled to believe the story of the authors abuse at age 3. Not that some abuse happened but what I struggled with was believing that a 3 year old would be able to keep that a secret from her loving family. No 3 year old I know has an inner monologue and would blurt it out in some way to her family or friends without even realizing it. Everyone has heard the 3 year ask "Mama why is that lady so fat", or "Mama why is that man in a wheelchair" at the most inappropriate moment. So I am struggling to understand how the authors loving family did not find out about this abuse in some way at the time.
My second criticism is that the books tone could almost not decide whether it was a memoir, self help book or religious book. It changed tones and styles throughout which would normally annoy me, however, it flowed smoothly enough that it was not such a big deal but I felt that it may annoy some people and choosing one path would help it a lot.
I thought the title of the book was weak and would actually weaken it's sales strength. If the reference to God was taken out of the title it might reach a wider audience and surely that is the point of a book like this to reach a wide audience. If you already believe in God you would think you do not need to read this book, if you don't believe then the title would put you off. I also felt that the religious references throughout the book were unnecessary and it would have been better to write the book without the religious references throughout but then conclude with an Epilogue dedicating the rest of the book and her life to finding God. The existing Epilogue regarding nutrition didn't feel wholly appropriate to the rest of the book for me but I could appreciate that this was a big part of the authors issues so would mean a lot more to her personally.
In my opinion (and probably because I don't believe in God) is that the author is actually selling her own strength short by believing that all she has achieved is because of God. God set her free from her addiction or was it her own inner strength! Whatever it was, if she used God to anchor that strength to, then good for her, it must have worked but I just can't see that it was attributable to a higher being. The author should take some of the praise for doing it herself.
So criticism out the way, I actually quite liked this book. I even had a small emotional moment at one point as it brought back memories of my own father. Without going into personal detail (if you were interested in my life I would write my own memoir) the injustice of what happened to my own father is another of the main reasons I don't believe in a higher being. He did believe and dedicated his life to it and that did not do him much good in the end! This is the section on P103 of my copy that brought a tear to my eye, all you have to do is substitute the last word with the word Dad for an insight into my own emotions.
" And that's exactly what He does, every single day, as I hand over my heart moment by moment to the safest, most loving, generous, kindest, magnificent person I've ever met. My Father."
On a final note, I loved the song lyrics at the start of each chapter and would have loved an accompanying CD with each song on it to listen to as I read the book, in a similar way that Jodi Picoult did with her book Sing you Home. I just think this would have been a lovely touch and added so much more to the book.
So a 3 out of 5 from me. A nice enough read but has some room for improvement, in my opinion.
And to end here is my favourite quote from the bible.
1st Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.