Summer Reading, Sex, and Love

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I lived for summer reading.  I loved how the smell of chlorine (leftover from a long morning at the Y) mingled with the sweet scent of books as I lumbered down the aisles of the Birmingham Public Library each Friday afternoon with an armful of new adventures, compliments of Nancy Drew,  Anne Shirley, Ramona and Beatrice, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved filling out the little progress sheets the librarian handed out each May and taped to the walls each August, and I loved how she always raised her eyebrows with feigned surprise when I showed her how much I read every week. I even loved the required reading list my teachers handed out at the end of the school year. Printed on bright paper, they included new titles from authors I had yet to discover—Madeline L’Engle, Lois Lowry, Harper Lee—authors whose work made a permanent impression on me. 

Good times.

Even though there’s no progress form on which to log my accomplishments, I still love summer reading.  And this year I’ve got a stack of titles on my nightstand that I’ve been meaning to get to since Christmas.


On Mondays, I usually try to post something about our book club selection. But this summer, for the months of June, July, and August, I thought we’d take a break from the book club and instead take time to share our summer reading adventures. So periodically, I’ll give you a chance to share a quote and your thoughts about whatever it is your reading that week—whether it’s a novel, a magazine, a blog, or a biography.

On my nightstand now is: Sex God by Rob Bell (yeah, I know I’m a little late to the party on that one), Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman,Thank God for Evolution by Michael Dowd, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria (halfway through),The Sound and the Fury by William Faulker (PLEASE don’t tell anyone I haven’t read that yet!)  The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (lovin’ my Zondervan discount right now!).

What's on your reading list?

So I’m almost finished with Sex God, (which isn't really about sex as much as intimacy and connectedness), and I’ve enjoyed it more than I expected. In fact, I read something last night that reminded me of our conversation last week about Reformed Theology, predestination, and free will.

Writes Bell:

“[Heartbreak] is universal because we’re feeling something as old as the world. Something God feels.  The Bible begins with God making people who have freedom. Freedom to love God or not to love God. And these people consistently choose not to love God. It’s written in Genesis 6:6 that God ‘regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.’ Another translation reads, ‘Then YHWH [God] was sorry that he had made humankind on earth, and it pained his heart. These ancient writers saw God as having a heart.” (p. 96)

And later:

“The story the Bible tells is of a living being who loves and who continues to love even when that love is not returned. A God who refuses to override our freedom, who respects our power to decide whether to reciprocate, a God who lets us make the next move...Love is giving up control. It’s surrendering the desire to control the other person. The two—love and controlling power over the other person—are mutually exclusive. If we are serious about loving someone, we have to surrender all of the desires within us to manipulate the relationship.” (p. 98)

One of my biggest hang-ups with TULIP and Calvinism is this notion that God controls who loves him. I have a hard time reconciling this with what I understand to be the very nature of love...and with the God of the Bible, who seems to be willing to become vulnerable for our sake. According to Bell, “In matters of love, it’s as if God has agreed to play by the same rules we do. God can do anything—that’s what makes God, God. But God can’t do everything. God can’t make us love him—that’s our choice. Love is risky for God too.”  Do you agree?

Got any good quotes/links/recommendations of your own reading? Feel free to start any conversation you please! It's summertime!

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