The Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestly has written a very clever book. Clever because it hides its erudition, and draws its readers in by an appealing cover and blurb which are surely aimed at women, not specifically Christian, but seekers after the truth. Not Chick-Lit, but Chick-Theology perhaps, or Seeker Theology?
This is understandable, since the author is Dean of Women's Ministry for the Two Cities Area in the Diocese of London.
Psychotherapy suffused by God?
But I am not sure whether this book should primarily be categorised as theology at all. It is almost a self-help book on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and reminds me very much of Jung's `Modern Man in Search of a Soul` (1933), the book which has influenced me most in this area. And there are elements of Gail Sheehy's `Passages' (1976). Of course, as there is nothing new under the sun these echoes are not really surprising. The main thing Rosemary Lain-Priestly brings to the discussion is that her work is suffused with the presence of God. The reason I say it is not primarily theology is because the focus is on us as human beings rather than on God. But the way she thinks and writes is God-inspired because God is clearly central to the way she lives and breathes, and hence the way she describes the life issues that we face.
How Big is your Soul?
I had not previously considered this question and I suppose, if asked, would have said that I thought the size of my soul was fixed, probably at birth, like the rest of me. But the author makes us see this differently:
...in all of our projects and dreams there is the potential to discover the life of God under the skin of the world, pointing to the significance, meaning and purpose of our own lives. When we try to do this consistently throughout the days, months and years, we are increasing in ourselves the capacity to feel and experience God in our bodies, our relationships and in the opportunities of our lives...Mark Oakley has suggested that `God is in the world as poetry is in the poem'. (p.53)
A New Friend?
Another reason I describe this as a clever book is that she makes me feel I have found a new friend. She thinks the way I think, rather like a magpie who finds treasure after treasure in poetry and prose, brings them back to the nest, cleans and polishes them, and then re-presents them to her audience. Quotations from the bible bubble up inside her as naturally do quotations from other sources, and she uses them all to make sense of the universe in which she finds herself. As we share the same universe - in all essentials - I don't think you would have any difficulty in reading her book at one sitting, although various events at home have meant I have been unable to do this.
In reading this, I felt that I was having a conversation over a glass of wine at the kitchen table, with the children safely in bed and a husband away. With no need to hurry, we talked late into the night.
I recommend this book whole-heartedly to all women, of any age, with enquiring minds and a sense of wonder.