My irrational fears about devotional literature

For years I’ve been somewhat cynical about devotional literature, particularly women’s devotional literature. It is not difficult to identify a book or webpage with this kind of content—even from a distance, and without reading a word. Pink and purple dominate the color scheme. The graphics contain either a garden scene, the silhouette of a pensive woman on a mountaintop, or a still life of classic Christian symbols (often in the form of costume jewelry) bathed in a digitally enhanced soft glow.

The appearance alone evokes irrational fears within me. I wonder if reading something that looks that way won’t somehow lead to big hair, a fake southern drawl, an abuse of cosmetics, and the impulsive purchase of a small, fluffy, white dog. Admittedly, this attitude has greatly limited my exposure to women’s devotional literature. But when I do conquer my paranoia and bravely survey the content, it is almost always the same.

The pages are filled with cute stories of the virtues of children or vague and poetic metaphors about gardening, climbing mountains, flying like birds, weaving tapestries, drinking coffee, or hanging Christmas tree ornaments. These are stretched to connect to a Bible verse or two and then generically applied to some aspect of a woman’s life. At the conclusion, I am provided with a question to ask myself or a prayer to pray. Something like this…

How about you? Do you ever struggle with selfishness? Ask God to help you be selfless in all you do today.

The message being communicated is usually true enough—just difficult to connect with. In other words, it kinda defeats the purpose of a devotional. It feels insincere and I come away as insulted as I am inspired. And I touched all that purple for no reason!

Here is the disconnect—because some sincere and well-meaning authors approached it in a way that didn’t minister to me personally, I dismissed devotional writing entirely.

I enjoy writing and I see the value in helping people connect with God’s word. Friends and family encouraged me to minister through my writing for years, but because my experience with devotional writing had left a bad taste in my mouth, I regarded it as an illegitimate venue. Perhaps I should have asked myself,

What about you? Is there something you could contribute to devotional writing to make it what you think it could or should be? Ask God to direct you as you explore how to use the gifts He has given you in this way.

But that’s not what happened. I just felt like I should begin a blog. I started with the idea of letting readers ‘see’ my journey with Christ—the victories and the failures, and all the steps and discoveries in between. I hoped to connect with others in a way that would inspire them to seek greater depth in their relationship with God. Completely unsuspectingly and unintentionally, I began writing what could often only be described as devotional literature.

And I’m glad. It’s good for me and God seems to use it to minister to others. I don’t think it should have been necessary for me to be tricked into doing it, though. I should have just seen my critiques on devotional literature as an opportunity to use my gift to make a positive contribution to an area of ministry that needed it.

Please don’t hear me wrong. I know there is good devotional stuff out there. I don’t think I’m the most gifted at it—or even close to it. I don’t claim to be flawless in my observations or applications. But I do have a passion for writing, an opportunity to use it for God, and some ideas about how it can be done well. I should not have thrown the baby (devotional writing) out with the bath water (cheesiness and insincerity).

Dare I do it? Oh, I can’t resist…

What about you? Do you have gifts, passions, or talents that you are sitting on? Do you have critiques about how others approach ministries that you have the ability and opportunity to participate in? Teaching? Outreach? Hospitality? Music? You fill in the blank. Have you dismissed the venue as illegitimate or hopelessly flawed? Do you grumble about it instead of making a positive contribution to it?

That discontent may just be God’s way of inspiring you to action. Just a thought…

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5 thoughts on “My irrational fears about devotional literature”

  1. Your description of women’s devotionals made me smile. I totally relate to your feelings about them!

    This is a good reminder that all discontentment isn’t bad. It is sometimes the initial unsettledness that can help us realize that something should be different. And hopefully the next step is asking Christ who He wants us to be and what He would have us do so that things can become settled.

    1. Thanks Cara. I’m glad I’m not the only who’s felt that way about some of the stuff that’s out there.

      I think you’re right on. It does make me a little tempted to pretend like I don’t notice when I feel discontented with something that I’m not terribly comfortable doing myself. 🙂 I guess the other option is that I need to fix my attitude, stop being so critical, and pray for the situation.

      Once again the only option we’re left with is to listen to God and trust Him.

  2. Your second paragraph had me laughing out loud. And I’ll admit that I do avoid things like “women’s” Bibles, but now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I have probably missed out on some good things by throwing out the baby with the bath water, as you say.

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