By Elizabeth Prata
Podcast audio here or podcast itself at bottom
I’m often asked to review or share my thoughts on a Christian Bible study, a new book, or other material. As someone with the spiritual gift of discernment I am happy to do this for women since the gifts were distributed for the edification of the church; local first, then global. Recently I was asked about a popular book by Emily Lex. The book is called-
Freely and Lightly: God’s Gracious Invitation to a Life of Quiet Confidence
Emily Lex (https://emilylex.com/) is an artist and a writer with a new book out (the aforementioned Freely & Lightly) and another one for children aged 4-8 based on her book Freely called “Twirl” coming this fall. She has been an artist for some years. Freely is her first book.
I do not recommend this book.
While the illustrations are sweetly charming, and the text is well written, sadly this is just another foray of a discontented wife sharing her circular “journey” from self-absorbed discontent to self-reflection to learn that yes, she “is enough”.
We are not enough, and never were.
The book begins with the author sharing her discontentment which she has been covering up with church busyness, all the while internally comparing herself negatively to other people. She became tired of the comparison game and the busyness that leads to empty satisfaction and sought answers. I understand this is an issue for many women, and seeking a way out of the negativity and comparison game is a good thought. Sadly, Mrs. Lex went about it in the wrong way.
She found it when God personally spoke to her and told her to “be an artist.”
Toward the end of the book, she writes,
"We find true, lasting satisfaction when we are content with who we are and with God's plan and purpose for our lives. When we trust Him, when we delight in his goodness and promises to care for us, we don't need to look anywhere else to fill the longing to belong. We can stand confidently in our identities as individuals who are securely loved, completely forgiven, and abundantly provided for, whether we're wearing this season's shoes or not…" p. 249
Mrs. Lex’s discontents were mainly upper middle class First World woman issues. Did she have the right hair? The right shoes? She had a good husband, a house, a growing church, healthy kids, a popular blog and a profitable small business. She wrote “It was everything she ever wanted.” But she was still unhappy.
She was invited to go on an “influencer tour” in Rwanda sponsored by the International Justice Mission, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the genocide. The women on the tour, including Mrs. Lex, spoke with women who had been sexually abused, examined the Fair Trade businesses Rwandan women were involved in, prayed with them, and toured some of the genocide sites etc. Mrs. Lex’s watershed moment came when during one of the tours, she sat in her seat on the tour bus…and no one sat next to her. Her “long-ignored insecurities surfaced” and her emotions were “uncontainable”. She cried, wondering if no one liked her.
(as an an opinionated aside, I’d rather die than write a book like this and call it Christian).
Mrs. Lex then goes on a journey to find the “abundant life”, a phrase she uses a lot. She knows that the abundant life is one that Jesus offers, but consistently uses the phrasing “recover your life” which, I don’t know what that means. We are sinners from birth and saved by grace at justification. During our long lives of a sanctifying walk, we obey, submit, follow, strive, wrestle, persevere… but recover? Mrs. Lex doesn’t explain.
Mrs. Lex’s journey of self reflection is based on misunderstood Bible verses, spiritual formation, and the enneagram. In fact, the author admits that the enneagram,
"offered me a language to identify what I saw in myself but never could have articulated on my own." (p. 161).
Once again, self. Mrs. Lex only mentions dying to self once, in passing.
The Bible articulates who we are. Clearly and firmly. We are sinners who need Jesus before salvation; and afterward, our identity IS Him, it is IN Him, and we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
I wish, I really wish, I could do this to every woman writing this kind of material and thinking it was biblical,
I searched for theological terms in the Google Books preview section. I often do this when researching an author, I type rarely-heard words into the search, like sin, repent, wrath, hell, etc. There were 5 mentions of the word
Obey/obedience – 5 mentions
Submit/submission – 1
Sin – 3
Repent – 0
Identity – 26
Heal – 24
The book is all about your own worth, your own identity, your own value, your own healing.
At the end of Mrs Lex’s book, (which she recommends using as a devotional!) ladies will know a lot more about Emily Lex and/or one’s self, and not much more about Jesus.
An issue is that the author uses a variety of translations. Her main thrust about living ‘freely and lightly’ comes from Matthew 11:28-30 but it’s in The Message translation- which is not a translation at all, and is rife with errors.
When an author uses a variety of translations it usually means an author is using the Bible as a proof text, coming to the Bible with a pre-arranged notion and finding Bible verses that match, and having to cull it from different translations to fit it into her pre-arranged agenda.
There is not much Bible in the book except for her misunderstanding of the Parable of the Soils. She thinks that all the soils represent people who are saved, and that we can “inadvertently veer” from one path to another. For example she thought she was on path number four, the good soil, when she realized she was actually on path #3, the weedy soil, the weeds representing choking tentacles holding her back from the abundant life. But this is not the proper understanding of the Parable.
Emily speaks of having sessions with a “spiritual director” and doing spiritual formation etc. Spiritual director is a weird term but I was hoping it was a woman she met with monthly like an older woman spiritual mentor like a Titus 2 situation. It wasn’t. Her spiritual director is a believer in the enneagram! This woman spiritual director, Marilyn Vancil, even wrote a book about it: Self to Lose, Self to Find: Using the Enneagram to Uncover Your True, God-Gifted Self
There are many places in the book where I read good things, like “I stopped focusing on the tangled state of my life and the insecurities and uniqueness of who I am and began to transform and heal my soul by placing my attention on God”… but firstly, while our soul is healed at justification, I recognize that many women don’t believe this, and focusing attention on God is a good start in our long walk in sanctification. But not through the lens of self, as in, self-reflection, enneagrams, and doing more but just in a different way than before. It should always be focused on the Jesus of the Bible, through scripture. I was disheartened that though Mrs. Lex made a good start in her search for meaning and value as a daughter of Christ, she wound up hearing from Jesus (see below) and listening to a New Age spiritual director tickle her itching hears with enneagram nonsense, and using the Bible and prayer as a mechanism for ‘healing’ and ‘abundant life’ while not substantially acknowledging Jesus for who He is, King, God, and Creator of our souls.
Very troubling was this: on p. 257 she said she appealed to Jesus to help her solve her problem, and he spoke to her. ” “Be an artist” ‘he’ said. ” She wrote that his directive was “clear and concise”.
Ladies, snap out of it. Hagar was maligned, overworked, abused, used sexually and then thrown away. This is worse, by the way, than crying on a bus in Rwanda because no one sat next to her, thereby raising her “insecurities” to uncontrollable levels. I actually find this a monstrous version of Christianity, but a sadly common one here in America. It’s especially sickening in the face of the author having been with Christian women who survived the Rwandan genocide. If you want to see some REAL ‘insecurities’, go to Afghanistan as a Christian, China, or even Australia these days with a fast slide into socialism and high antagonism against faith.
Enneagram, spiritual directors, Message translations, and emotionalism is not the strong Christianity we need now. We need warriors, strong wives raising children in the Lord, submitting to husbands. Do you know how hard it is to be a wife these days? Hard. We need single women devoted in prayer and teaching like Anna, working for the Lord, the real Lord, not the wimpy boyfriend Lord of the enneagram lonely wife syndrome.
When Mrs. Lex cried in her closet appealing to the Lord, He was with her. He comforts those in pain, but with His promises of relief from guilt, with the Spirit in us as the deposit of the guarantee, with our bright future in glory, with security of His love, by the beauty of His eternal word.
It is enough.
For books by and for women who have struggled with issues, please consider these instead
Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot
12 Faithful Women: Portraits of Steadfast Endurance by Melissa Kruger et al
Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies
And this couldn’t hurt: With the Master on Our Knees: A Ladies’ Bible Study on Prayer (With the Master Bible Studies) by Susan Heck