I’ve just finished reading a book called About You by Dick Staub, and although the subject matter is exactly the kind of thing I love to talk about, the whole thing left me wanting more and feeling like I could have done a better job of writing it. No offense, Mr. Staub. I just didn’t find it very compelling, I definitely didn’t feel like I was a member of your target audience, and seriously, you need a new editor.
The subject, like I said, is great. It’s about becoming fully alive as humans while still here on Earth. Staub was inspired by the words of Dutch art historian Hans Rookmaaker: “Jesus didn’t come to make you Christian; Jesus came to make you fully human.” And I think that’s a good place to start. Jesus didn’t come to Earth to start a religion. He came to repair a relationship, and when that relationship is restored, everything changes for us.
There are lots of things Jesus didn’t come to do that we seem to think he did come for as evidenced by our lifestyles. A couple of weeks ago, my pastor said, “Jesus didn’t die so you could be really good at Halo.” I’m not addicted to Halo, but if he’d said, “Jesus didn’t die so you could always have the newest styles from H&M,” that would have hurt.
The things we spend our time and money on show very clearly what we think is important in life. Jesus didn’t come for most of those things. He especially didn’t come to make us work in jobs we hate because of the financial security they afford us, associate with people who make us shallow, depraved and/or boring, or suppress our true desires because they’re “impractical” or “unrealistic.” And yet, many of us live as though those things are our purpose, or worse, God’s purpose.
God’s true purpose, however, is not to make us religious, shallow, boring, legalistic, miserable or otherwise broken. It’s to bring glory to himself. I know that sounds terribly arrogant of him, but it’s not because he deserves all that glory. That is another conversation, though, so we’ll leave it at that for now. So if God’s purpose is to bring glory to himself, and if he created us, then it follows logically that he did so to fulfill his purpose.
About You attempts to explain how we fulfill our purpose of bringing glory to God with our lives. The thesis is that we must become fully human and fully alive; we must become the best possible versions of ourselves by developing our spiritual, intellectual, moral, relational and creative selves holistically and synergistically. Or by letting Jesus develop us in all those ways. Staub seems to go back and forth a bit on that point.
Now. I do not disagree with any of these things. I think all of creation brings glory to God best when it is simply and exactly what it was created to be. A mountain that tried to be a riverbed would not be nearly as majestic, and an ocean floor that tried to be a desert wouldn’t hold the same magical mystery. And when we try to squeeze ourselves into places in society where we just weren’t cut to fit, we diminish ourselves and the God who created us for something much more unique and special.
Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we became simply and exactly what we were created to be? We’d be happier and more satisfied with our lives, we would be able to contribute to society more effectively by knowing exactly what we have to offer, and God would be glorified by his creations fulfilling their given roles instead of the roles their guidance counselors advised them to pursue.
I guess the big issue I have with the content of the book is that it states the thesis over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again without a whole lot of solid practical application. Staub says that we need to develop intellectually, spiritually, morally, creatively and relationally several times in each chapter, thus becoming the best versions of ourselves, fully human and fully alive. But he very rarely offers practical suggestions as to how to go about it. At best, we get a bit of encouragement to go and figure it out for ourselves because we’re all different.
In fact, I didn’t even find Staub’s argument for how Jesus demonstrated what it means to be fully human very strong. I believe that Jesus did demonstrate what it means to be fully human. I just didn’t think Staub backed up the argument very well with the Scriptures he chose.
But the most frustrating thing about the book was the horrid editing. Y’all, it’s so bad. On the big scale, there are a few problems. First of all, there’s the incredible overstatement of the book’s main idea. If we don’t get it after the first 20 times, we ain’t gettin’ it. On a smaller scale, there were lots of very poorly developed and supported paragraphs and ideas. If I didn’t already agree with everything the man was saying, I would have been largely unconvinced.
And finally, there were the typos. Oh dear God the TYPOS! There were duplicate words, weird spacing, and worst of all, a reference to Alec Baldwin as ALEX BALDWIN. I mean for real, somebody should have caught that.
So here’s what I recommend. If you want to read something of this nature, just come talk to me instead. I’ll give you a shorter version with more appropriate Scripture references and the correct names of any celebrities I mention. Show tunes optional.