I love old books. For one thing, their age is proof that they can stand the test of time. For another, at least when it comes to Christian books, the old stuff is usually a lot less about “me” and a lot more about God. Refreshing.
One of my new-old favs is Catherine Marshall’s Beyond Our Selves. I first read it as a teenager; I rediscovered it this year. The bad news is that this 1961 book is out of print. The good news is that you can get copies on Amazon for as little as a penny!
Marshall gets right to the point: Most of us, she says, yearn for something more—something that requires outside help—“either because of some problem for which we have no answer or because of a nagging consciousness that we should be getting more out of life.” She takes us by the hand and, using a refreshing combination of common sense and biblical teaching, offers practical guidance on everything from trusting God to slaying our egos to appreciating our own helplessness and imperfection. (And as a bonus, Marshall’s real-life illustrations, set against the backdrop of life in the 1950’s and 60’s, will appeal to anyone who appreciates the retro-hip nature of a housewife busy with her spring cleaning, or the bygone image of children picking violets and playing a twilight game of kick-the-can.)
One of the best takeaways, I think, comes from a chapter called, The Secret of the Will. Noting that the Christian life must be lived in the will rather than in our emotions, Marshall equips us to make hard decisions even when we don’t feel like it. We can, she says, address the tension that crops up between what we want to do (say, holding a grudge) versus what we know we should do (extending forgiveness and trusting God to work it out) with a simple prayer: “Lord, I am willing to be made willing.” If we start there, and allow God to handle our emotions, he will (as he promises in Philippians 2:13) work in us to will and to act according to his good purpose.
If you’re weary of the “guidance” found in so many of today’s self-help books, give Catherine Marshall a try. In Beyond Our Selves, as in all of her writing, she points us toward real help—the kind that tackles our restlessness, gives meaning to our lives, and puts us on the path toward a deeper relationship with a God who offers something more.