Book Review: Struggling to be Holy – Judy Hirst

Struggling to Be Holy

This is a book on living life, and the realities of it, especially the struggles of day-to-day Christian living.  What it focusses on are

the threads of holiness which is rooted in our everyday experience (from the blurb)

The six reflections are entitled Hiding from God, Dealing with our Desires, The Gifts of Forgiveness, Paying Attention, Friendship, and Success and Failure.

The illustrations are good, from real life, so very easy to hang on to.  I found it all very sensible and practical – and helpful.  Judy Hirst clearly deals in real people.

I won’t go through the reflections one by one, but just highlight three points.

Reflection 2 is called

Dealing with Our Desires.

We are reminded that our desires are personal to each one of us, they are things that matter.  Our desires can energize us, whether accepted or denied, so we need to understand their substance (p45).

I want…

Desire is powerful and overwhelming (p46).  They show us what we truly yearn.  Which may be to counter not feeling ‘good enough’, or a lack of security, or a need to be loved (p47).  Whatever we discover the root of our desires to be,

If we keep paying attention to our desires rather than suppressing them, or simply indulging them, then we will begin to understand ourselves better.

Understand that we are made in the image of God who knows desire and desires us! (p47)

Our longing is actually to turn us to God, not away.

Reflection focusses on

The Gifts of Forgiveness

Hirst reminds me of part of my story.  She uses the analogy of a box, I have used a carpet, but the idea is the same. “Stuff” happens, and when we can’t face it we bury it, and one day we can no longer contain it and it overwhelms us.  Whether our problem with the box is that we ignore it, or are fixated on it, it can take over our life.  But we have to face the contents if we are to move on.  Not to keep raking them over, but to know the truth of them, and deal with it.

Reflection 6 looks at

Success and Failure.

Talking about Peter, Hirst reflects on his qualification to share the ministry of the ‘failed’ Messiah,

Peter did fail big time, but his failure did not cause him to doubt God, or to reject God, or blame God.  Rather his failure led him to learn the extent of God’s love for him and the extent of his own weakness (p117)

Who of us haven’t failed?  And yet that failure need not distance us from God, but rather open up the possibilities of what God can do in us.  If we are so sure of ourself and our own abilities, there is no room for God.  When we know how far we can go, we have to leave space for him to work.

Knowing the depth of our failures, can also in its turn make us more use.

It is always those who have known ‘forgiven failure’ to whom people turn in need.  Their wounded vulnerability makes them attractive companions on life’s journey (p117)

To have known and touched failure opens us up as someone human, who knows where things can go, who cannot see the speck in their fellow travellers eye, because they know of the plank in their own (Matthew 7:3).  That makes for someone who others trust will accept them, and journey together with compassion.  For we don’t stay in failure, we move on – with God – the God of new life.

…God takes our failure into Christ, and we are part of God’s work in creation (p119)

But we remain a work as yet unfinished.

The book concludes with a poem from Ann Lewin

God’s work of art.

That’s me?

Then beauty must lie

In the eye of the


I feel more like

One of those statues

Michelangelo left

Half emerging

From the marble block;

Full of potential

On the verge of life,

But prisoned still

By circumstance and


Yet part of me is free –

And yet you are still creating,

Bringing to life

The promise that is there.

Sometimes by

Hammer blows

Which jar my being,

Sometimes by

Tender strokes half felt

Which waken me to


Go on Lord.

Love me into wholeness.

Set me free

To share with you

In your creative joy;

To laugh with you

At your delight

In me,

Your work of art

I’ll leave you to read the book for yourself

~ by pamjw on October 24, 2012.

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