Befriending Your Monsters, Luke Norsworthy. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020.
Summary: Discusses the fears (monsters) we often run from or that shape our lives, advocating befriending them by facing our fears, allowing us to move into healthier lives.
The real monsters in our lives are not the ones we watched in monster flicks on TV or at movies or read about in horror fiction. In one sense, fictional monsters represent the projection of our fears. The author of this book, Luke Norsworthy maintains this is so in real life as well. We have all sorts of fears: of failure, about the future, concerning money, about health, about our children, about what our lives have meant. And just like in childhood, there are only two ways to deal with monsters–whether they are under the bed, or in the thoughts that wake us in the night– we hide or we confront.
Norsworthy notes that word monster comes from the Latin monere meaning “to warn.” Monsters may be friends, warning us, in order to save us. Unheeded, they may also destroy us, as any addict will tell you. Sin pulls us away from the life of God, exploiting the cracks in our lives, causing us to curve in upon ourselves rather than thriving as we reach up to God. Sometimes, it is only in the darkness that we realize how lost we are and can finally reach out for the help we need.
Norsworthy, in the second part of his book focuses on three universal monsters: comparison, more and success. He looks at four questions concerning how the monsters operate and how we become free:
- What’s the prop? The prop is the presenting monster that gets our attention
- What’s the pull? How does the monster exercise influence over our lives?
- What’s the point? The point has to do with the issues of the heart for which the monster is a warning.
- How does the light get in? How do we turn from hiding to facing the monster and loosing its hold on us?
For example, with comparison:
- The prop is the unsettling awareness that in some respect, another is more or better than me.
- The pull is an identity crisis, in which the focus on others causes us to forget who and whose we are.
- The point is that this draws us away from a stable scale or place of resting in God’s love and approval of our lives for the shifting and fickle measures of approval or measuring up with others.
- The light for comparison, is to keep our focus in our lane, not on those in other lanes, on Christ’s bidding to follow him, not to be like someone else but to be more like ourselves.
After considering these four questions for each of these monsters, he concludes with discussing how to befriend our monsters–how to heed the warnings of the monsters without being driven in fear of them. Using the example of David preparing to meet Goliath, he invites us to learn to shed the armor of our false self for the true self that is neither better nor worse than who we are, just who we are. To recognize our monsters, we have to move beyond our shallow emotions to what they point toward. We move beyond our anger to what has been disturbed arousing our anger–our inadequacies, our fears of impotence. And we learn not to expect our monsters to be immediately vanquished but by facing them daily as disciples allowing them to transform us.
Norsworthy’s writing style is not what one would learn in composition classes. He uses a number of one sentence paragraphs, somewhat like Hebrew parallelism that reinforces or contrasts ideas. It ends up being oddly readable, where one moves through the text, clearly grasping his key ideas. Rather than seeming disconnected, it his highly coherent. Furthermore, Norsworthy presents in insightful and imaginative ways the ideas of facing rather than running from our fears, recognizing our false self, and embracing who we are in Christ.
Running from our fears always cuts us off from life in its fullness and gives fears far greater control over us than if we faced them. Norsworthy helps us name these monsters, these fears, and wisely helps us to see that the aim is not to banish them but to turn them into friends. Only then may we learn to live wisely and well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.