I would love to sum this book up in one word, because it packs a powerful punch and I feel like it should get it’s own catchphrase, like Bazinga or Kapow. But one word doesn’t quite capture what Lisa Jo Baker has done in her second book Never Unfriended. It is honest yes, and also vulnerable, it is entertaining but it also delivers a walk through scripture that my soul craves.
Lisa Jo is the community manager over at incourage.me, an online community of women. I originally encountered this site when we rebooted the women’s ministry at our church, it captured what we were trying to achieve. That feeling of gathering around a fire with your people, putting your feet up and letting the friendship and holiness wash over you. So color me not at all surprised, that the woman who wrote the online book on community has finally put together her thoughts on friendship and community in this encouraging book.
One of the things I loved instantly was that this was not a linear book, though I read it that way. Lisa Jo encourages you immediately to go straight for the chapter you need, to the words your soul calls out for. For me that was the opening chapters so that was where I started. But I loved the recognition of how different we are, that we are all joining this conversation from different places with our own set of baggage. Lisa Jo frees us to find our voice and settle there, before expanding to the other gems within. In fact this is a point she makes in several places throughout this book. That our differences define us but don’t have to divide us, that we each have a need to be seen but also need to find and practice to see others around us. Just because I want to vent, doesn’t mean I should. Just because I have the perfect story to complement what you are telling me, doesn’t mean I should fill in your silences, but listen.
This book is the perfect blend of personal narrative, sound advice and (hallelujah) scriptural direction. My heart cries out for scripture, not for more self help stories, and so watching Lisa Jo artlessly weave scripture throughout this book was soothing to my soul. She manages this in so many ways, with passing reference to familiar stories, with direct blasts of scripture, with the seamless incorporation of truth directly into the words she is speaking over us. If you have been reading and reading and reading all the wonderful books coming out these days, but feeling a lack of scriptural truth, you will not be disappointed. The tales of Lisa Jo’s friendships, her speculation on what we might be feeling are bound up with scripture within the pages of Never Unfriended in a way that makes you thirsty for fellowship and for the pages of your bible. For this I am truly grateful.
This book touches on so many aspects of friendship, most of which (all of which) I have struggled with over the years. The fear of being left out. The fear of being left behind. The fear of being case aside. The fear of not being enough. The fear of missing out.
For me, one of the biggest issues I deal with is that of idolatry. Give me something, anything, and I will quickly set it up in my life on it’s own little pedestal and let it interfere with my relationship with God. Until I read Lisa Jo’s words, it never occurred to me that I was doing that with some of my relationships too, that I was seeking the approval or validation of a flesh and blood person, that some days I felt dependent on that rather than dependent on the God who put air in my lungs and the stars in the sky. MIND BLOWN. She then goes on to say that as we pull our relationships down from their lofty places, we have to realize that we are not their god either:
Our business is to believe the best about people. We are not their judge, or their jury, and we are certainly not their god. We are intended to be their blessing. On purpose. p 163.
I am my own worst enemy most of the time. And Lisa Jo confirms to me that I am not the only one. Most of us get caught up in our own minds, most of the time! We craft stories in our minds that aren’t real, we have entire conversations in our minds that never take place, we ascribe thoughts and words to other people. We let our imaginations run away with us, and never stop to allow reality to sink in.
Just because I think it. Just because I feel it. Doesn’t mean it’s true. p 156.
Something to remember, that little voice in your head, sometimes it lies.
This book arrived in my life at a time when I felt that I had wrestled all these demons and beaten them into submission. Lisa Jo focused in for me on what I had been through, but also showed me where some of the weaknesses could still lurk, ways to deal with them, areas that I never even looked for these problems in. I didn’t feel judged by this book, I didn’t feel judged by myself as I read these words, I felt comforted in a community of women who said “Me too!” We do not exist in a vacuum, we were designed for community, and women like Lisa Jo do an amazing job at encouraging us to put the most into that community and get the most out of that community. And let’s al try to keep our sanity as we do so!