Finding My Voice: A Young Woman's Perspective by Beth Knobbe
I was immediately attracted to this book because, like so many young women, I am searching for purpose and meaning. Granted, I am very entrenched in married life and motherhood, and I truly believe this is right where I ought to be right now. But, I am still seeking for ways to live my life in a more fulfilling and purposeful way. Knobbe, a campus minister at Northwestern University, wrote Finding My Voice for young women in the post-Christian era who are searching for meaning and purpose and truth.
So many young adults in today's post-Christian society identify themselves as spiritual, but not religious. In the first chapter, Ms. Knobbe states that spirituality and religion go hand in hand. "Religious practices give voice to spirituality, and spirituality gives meaning to our rites and rituals. Spirituality without religion is empty belief, and religion without spirituality is uninspiring. (p.15)" To be truly spiritual and religious is to acknowledge that all of life exists in relationship to God, and this God became man, a man that reached out to women in a totally new way in his earthly life. This God continues to reach out to women today in order to give their purpose and meaning and love.
The following two chapters focus on prayer and vocation. Prayer gives life to a relationship with God. Ms. Knobbe encourages the reader to push the boundaries of preconceived notions of prayer and to see it as a "lifelong conversation with the one who created us and loves us. (p.24)" We can come to God just as we are, not as we think we ought to be. There is a freedom in being honest with God, just as we find freedom in being honest in other relationships. And, as we grow in relationship with God, we find our true purpose and become what we were made to be in the first place.
Ms. Knobbe also points out the importance of friendship in finding voice and purpose. In this fast-paced, competitive world, it can be difficult for women to forge deep, healthy relationships. Good friendships are based on shared experiences, equality, selflessness. While some friendships are temporary, they all have the potential to make a life-long and positive impact. And what is more profound than even the closest earthly friendship is the friendship that we have the opportunity to forge with God. He so deeply wanted to become our friend that he became man! (p.68) We can share experiences with God in the midst of all of life's situations. He is always there, but it is essential to spend time with him in order for that friendship to play a positive role in our lives.
The next, and most disconcerting chapter is on sexuality. Ms. Knobbe makes many thought provoking statements about commitment and intimacy and true love. However, she avoids discussing the Catholic teaching concerning the most controversial issues surrounding chastity: marital relationships, extramarital relationships, homose*uality, and contraception. These are major issues affecting young adults today, and I really thought this book would propose Catholic teaching in a way that can be understood and appreciated. I am sorely disappointed that the opportunity was lost. It is a pity that a young woman could read this chapter, and the whole book, and get the impression that becoming holy, becoming who God made us to be may have nothing to do with what we are actually doing. On the contrary, it has everything to do with what we are doing. The way we live our life, not matter how boring or painful or challenging it is, matters infinitely. There are times when Ms. Knobbe states this very thing and other times when she seems to shirk this truth in an effort to avoid being too preachy or perhaps, too Catholic.
The last chapter concerns working for peace and justice in the world. Ms. Knobbe encourages the reader to acknowledge violence and all its forms (celebrity obsession, negative body image, assault, por*ography, unfair wages for women, human trafficking) and to work against it in our own personal lives and in the lives of those around us. Our relationship with God is key in this area, since He is the source of peace. It is only through Him that we can have peace and be a channel of that peace for others. Many important topics are covered in this chapter, but omitting any discussion about the impact of abortion on demand in our society seems like a glaring oversight. Yes, this is a very controversial topic, but not delving into it at all is a disservice. When an estimated 43% of women will have an abortion in their lifetime, it seems like this topic is an important one to address in the emotional, physical and spiritual life of young women.
After finishing Finding My Voice, I was disappointed. I can defintiely see how this book could awaken in many young women a desire for God, an unknown need in their hearts for fulfillment and love. That is a great start in the life of any Christian. I do not doubt Ms. Knobbe’s sincerity or good intentions; she takes keen interest in encouraging women to seek God and find him in a broad, Christian sense. However, I find the Catholic identity of the book to be ambiguous. While there are numerous Scripture references, there no references to the Catechism, church documents, papal encyclicals, or writings of the saints even when important theological statements are made (e.g. equating sins to mistakes (p.43) and asserting that holiness is not about what we do (p.41)).
Throughout the entire book, it is obvious the author did not want to come off as “preachy.” But giving the idea that we are not held accountable for our choices in this life gives a false impression of Catholic and true Christian teaching. There is truth and beauty in the Catholic faith, and, in my opinion, there are too many missed opportunities to share that truth in the context of love.
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