Monday, December 17, 2007

Book Review: Water from the Rock

I've just finished reading Water From The Rock: Finding God's Comfort in the Midst of Infertility and I am quite impressed.

The best way to succinctly describe this book is as a "How-To" manual for dealing with the grief of infertility. Each of the three authors have walked this journey and they combine their experiences and expertise (they are professional ministers and a professional counselor) to walk along side the reader through the ins and outs of grief.

The book is divided into 2 sections. The first section deals with identifying the stages of grief and how it manifests specifically in infertility grief. Each chapter identifies a new stage and offers constructive, biblically sound suggestions on navigating it.

The second section focuses more specifically on overall coping and healing, rather than stage specific exercises. It concentrates on the wounded woman's possible necessity to reconcile with herself and her identity in Christ, with God, with her spouse, her family and/or her friends. The authors challenge the reader to reach beyond her grief out to others around her and encourage the reader to really internalize that God's plan for her life is not limited by infertility. My favorite line in the book is at the very end and states in a prayer,

[God,] help me to realize that the purpose of my suffering far exceeds the pain of my suffering.

I know it's not grammatically correct to put that in a block quote but it was so important to me, I wanted to set it apart. While I don't agree with the authors that infertility is a "special calling" (a minor part of the book so don't dismay if you also disagree), I do know that God can redeem any pain by making His glory known through it. There is great purpose in evidencing God's glory throughout the earth, and this specific challenge from the authors stirred my heart to search beyond, rather than dwell in my pain.

At the end of each chapter, the authors offer challenging questions designed to nudge the reader to introspection. These questions would make excellent prompts for journaling, or, with some modifications for privacy, a spring board for a small group discussion. The authors also offer a specific action challenge at the end of each chapter.

What I love the most about this book is how constructive and tangible the tools are. They are very prescriptive with "do this," and "think about that." As I said, it's almost like a "How-To" manual and at this stage in my grief, I found that very helpful because I find myself almost being afraid that I'm doing things out of order, or too quickly or too slowly, and it's helpful for me to just have an outside reference as sort of a guide of what to expect, what to be on my guard for, etc. Of course, it goes without saying that everyone's process is different, but even in my limited interactions with other IF women, there are lots of commonalities too, and this book draws on that. The solutions they offer are physical, emotional and spiritual changes. I appreciated this holistic approach and at this point in my journey, it's just so helpful to have someone say "Do this." "Expect that." "Guard your heart from this."

This book is very brief. They offer scriptural support for their claims, especially any about the nature and character of God and His will for one's life. However they are very matter-of-fact and do not dwell long on their point or on the exegesis of any scriptural support. The book is very simplistically written, making it easy to read and process.

My reason for pointing this out is that I think it is important that any potential reader identify where she is at and what she is ready to handle before picking up this book. The frank, matter of fact approach can come across as "rushing" you through the grief process if you're not ready to move on. It can almost come across as judgmental because an issue is so black and white and already resolved to these women, while you may be fresh and wrestling in your grief.

However, on the other hand, this might serve to equip you as sort of a road map of what to expect in the future, or as a good review of where God has already taken you. In my particular case, I was wishing that I had read it earlier so that I could have the book to accompany me through the various stages, but I can see easily how someone of another temperament might want to read this with a little more emotional distance from the situation.

I will say that I personally detected no hint of insensitivity or judgment from the authors, but I've also already digested and processed a lot of my emotions to date. If I were still reeling, I might respond differently. On the other hand again, this might have been doubly "useful" were I still reeling.

All of that to say, search your heart for the kind of tool that you need right now. If you need an empathetic, heartfelt, gentle encouragement, try something like Hannah's Hope. If you need something a little more clinical, or more of a kick in the bloomers, this is an excellent resource. The two books are not at all similar or interchangeable but are appropriate for different places in someone's IF journey.

I will say that I did not do the written exercises. I may find the book even more challenging if I go back and do them, but I also recognize what is realistic for my lifestyle and know that it is unlikely that I will prioritize time to complete them. However, I appreciate that I was able to learn from and be challenged by the book without the exercises. I can only imagine how much more I would be challenged if I were to complete the written questions.

This book is unlike any other IF book I've read or have in my ever-growing pile to read. I appreciate the fresh approach and the practical tools. Now knowing what to expect from the book, and preparing your heart accordingly for where you are at in your grief process, I would encourage you to trust the authors' virtuous intentions and their submission to God's leading as they wrote this and when you are ready, pick up this book and read it. Whether this will serve as a GPS for your yet to be arrived at destination or a chronicle of where God has already faithfully taken you, I assure you that you will be edified, equipped and challenged by this book.

Recommended: Enthusiastically

Note: This book is not available on Amazon, nor was I able to find it on the shelves of any of my local bookstores. I'm not sure if it's out of print or just widely unknown. Clicking here will take you to Amazon's marketplace, where you can purchase the book from an individual seller, though you complete the process through Amazon, ensuring billing information safety. Alternately, I found a few listings for it on ebay. Lastly, Stepping Stones also offers it through their bookstore. Download their bookstore form here (pdf reader required). It includes instructions to fax or phone in your order.

A word of caution: there are a few other Christian books entitled "Water from the Rock" and even another on grief. When you're shopping, look for the complete title, which is "Water from the Rock: Finding God's Comfort in the Midst of Infertility" and it is written by Donna Gibbs, Becky Garrett, and Phyllis Rabon. The ISBN number is 0-8024-2931-9.