Edward Welch cares way too much about what other people think about him.
No really, he does. He says so in his book. That’s why he wrote it. In fact, he found himself needing to go over and over again the principles of his book, When People Are Big and God is Small, that he has written a second time to an audience of 15-25 years of age.
I bought What Do You Think of Me? for the church library because I loved Welch’s book Blame It on the Brain, and thought this title sounded like an issue we all wrestle with. I remember grabbing it off the shelf last summer, thinking I would read it for myself while sitting in the sun (one of my all-time favorite combinations). Although I was agreeing with Welch, I couldn’t get into the book due to the target audience. Let’s face it, not only am I well over 25, I’m also well-read enough to need a stronger drink.
And then my 10-year–old daughter started getting sucked into 5th grade drama. The girls in her class are way more dramatic than I remember the girls being when my oldest was in 5th grade. Maybe it is because many of them have older sisters and are trying too hard to be older themselves. I don’t know. But my daughter is a pleaser. She wants everyone to get along and she gets tangled in the web of caring way too much about what other people think of her. At first I was thinking that her heart was just way too sweet for all this drama. But as she needed to handle conflict, my husband and I noticed the sinful tendencies rooted in that sugared heart. Zaidee shows some propensities to enable, and she falls apart when someone is upset with her.
That’s when I remembered Welch’s book. I’ve been reading it out loud to both of my daughters—an evening here, an evening there. For me, it’s been such a wonderful bonding time with my girls. I wish I could say the same for them. I have to force them to stop their more important activities to gather in my little Byrdies. But then we cuddle as I read, and the many questions in the book direct our conversations.
The chapters are super-short, making this book ideal for reading aloud to a younger audience. The principles in it are perfect for middle/high school students. The three basic questions that direct the book are:
Who is God?
Who am I?
Who are they?
The first section of What Do You Think of Me? explains our propensity to worship. The problem is that we are worshipping the wrong thing. Welch explains how we seem to be like empty cups, looking to other people to be filled. Encouraging us to take a good look at ourselves, we learn how we are motivated by fear, and how we are controlled by what we fear. He then introduces that right kind of fear for God. Welch has a great way of pointing to Scripture and showing how this matters to the self-consumed, younger crowd. He asks challenging questions along the way. Ultimately, he shows that “When you trust in Jesus rather than your reputation, and you follow him in love and obedience, even when it hurts, then you are truly worshipping” (44).
Welch then has a section for each one of the above questions. I find this format very helpful. With chapters that take the reader to God’s word, these three questions become a discernment tool to put your emotions in check. There’s some great one-liners in the book as well. To introduce the Who Is God? Section, he advises, “When you want to find out how you’ve gotten into a problem, it’s best to start by looking at yourself. When you want to find a way out, it’s best to start with God” (61). Isn’t that a great principle to memorize when it comes to counseling your kids? Or yourself?
And that’s just it. The book was written for too young of an audience for me to stomach reading on my own. But I love reading it with my girls (and a curious 8-year-old boy building with Legos nearby). They act annoyed when I summons them for “reading time,” but 30 seconds into it they are interrupting me with examples.
I’m not going to kid myself or you by thinking Zaidee is now going to be the master of 5th grade drama. But now she has a toolbox of biblical principles to unscrew each situation with. And since I read it with her, I have some familiar terms and questions I can remind her with in counsel. This will be ongoing, and Welch’s three questions serve as a great guide for us to navigate through our relationships with God and one another.
One more quick note. Like I said, the book is written for a 15-25 year-old audience. There are some references to sex in the book, so I do not want to advise any of my readers to go ahead and read this to your 11-year-old without that disclaimer. But, I will say that I think it is better fitted for ages 11-17. And after reading it with the girls, I am looking forward to getting When People Are Big and God is Small For myself.