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Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
by Peter Scazzero
Peabody, MA: Zondervan, 2014
240 pages
Reviewed by Stephanie Bussey-Spencer Patton

The author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero, notes that many sincere followers of Jesus Christ have dropped out of their religious institution, others have become inactive, and a number have simply given up being Christian entirely. Scazzero attributes these realities to the idea that these Christians have not been taught how to grow up emotionally and spiritually.

For Scazzero, the antidote to emotionally unhealthy spirituality is the unleashing of the transformative power of Jesus to heal our spiritual lives in the joining of emotional health and contemplative spirituality. In doing so, Christians can fulfill the goal of the Christian life “to love well.” Emotional health gives us the ability to gain a small glimpse into “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to [experientially] know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:14-21, NIV).  The contemplative tradition moves us to a more mature relationship with God.

Most Christians, according to Scazzero, do not think they have permission to consider their feelings, to name them, or to express them openly. We are made in God’s image, in God’s likeness, affirms Scazzero. Part of that likeness is to feel. Our feelings are a part of the way God communicates with us. Thus, one of our greatest obstacles to knowing God is our own lack of self-knowledge, our clinging to our false selves.

True spirituality frees us to live joyfully in the present. However, it often takes a crisis to get someone to move in this direction and examine his or her brokenness. Scazzero labels this part of the journey “the Wall.” The Wall is a significant level of brokenness that presents in a particular crisis such as a divorce, death, or other great loss. The central message of coming through “the Wall” and of Christ, himself, is that suffering and death bring resurrection and transformation.

The last chapters of Scazzero’s book address praying in the office and the importance of developing a “Rule of Life” for oneself and one’s community. In developing a Rule of Life, Scazzero cautions that God has a different path for each of us.

Scazzaro is a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, however, transcends the realities of the evangelical Christian and speaks truth to Christians of all traditions. The difficulties of claiming one’s emotions, hitting the Wall, and developing a Rule of Life belong to all Christians.

Some may find Scazzero’s insights regarding emotional health obvious. Others may be inspired by the same insights. Scazzero’s delight in the contemplative tradition, while contagious, may seem old hat to some readers. However, for spiritual directors and spiritual directees, the average Christian in the pew, and many leaders in church ministry, the book will be insightful and inspiring.

Stephanie Bussey-Spencer Patton completed her diploma in spiritual direction at San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, California, USA. She has served almost thirty years as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and currently pastors a small congregation in Oakland, Tennessee, USA, and offers spiritual direction at First Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

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