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‘Does My Soul Look Big In This?’


The Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestly has written a very clever book. Clever because it hides its erudition, and draws its readers in by an appealing cover and blurb which are surely aimed at women, not specifically Christian, but seekers after the truth. Not Chick-Lit, but Chick-Theology perhaps, or Seeker Theology?

This is understandable, since the author is Dean of Women’s Ministry for the Two Cities Area in the Diocese of London. She talks about some of her concerns here:


 Psychotherapy suffused by God?

But I am not sure whether this book should primarily be categorised as theology at all. It is almost a self-help book on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and reminds me very much of Jung’s ‘Modern Man in Search of a Soul‘ (1933), the book which has influenced me most in this area. And there are elements of Gail Sheehy’s ‘Passages’ (1976). Of course, as there is nothing new under the sun these echoes are not really surprising. The main thing Rosemary Lain-Priestly brings to the discussion is that her work is suffused with the presence of God. The reason I say it is not primarily theology is because the focus is on us as human beings rather than on God. But the way she thinks and writes is God-inspired because God is clearly central to the way she lives and breathes, and hence the way she describes the  life issues that we face.

How Big is your Soul?

I had not previously considered this question and I suppose, if asked, would have said that I thought the size of my soul was fixed, probably at birth, like the rest of me. But the author makes us see this differently:

…in all of our projects and dreams there is the potential to discover the life of God under the skin of the world, pointing to the significance, meaning and purpose of our own lives. When we try to do this consistently throughout the days, months and years, we are increasing in ourselves the capacity to feel and experience God in our bodies, our relationships and in the opportunities of our lives…Mark Oakley has suggested that ‘God is in the world as poetry is in the poem’. (p.53)

A New Friend?

Another reason I describe this as a clever book is that she makes me feel I have found a new friend. She thinks the way I think, rather like a magpie who finds treasure after treasure in poetry and prose, brings them back to the nest, cleans and polishes them, and then re-presents them to her audience. Quotations from the bible bubble up inside her as naturally do quotations from other sources, and she uses them all to make sense of the universe in which she finds herself. As we share the same universe – in all essentials – I don’t think you would have any difficulty in reading her book at one sitting, although various events at home have meant I have been unable to do this.

In reading this, I felt that I was having a conversation over a glass of wine at the kitchen table, with the children safely in bed and a husband away. With no need to hurry, we talked late into the night.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly to all women, of any age, with enquiring minds and a sense of wonder.

What the publisher says:

There are big questions in life that most of us come up against at some stage or other. They may look something like this:

  • Does my life have a point?
  • Do things really have to change?
  • Am I happy enough?
  • Will I ever be ‘in’ with the ‘in crowd’?
  • Where on earth is home?

It’s up to us to choose how we deal with these issues. We can push them away by letting ourselves become so busy and distracted that we drown them out. Or we can face them full on, and start exploring the deepest possibilities of our lives. The latter is what Does My Soul Look Big in This? aims to help us do. Warm and accessible, it’s a book for a generation unafraid to be vulnerable; for people longing for a spirituality that is relevant and real.

SPCK Publishing

6 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

Sounds a good book to read. But just answering the question out of the context of the book, seems a reasonable thing to do.

I believe that our soul is elastic, it can enlarge and shrink, dependant upon how much it’s nourished. By nourishment, I off course, mean spiritual, but spiritual is the whole sphere of our lives. If we look for beauty in creation, in the Arts and in each other, we’ll find it, which I believe will lead us to our creator. Filling the spiritual with overwhelming love of him and the wonders of it all.

But, if we stick to our safe places, never joining in, never participating, never taking that risk, never taking the next step, I believe that the spiritual and our soul can be diminished and shrink.

I just conclude that being open to God and being open to life, allows our spirituality and soul to be enhanced and to grow.

I’m sure that people, who don’t acknowledge God, will say that they can have all of this and more, reliant on their own strength and spirituality – but they miss the element of creation and God’s presence that make it and us complete.

18 April 2012 20:12
Lay Anglicana said...

I think you have understood the basic idea of the book very well.

My idea of the soul as a finite size: I suppose was thinking of it like an organ – it might be shrivelled and barely functioning or it might be plumply pulsating away. But I like the idea of being able to grow it, so that the soul forms a larger and larger part of you.

18 April 2012 20:21
Chris Fewings said...

From your description, I wonder what in the book is specifically aimed at women?

02 October 2012 19:36
Lay Anglicana said...

I am not sure that the book is specifically aimed at women, but the perspective felt very feminine as I read it. There were several sentences where I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what a man would make of this’. Rosemary herself does say it is written from her own perspective, as a wife and mother who also works (she is responsible for women’s ministry in the diocese of London). If you would like to read it and see what you think, I would happily send you my copy?

02 October 2012 19:56
Rosemary Lain-Priestley said...

Hi Chris. I don’t write specifically for women. And I get positive and appreciative feedback from both women and men. I explore questions that most people ask about themselves and their lives. But the ‘hinterland’ that I bring with me – my experiences and perspectives – is inevitably shaped by the fact that I am a woman. So perhaps my examples and illustrations, my take on the ‘human questions’ might resonate more with women than men, and this may be particularly so in some chapters of this latest book. On his blog Nick Baines says, ‘Written by a woman, most illustrations are self-consciously female. But, as a bloke, it is always vital to be compelled (or invited) to look through the lens of someone ‘not like me’. He also says ‘I would commend the book to anyone – it offers a recognition of common experience and invitingly suggests a way of living in and from that experience.’ I hope this helps!

Chris Fewings said...

I wonder if any bishop has written a book review including the observation “written by a man”.

03 October 2012 14:34
02 October 2012 21:40

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