Kathryn Jean Lopez talks to Danielle Bean, the author of a new book on finding one's self-worth by discovering the truth of God's love.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: The title of your book sounds extremely self-help-y. There are people averse to self-help books who are going to be turned off by the book title. What’s your pitch to them to take another look?
Danielle Bean: I can understand that. Many of us are jaded, and we have become cynical in a world that rejects the truth of our dignity and worth as human beings. But that’s precisely why I wrote this book. So many of us modern women have bought into the notion that life is cheap, and that we are commodities, often only valuable for as long as our sex appeal holds out. But the message of this book is a countercultural one. Not in a schamltzy “Jesus loves you!” kind of way, but that is the truth. Jesus does love you, and you have infinite worth. Many of us are longing to hear that truth in a way that our cynical hearts can believe, and this book is my attempt at doing that.
Lopez: Is the book cover the color of a Tiffany box or bag on purpose?
Bean: Well, I can’t afford to shop there, so I hope not. But I think it’s a fresh and feminine color that appeals to many women. I didn’t want to the cover to have any typical “girliness” to it, because I think we all experience our femininity in different ways. A tea cup and a vase of flowers might not speak to your soul, and I wanted this book’s message to speak to women from all walks of life. So I was happy with just the color and the impact of the words, reminding you of your worth.
Lopez: Is this a book for all or to help women tap into their “feminine genius” in a particular way?
Bean: Though I am big fan of St. John Paul II, I don’t talk about “feminine genius” in the book, because I think that kind of talk can be a turn-off to many women. I am not trying to tell any woman how to be a woman, but I am trying to confirm for women the fact that we are different from men. We have different needs, different capacities, and different strengths and tendencies. God has a unique love for every woman, and that is what I want everyone who reads the book to come away knowing.
Lopez: What does that phrase — feminine genius — that John Paul II popularized actually mean to you in your life?
Bean: In my life personally, “feminine genius” means that my identity as a woman, as a mother (because St. John Paul II reminds us that all women are meant to be mothers in some capacity), is my primary identity. It is the means through which God calls me toward greater holiness, and the way in which he equips me for that calling. I have unique gifts with which I am meant to love and serve the people God has placed in my care. Even though I struggle sometimes in my vocation, even though I have days where I might like to throw it all away and start over, I know that I am made for this. I was built for this job. I am called to serve God and his people through my motherhood.
Lopez: How can you be certain about “How Jesus Feels About You”?
Bean: Well, let’s take a look at the cross if we are unsure; there He is — Jesus, dying and bleeding for love of each of us. That’s a pretty powerful confirmation of how Jesus feels. Choosing death on the cross is not a lukewarm kind of love. Jesus loves us so intensely and without limit that He gave up his life for us. Every time I am tempted to think that God doesn’t care, or to feel unloved, I look at Jesus on the cross. That is real love, poured out for each of us.
Lopez: How do you “Let Him In”? How do you respond to charges that such talk is fantasy?
Bean: God loves us, but He is not a pushy jerk. He gave us free will so that we might choose to love Him and serve Him in response to the love He shows us. He desires a real relationship with each of us. In human relationships, there needs to be give and take, and the active participation of each person, and that’s what God wants from us and for us. We need to open our hearts, just a little bit, to invite Him to become a greater presence in our lives. If you feel that a personal relationship with God is fantasy, I invite you to ask him into your life. Read the Bible, go to Mass, or sit and look at a crucifix. Tell God you want to know Him and open your heart to the ways in which He will answer you.
Lopez: “Even when we don’t know he is with us, Jesus sees our suffering, cares deeply about our well-being, and longs to bring us a message of healing after hurt and life after death.” How can you be so sure?
Bean: I am so sure because Jesus told us that He loves and is with us always. He has counted the hairs on our heads. He knows us in a deep, personal, and intimate way. It can be easy to forget that, and to begin to think of God as a distant “idea” or “being” who is not personally connected to us, but God became a man. He became one of us because He wants that connection with us. A human connection, real one, a deep and personal connection.
Lopez: What does it mean to “find wholeness in Jesus”?
Bean: We aren’t meant to be alone. God made us for communion, with one another, and ultimately with him forever. We all long for and ache for that union with God, even if we don’t know exactly what it is. We might seek wholeness in pleasure, wealth, or human relationships, but in the end end, these things always disappoint us, because we are made for something perfect and eternal. We are made for a lasting love and communion with God. Seeking meaning in work, love, and human relationships can be good, but we need to see these things for what they are — an imperfect mirror of the kind of love and relationship we are meant to have with our Creator.
Lopez: You close the book with “an invitation” and the words: “Now is the time. Come to Jesus, and be loved. You’re worth it!” What would be potential first steps if that sounds remotely appealing?
Bean: Notice Him! Whether Jesus is a foreign concept to you or you think of him as your BFF, recognize Jesus and speak to Him in your heart. You don’t need fancy words or prayers. Just acknowledge the presence of God and sit in that presence in your own heart and mind. Be open to where God might be calling you and how He makes himself known to you. Give yourself the gift of recognizing and investing in the most important relationship of your life. Come to know the real love, peace, and lasting fulfillment that we can only find in Jesus.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?