Who Has Your Heart? by Emily Ryan is a book written for single women on how to practically live a godly life, using the story of Jephtha's daughter in Judges 11. Jephtha vows to God that the first thing to come out of his house when he returns from war will be given to God as a burnt sacrifice. Sadly, the first to greet him is his daughter. Taking the point of view that Jephtha's daughter's sacrifice is figurative (instead of being physically killed as a sacrifice she remains a virgin her entire life) Emily Ryan uses this young woman's journey as an example for how single women should live their life.
What I Liked
I loved Emily Ryan's honesty. I loved how she describes
the story of Ruth in the Bible. "...Not to sound bitter, but I haven't even had one chance at love and marriage, and this lady gets two!" (29). Because frankly, though Ruth has a beautiful story that points us to Christ, our kinsman redeemer, I have often felt the same way. Also, I loved her honesty in the personal story she shared about her sister marrying before her.
Finally, I loved her conversational writing style. I felt like she was an older sister talking to me, sharing her story, and trying to help me with mine. Not preachy, but loving. Not judging, but accepting.
What I Didn't Like
Emily Ryan says in her book that as a single woman, she was looking for a role modal in the Bible, but everyone was married except Jephtha's daughter, so this young woman became Emily Ryan's inspiration. But what about Jesus? Isn't Jesus our standard, our perfect example, and our Savior? Why did she pick Jephtha's daughter who is mentioned in only one chapter of Judges when she could have picked Jesus, the theme of the entire Bible? I understand the desire for a female Biblical role model, which might be the reason why Emily Ryan chose Jephtha's daughter, but Jesus made us and died for us. I think He is more than capable of understanding women and He is everything we need. Jesus also remained single for his entire life, making Him, in my mind, the perfect role modal for a single woman as well as the perfect model for anything else in my life I will face.
Also, the book goes through Jephtha's daughter's story, each verse and aspect of her character taken as a principle of how single women should live their lives. I agree with the principles Emily Ryan is teaching and did learn from them, but it was a huge stretch relating it so closely to Jephtha's daughter's story.
For example, the Bible says in Judges 11:34, "Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and dances" (ESV). Emily Ryan notes that "Jephtha's daughter knew her identity. She was a tambourine player. And because she knew who she was, she also knew what she was to do" (50). The takeaway for us here is that just as Jephtha's daughter was a tambourine player and therefore played the tambourine, we need to know who we are as women (single) and know what we are supposed to do instead of chasing after things that are not ours (marriage at least right now). A good lesson, but one that was lost on me because of the message taken from one verse in the Bible that may or may not have been its' purpose.
In conclusion, Who Has Your Heart? was a good read and not a heretical book. I don't regret reading it and was encouraged to know that my thoughts are not that different from other single women. But I would not recommend this book to others. There are many other books about singleness available that have the good things Emily Ryan shared without taking Bible verses and stories out of context and are also more rich in theology and truth.
This post first appeared on my other blog, The Truth in Sea Glass on January 5, 2015.