As I turned the last page of Jo Saxton’s The Dream of You, I was filled with sadness that it was over, but an overwhelming thrill of what was coming next began to bubble up. This book is an incredible journey through the life of Jo Saxton. There are breathtaking highs, heart-wrenching lows, and melancholy middles. Through her experience, I got to see an unearthing of self, a growing into something beautiful, and an abandoning of old, damaging identities.
In the early pages of the book, she walks the reader through the loss of self. How we manage to slowly let our identities disappear and be reshaped by our lives and the situations that happen to us. We lose grip on who we are, and as our hands unfold, we become someone else. We begin to take hold of ideas and ways of living that are actually completely contradictory to who we were made to be. This is such a shame because who we were designed to be is an incredible testament to our Maker. When we let life snuff out our light, we are slowly allowing darkness to take greater root in the world. God needs us to be us; otherwise, His creativity gets camouflaged in mediocre beige-colored glasses.
Saxton describes it this way, “Instead of the life we were designed for, we live the life we think we can get away with. Or more accurately, the life we feel can avoid more silencing. We call it safe, but in reality, it’s a denial of who we are.” She continues on to lay a foundation of understanding how losing our identities is really the beginning of setting the stage for not living fully, of losing our passion and drive, of becoming lackluster silhouettes instead of bold and beautiful wonders. She then begins to build on that foundation with the truth of who we were originally, and it’s absolutely powerful in all its honest challenge.
Each chapter begins with a personal letter. These letters are windows into her heart for the reader and pave the way for the reader to take in each chapter’s content. She’s witty and funny while being honest and direct. Her writing is very conversational and is written with an abundance of freedom and joy. Each chapter ends with reflection. There are prompts on the last page and space for you to write out thoughts about the topic—how it stirred you or something you want to explore. I found this space very helpful and even wrote a prayer or two while I was reading. I love when books give you space to just sit in them. To dwell on the goodness found on the pages and mull over the golden nuggets. It gives you time to digest what you just read rather than simply gloss over it. Thanks, Jo.
Although there are loads of amazing life stories, the book is not simply a retelling of her life. Saxton uses those events to dig deep into the character of God and how He has created us. She is very good about speaking to the heart in a way that opens it up to receive sound biblical teachings and truths. For instance, she says:
You’ve been adopted into God’s family. His choice of you for adoption is permanent; you will never be disowned or rejected. Your past—old names, old debts, old story, old history—is not only old but it’s over. He has paid the full price. In your former life, you may have been owned by destructive patterns and relationships, by hurts, habits, and hang-ups, by the insecurity of finding your way in the world. But now you are fathered. The things that once defined you don’t have to shape you forever. He transforms your entire life.
The book is filled with personal sadness that shifts to brilliant triumph. You see abandonment and loss, bullying, conformity, and a complex identity get covered up and hushed away and then re-emerge through a stretching and toiling journey in a new land. There is disappointment, and there is loneliness but also a remembering of family and a closeness that’s formed with new friends. Not every circumstance is immediately redeemed, which is so true to life, but in time, they come together to paint a picture that is an overall redemptive joy-filled landscape.
It’s an honest, life-giving, restoring, triumphal message that hits home and brings a rebirth to the hidden and forgotten places. I highly recommend it.
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