What I'm Reading: 004 -- Altogether Beautiful

What I’m Reading by Matt Schuler
004: Altogether Beautiful by Heidi Goehmann

There’s a story Heidi Goehmann tells in the introduction of Altogether Beautiful of a discussion that she has with her husband Dave that I think has been had countless times in countless marriages across time. Having been in their house, and shared life with them, I can hear their voices as she writes.

Heidi asked Dave about a new outfit she was wearing, and he looked up from his book, “You look beautiful.” But she dismissed him immediately, saying, “Whatever—you always say that.”

Heidi describes Dave as patient and peace-loving, quick to listen and slow to speak. She says when he does say something, they tend to listen. And it was what came out of his mouth next that etched something into her soul: “That’s it. I’m not telling you you’re beautiful anymore if you aren’t going to believe me.”

You see, there’s a problem which too many of us have, men and women, and Heidi illuminates: “I still believed deep down that I was not worthy of the word: Beautiful.” In some ways, we all look to what we do not have and our longing obscures what we do possess: God’s deep love.

Altogether Beautiful is an eight-week study of The Song of Songs, one of the most beautiful and captivating books in the Bible, but also one of the most confusing. It’s a love story between Solomon and an anonymous Shulammite woman. It’s also a love story between God and us, every single one of us.

“Our heavenly Father sees every part of us as altogether beautiful, a tiny miracle,” says Heidi.  “To Him, we are anything but common.” We’re all individually unique, and don’t have to conform to any worldly standard. Instead, we are called to take care of what we’ve been given. Even as a guy, I struggle with worldly standards as I look around. Athletes, actors, and even regular people at the gym can be intimidating if I’m trying to compare myself to them. Instead, I can focus on God’s love for me and work in the gifts which he has given me.

Solomon, the author of the Song of Songs, was not a perfect dude. He asked God for wisdom, and got even more. But with all of his blessings, he still had considerable struggles with self image, his actions and more. “The good news,” Heidi writes “is that God works in all of it: the good and the bad, our weaknesses and our failures… In our messes and in our strengths, in our discernment and in our struggles, God works out His plans and His story.” This is phenomenal news for people like me, who struggle, who mess up, who fail, who sin. 

We’ll be doing the eight-week study at Holy Cross. If you’re interested in joining it, I encourage you to email my Altogether Beautiful wife, Liz, who will be leading it. You can preorder the book or download the first five days of the study for free by clicking here. You can also watch the book trailer below.

My wife and I wrote an endorsement for the study. I chuckled too when I saw how it was distilled to three words in the promotional material. I copied both below. I hope you’ll join and read the study. I believe you’ll be blessed by it.

Our endorsement: “Heidi Goehmann wants us to see ourselves the way that God sees us. Throughout her book, Altogether Beautiful, she quiets the lies we tell ourselves and the devil whispers in our ears, by clearly showing the depth and breadth of God’s love for us. God’s enamored with us, and wants to be with us, now and forever. Heidi’s book is approachable and engaging, and reading it feels like she’s in the room with us having a conversation about who we really are: His Beloved.”