I have an embarrassing confession to make: I do judge books by their covers. It turns out I kind of like pretty ones. But I’m not particularly proud of that fact. So when, right at the beginning of quarantine, I unexpectedly received a package in the mail containing a lovely, artistic book, I was both delighted and skeptical. Delighted by the beautiful hardcover with whimsical watercolor flowers and small creatures, the shiny gold lettering, and the attached ribbon bookmark (does anyone else get excited about those guys?). Skeptical because the plain and simple Mennonite in me doubted that such a pretty thing could really have much substance. But I’ll be honest, the delight far outweighed the skepticism. So the next morning I eagerly settled in with a cup of coffee and my new book, ready to find out if its beauty was only skin deep. I was pleasantly surprised.
Beholding and Becoming by Ruth Chou Simons is about becoming more like Christ by dwelling on God’s character and work reflected in the “mundane” moments of our lives. The premise of the book is based on the quote by poet William Blake, “We become what we behold,” as well as the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
“We become what we behold when we set our hearts and minds on Christ and His redemption story here in the details of our daily lives.” Simons encourages readers to direct their hearts and their worship toward God in the small everyday moments.
Simons starts with a short introduction to “the art of everyday worship,” as she calls it. She establishes that humans will worship something; it is just a question of what we will worship. She talks about the many things that compete for our attention and, ultimately, our worship and closes with an invitation to be transformed into God’s likeness through relationship with and worship of Him.
The body of this book is divided into sixteen chapters, and each chapter is divided into two sections, a Beholding section and a Becoming section (surprise). The Beholding portion of each chapter looks at who God is and how we see Him reflected in the everyday. The Becoming portion then talks about how this knowledge shapes our hearts and leads us to reflect and glorify Him. The chapters include topics such as creation, family, abundance, our eternal home, God’s faithfulness, and God’s mercy.
Beholding and Becoming begins with a glossary about the artwork in the book. Simons created all the artwork herself and in the glossary she explains the symbolism behind the different images she uses in her paintings. I really liked that she included this in the book. It was interesting to read how she sees the character of God and the truth of His Word reflected in His creation. I felt like this gave some depth and meaning to the artwork and helped me understand her style and her intent.
This book is laden with beautiful watercolor paintings. I think every page has at least a little bit of color. Since I still haven’t outgrown picture books, this worked really well for me. Every time I turned a page I was excited to see what lovely thing would appear. I actually made a rule that I wasn’t allowed to flip through the book or look ahead, so every page was a surprise. That might be a little excessive, and you can definitely just read the book like a normal person, but I had a good time. What can I say, I love a good adrenaline rush.
Some pages just have bits of flowers or something in the corner, some are paintings of verses, hymns, or quotes, and some are just pictures. I enjoyed them all. Every chapter also has a two-page painting that includes practical ways to apply the teaching of that chapter. I didn’t really make a point of doing those, but they were still fun to read.
I chose to use Beholding and Becoming as a devotional book, so I read a section of a chapter each day. For continuity’s sake it would probably be better to read both sections of the chapter at a time, but I had quarantine stretching ahead of me and I was trying to make the book last as long as possible. Regardless, I really enjoyed starting the day with this book directing me toward worship. It pairs well with a cup of coffee and a soft blanket or sunshine and a hammock chair, but it’s not limited to these options.
Despite its trendy watercolor florals and calligraphy, I was surprised by the content of this book. As I mentioned earlier, I was suspicious that a book so eye-catching would just be a bit of fluff, somewhat lacking in depth and truth. But I was pleasantly surprised by the author’s focus on God and use of Scripture. It wasn’t just a feel good book about who I am or how I should live; it taught me about God. Obviously it’s not some big heavy theological work, but it was insightful, accessible, and enjoyable.
Before I close, I should apologize to any male readers. This book is decidedly feminine, and I’m sorry if you feel left out. But don’t disregard this whole review, because this book makes a great gift. It was gifted to me by a dear friend, and that only increased its value to me. So go ahead and give a copy to your mom, sister, or special someone. Because what woman wouldn’t like receiving a pretty book with a ribbon bookmark?
Joking aside, I really enjoyed this book. The whole quarantine thing was a really good time of slowing down and turning my attention toward God and my relationship with Him, and this book was part of that. It helped me see God reflected both in the activity of life and in the beauty of His creation. But whether you read this book or not, I hope that you continue to see God revealed through His Word, His work, and His creation, and that your heart is drawn to worship Him.
Carmen Yoder lives in New Paris, Indiana. She works part-time at a cafe, where she enjoys making messes (which she cleans) and chatting with “the regulars.” Her spare time is usually spent reading, entertaining her siblings, adventuring, drinking coffee, or criticizing [she means proofreading] Radi-Call articles. She loves beauty, especially that of God’s creation, different cultures, fellowship, music, and laughter. She desires to live life to the fullest and serve God in any way He calls her.
- Simons, Ruth Chou. Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship. Harvest House Publishers, 2019.
- The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007.