When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd

Book Review
Title: When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: HarperOne
Released: 1990
Pages: 240
ISBN-10: 0060645873
ISBN-13: 978-0060645878
Stars: 3.0

The reason I read this book is because it was the first book put forth for a book study hosted by Marilyn Shannon at Purple Door Metaphysical Books & Gifts. A group of seven women met on Tuesday, March 2nd to discuss the first chapter of the book and what we thought of it. We were surprised to find that it stirred some powerful and painful emotions in most, if not all of us. We are all middle-aged women who are spiritual seekers and felt that the book would be a provocative read, not to mention we liked the idea of fellowship via book club. We meet again on April 6th to discuss the book after we read it all.

I have been aware of how my emotions bounced between interest and boredom, and resonance and rejection while I was reading When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd, author of the bestselling Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. Sue Monk Kidd is a Christian and writes from the perspective of a Christian intellectual. She has quoted many spiritual, philosophical and poetic masters in this book including Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, T.S. Eliot, Rainer Maria Rilke, Carl Jung, Sören Kierkegaard, Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen.

When the Heart Waits is laden with metaphor; the main one being that of a caterpillar who has woven its chrysalis in order to settle into a period of metamorphosis, and at the end of its period of waiting is transformed into a butterfly that must unfurl its new wings and learn to fly. And so it is for us during our “dark night of the soul.”

I have read many books with a similar theme and others, such as Revolution From Within by Gloria Steinem and The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle have resonated with me much more than Kidd’s book but that’s not to say that it wasn’t a much needed reminder for me of what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience.

Kidd divides When the Heart Waits into four parts: Waiting and Transformation; Passage to Separation; Passage of Transformation; and Passage of Emergence; and also includes Leader’s Guide Questions/activities for each section which is why this is a good choice for a book club. While some of the questions are very good and definitely give the reader much food for thought, many entries are requesting that we read Bible passages and if you’re not a Christian, like me, this won’t be something that will interest you.

According to Sue Monk Kidd:

“When change-winds swirl through our lives, especially at midlife, they often call us to undertake a new passage of the spiritual journey: that of confronting the lost and counterfeit places within us and releasing our deeper, innermost self – our true self. They call us to come home to ourselves, to become who we really are.”

When the Heart Waits didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know, but if you haven’t read many spiritual self-help books, and you are a Christian, it would be a very good choice to read. This book is about the spiritual pilgrimage we make and how we can choose to cope with the waiting period that we have to be still within before a veil of realization is lifted from our eyes and we start the transformation process that will ultimately lead us to become happier and more fulfilled human beings. The transformation process can only be achieved by taking the long way round or in other words, spiritual evolution is not for the faint of heart and soul! We must gather up and embrace our collective wounds and give thanks to our Higher Power for the pain.

It has been rather synchronistic that I read this book while convalescing after a short hospitalization for a severe muscle spasm in my lower back which left me in excruciating pain for days and dependent on Percocet for relief. I haven’t been able to do much of anything but read for the past week so I was able to finish this book quite quickly and it did make me think about how far I have to go to rise above my own misery and find the pearl in my pain. Kidd reflects significantly on the fact that the paradox is that we achieve our deepest progress while standing still. The “three distinct phases that need to be maneuvered: separation, transformation, and emergence.”

I enjoyed learning more about the teachings of Meister Eckhart in particular and that he believed that “God is in the soul” and that the soul isn’t God, but rather “the holy soil in which the divine life of God is planted for us to cultivate and experience” and that he “was adamant that compassion was the aim of all spiritual growth.” I also appreciated Kidd’s interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot because I feel very similar at present:

“Was I waiting for Godot? As the months of my waiting unfolded, I sometimes felt like Vladimir and Estragon at the side of the road, caught in futility, unable to see beyond the darkness, unable to trust that just over the next hill God was coming.”

Did I feel better after having read When the Heart Waits? Not a lot, but then again, I’m still struggling with my egocentric ego, alone in my cocoon, and am trying to love myself just the way I am…whether I become a butterfly or die a sleeping caterpillar. If I only knew how to LET GO and have the courage to simply be. The fact that one of my major issues in life is that of trust and faith is probably what hinders me if it is true that the principle of daily trust is in the experience of waiting. It’s a good thing that I’m a patient person.