Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are
by Robin Jones Gunn
What does every young woman struggle with?
Her identity and self-worth.
I believe this because, ever since the first Christy Miller novel released 25 years ago, I have received thousands of heartfelt letters from readers around the world. A consistent theme is the ongoing struggle for these young women to believe they are of great worth to God. They tell me how they look to the characters in the novels as their role models, since they have so few real life examples to help them feel comfortable and confident with the way God made them.
Alyssa Joy Bethke, my co-author of Spoken For, was one of these teen girls. She grew up reading Christy Miller books and struggled with her identity. Alyssa never wrote me a letter, but she did read through almost every book I’ve written and viewed them as discipleship tools.
We met in an unexpected way almost five years ago when my husband and I were visiting friends on Maui. Alyssa was serving as a youth intern at a large church, and when we walked into the office, Alyssa recognized me. She tearfully told me how God had used the Christy Miller books in her life, and soon we were both crying and laughing at how sweet it was that the Lord arranged for us to meet before heaven. We snapped a photo, hugged and said good-bye, never expecting to see each other again.
God had a different plan in mind.
Two months later, my husband and I were living on Maui. That was definitely unexpected! Alyssa helped us move in, and we started spending time together. She was in my office one morning and saw a binder on the bookshelf with the title “Spoken For” on the spine. When she asked about it, I told her it was a book about our identity in Christ that I’d started in 2008 but had put aside because something was missing. We talked about the importance of understanding the price Christ paid to set us free and what it looked like to live inside that freedom. Alyssa opened up and shared with me the struggles she’d gone through as a teen. A few weeks later, she and I hosted a special “China Plate” party for the teen girls at church because we wanted to help them see how they were set apart and of great value to the Lord.
Alyssa and I continued to share lots of treasured conversations, and a natural mentoring relationship developed between us. When her internship ended, Alyssa returned to Seattle and hoped to work on writing some Bible study material for teen girls. I wrote a sweet and silly poem for Alyssa based on an outrigger canoe ride we’d shared on a glorious Maui morning. We were still knit together even though many miles and lots of deep, blue sea separated us.
A few weeks after Jeff and Alyssa were married, I came across the Spoken For binder while cleaning out my overloaded bookshelf. A precise thought came to me—Alyssa and I should write this book together. The missing part was the young voice and passionate stories that Alyssa could add to the ancient truths I’d pulled from Scripture when I first started the book. I called Alyssa and I think she said, “yes!” before I’d even finished my question. The Lord had been stirring her heart in the same way at the same time, and we knew we needed to get to work.
What Alyssa and I have prayed over the last 18 months as we’ve worked on Spoken For is that the truths in this book will go deep into the hearts of readers. We desire that this next generation of young women would come to understand how deeply they are loved by God and how they were created to experience a growing, intimate relationship with Him. They are not up for grabs. They were bought at a great price. They are spoken for.