Randall Payleitner


Book Review #13: You Are What You Love

“What do you want?”—the ultimate question with a less-than-obvious answer—is the first line of this book. And it convicted me all throughout.

I count this as the most important book I’ve read so far this year. Jamie Smith challenges hearts, minds, souls, and predispositions… So much so that he almost caused my note-taking system to break down with all the underlining I did (don’t worry, it still worked).

The answer to “What do you want?” is most often not what we think we want. Here’s the gist of the book from the book: “To recognize the limits of knowledge is not to embrace ignorance. We don’t need less than knowledge; we need more. We need to recognize the power of habit” (6).

He spends much of the book talking through three basics: (1) We are not the summation of our thoughts, (2) We do what we love, and (3) We are what we do. So, in the end, if you follow that math, we are what we love.

The book reads like it sits on the cusp of theory + philosophy, but right before it jumps into the chasm of impracticality Smith deftly brings it back from the brink. The book is endnoted and indexed and yet it is readable and connected to my life on every page—this is rare and commendable.

As I got to the 2/3 mark in the book, I found myself interested and curious, but also wondering what I should do with my newfound perspective. And bang. Chapters 5-6 are all about the liturgies of our homes and the ways we indoctrinate our kids. These two chapters (though necessarily pre-ambled by the first four) are worth double the price of the book. He deals in what makes a real community, how to calibrate our children’s hearts toward things that matter, routines and rituals beset in our home lives, the transformative power of the dinner table, and even how to create “enchanted” (in a non-weird way) households.

We’re entertaining our children to spiritual death! This book is a must-read for anyone invested in the lives of kids and/or any other humans. Go get it.


Pivotal Excerpt:

How can a home be a place to (re)calibrate our hearts? That changes things. It means we should be concerned about the ethos of our households—the unspoken “vibe” carried in our daily rituals. Every household has a “hum,” and that hum has a tune that is attuned to some end, some telos. We need to tune our homes, and thus our hearts, to sing his grace. That tuning requires intentionality with regard to the hum, the constant background noise generated by our routines and rhythms. That background noise is a kind of imaginative wallpaper that influences how we imagine the world, and it can either be a melody that reinforces God’s desires for his creation or it can (often unintentionally) be a background tune that is dissonant with the Lord’s song (127).

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