All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore

All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir cover imageSummary: A touching, funny, and poignant memoir.

Like many, I have known of Beth Moore for a long time. She was a women’s bible teacher. She is about 15 years older than I am, so she started leading aerobics classes when I was a pre-teen and moved to be a Christian motivational speaker (her description) by the time I was a teen. Her first bible study was published in 1994 (when I was in college), and from the late 1990s until now, she has published a book roughly once a year.

I have read one of her books and parts of another. I appreciate her writing, but I do think that the growth of the past few years addresses some of the concerns I have had with her early work. She is more aware of structural issues and more aware of cultural issues. And frankly, I am more open to her because I have been following her on social media for nearly a decade now and understand her role and perspective more.

I had known for years that Beth Moore was a victim of sexual abuse, even if, before now, she had not told her whole story. The memoir is loosely chronological, but many early chapters focus on her childhood living in an unsafe home. Her father sexually abused her, and her mother suffered a significant breakdown. And there was emotional, if not physical, abuse within the home. Like Julie Andrews’s memoir of her early years, Beth Moore tells the story, an often poignant and tragic story, of growing up with a father as an abuser, but with only enough details to get a sense of the abuse.

This is Beth Moore’s story, but she had the cooperation of her four siblings (one of whom passed away only days ago). Still, both her parents and grandmother, who lived with the family from the start of her parent’s marriage until Beth Moore was in the middle years of high school, have passed away. Later chapters grapple with her parent’s marriage, the emotions around their deaths, and Beth Moore’s internal grappling with forgiveness, accountability, and some sense of understanding about human limitations. One of the book’s themes is that she used to see the world as less nuanced than it is. People are neither wholly good nor wholly evil. There is good and bad within all of us. That does not mean that she condones her father’s sin, but it does mean that she grew to understand that there was more to her father than just his sin against her and against others.

I know more about Beth Moore from Twitter and video clips than her writing. Although I listened to it on audiobook (with her excellent narration), All My Knotted Up Life is very well written. She has a gift of writing with evocative language that draws you in. But you are also drawn in by a lot of humor. Many want to reduce Beth Moore’s ministry to a sort of self-help speaker, but those charges make clear to me that people have not seriously engaged in her work. She talks about learning to study the Bible and some about the mentors that helped her to refine her speaking and writing. But to me, her interviews, many of which I have watched or listened to over the years, shows her deep faith, serious thinking, ability not to take herself too seriously, and how seriously she takes God’s call on her life.

I felt like the middle years, the 15 or so years from when she started doing aerobics until she became more established as a writer, were not as detailed as I would have liked. Not that she owes us more of her story, but that this part of her life feels less clear. Maybe she has written more about this in other books. Part of this is that these years are handled more topically than her early life or the end of the book. She has chapters on her marriage and parenting and the development of her teaching tours, and the tracing of those threads over time meant that this part of her life was less chronologically narrative.

Beth loves her husband, Keith, very much. In an interview with Kate Bowler about the book Kate comments that the Moore’s marriage may be one of the most closely watched marriages in the evangelical world. Part of that is that Keith is not a public figure, so one area that Beth Moore’s opponents have used, is to attack Keith for not “leading the household” or being a weak man. Those are unfair characterizations. At the same time, Keith had a PTSD background (being severely injured in a fire as a young child, along with a brother who died). And he had his own mental health struggles. And several years ago, he got a severe infection that literally took years of treatment. That treatment significantly changed his personality and made the meds that helped with this PTSD and mental health issues not work. He has recovered from those health issues at this point, but in her discussion of family issues, what is clear is the extent that she has been protective of her family is in part a result of the ways that her family needed protection and of the reality of her family being a target because of Beth Moore’s success within the evangelical world.

There is a paywalled interview between Kaitlyn Schiess on the Holy Post Patreon feed where Kaitlyn talks about the role of the celebrity within the Christian evangelical world. Part of the response that echoes what I have heard from Beth Moore in other places is that she does not really like the large crowds that came with her stadium tours. Covid and the response to Beth Moore’s comments about Donald Trump and the resulting backlash that resulted in Moore leaving the SBC world and Lifeway (her publisher and the producers of her stadium tours) may have stopped the large stadium tours. Those may return later, but Moore has talked about how she would prefer smaller conferences and more time with people, closer to her calling.

Of course, the book does deal with Beth Moore’s Twitter presence, her comments on Donald Trump, sexual abuse, racism, and other social justice issues. In some ways, I think these things may be too close to the writing. She and her husband joined a local Anglican Church just over a year ago. Beth Moore is now 65 and likely has many more years of ministry left. But as she describes it, however many years of ministry she has left, it is less than the years of ministry that have already happened.

I look forward to hearing from Christians that are toward the end of their lives because there is a sense of the arc of the Christian life that isn’t possible in memoirs by Christians in their 20s or 30s. I have read many memoirs or autobiographies of Christians written in their 60s-80s. Part of what I think makes for a good memoir is honest grappling with their life. That doesn’t mean that the readers need to read everything. But it does mean that the memoir needs to present more than the good-looking highlight reel or a “look how far I have come” retrospective. An honest grappling with life means that there is enough introspection to see areas where different decisions could have been made. And I want some introspection about both weaknesses and strengths.

All My Knotted-Up Life grapples with her history of abuse and her response to that abuse over time. There are looks at the generational aspects of abuse. There is a lot of discussion of God’s grace to her and her family. That walk with God from seeing the church as a safe place (as opposed to her home) and from her early mystical experience of God’s calling to following the next step that God seemed to be leading her toward is the story of how one woman related to her God. It is not a story of perfection but of how God works with real people. It is, at times, meandering because we are a meandering people.

And, like all good memoirs, it makes me want more. I want to read more of Beth Moore’s writing and see more of her teaching. I look forward to seeing how God continues using her for the rest of her life.

All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

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