Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out

Reviewed by:

Julie-Allyson Ieron, worship minister and author of Don’t Let This Throw You: Last-minute instruction from Christ on thriving in uncertain days (Joy Media, 2020).


Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out


Juanita Campbell Rasmus



InterVarsity Press

Release Date:

September 15, 2020




The year was 1999. Juanita Campbell Rasmus was co-pastor of a growing mega-church, while also a mom of middle-school daughters, a wife, and the head of public relations for a nonprofit. She was putting in 12-hour days consistently, while serving a congregation (St. John’s United Methodist Church in downtown Houston) that was growing exponentially. She never slowed down long enough to self-assess, nor to allow herself to process her own grief from trauma in her inner circle. She squandered all her energies trying to live up to the Proverbs 31 example.

Until the morning that she calls her “crash.” All the un-dealt-with emotions came crashing in around her, and for months she found herself able to do nothing except spend 20 hours a day in bed. In Learning to Be, Juanita writes candidly of her battle with the clinical depression that followed this season of frenetic activity for God and for family. She describes it as “large, strong hands slowly applying pressure to a family-sized package of uncooked spaghetti noodles.”

Using her journey toward restoration as a road map, Juanita offers a prescription for women tempted to measure our value to God by what we do rather than by our deep, abiding relationship with Him. She frees us from the weight of self-imposed and externally imposed expectations. She helps place us on a path toward a true relationship with God based on His love for us, not expectations of us.

She is well into the book before she speaks of how much her heritage in the black community impacted her. In one candid scene about oppression and stuffing emotions, she offers a perspective using an example from the miniseries Roots that will be an eye-opener to those who don’t share her life experience.

Through her engaging writing style Juanita does a good job of capturing and describing the desperation of the depression journey.

Her journey, which does lean on some clichés, is heavily dependent on spiritual disciplines (citing Richard Foster often) and spiritual formation lingo (e.g., Dallas Willard). It is contemplative and psychological (even to the point of quoting Oprah’s pop-psychology), while being grounded in the proven 12-step brand of recovery. She relies heavily on solutions from the mystics (St. John of the Cross and others) and is now a certified spiritual director after spending time at a Catholic spiritual retreat center. She dots the book with phrases like “positive energy” and uses a few flippant swear words.

Readers will appreciate the Pause to Reflect section at the end of each chapter, where the author invites them to join her in applying spiritual disciplines and journaling the experience.

One line that sums up what you can expect is, “In the depth of the darkness I found my being in the presence of God. … It was clear that in the same way the lotus flower blooms in muddy waters, God brought me to life amid the muddiness of my rules, perfectionism, and striving.”



Suggested audience:

Women in leadership of mainline churches, also women of color

Contemplative resource for those who counsel women battling clinical depression

Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out

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