Book Release: 13 Weeks to Love
Jennifer Jill Schwirzer, a Pennsylvania Conference member of the Chestnut Hill church in Philadelphia, wrote 13 Weeks to Love: Allowing Jesus to Heal Your Relationships. She hopes to help readers maximize love in their lives by following Jesus’ teachings. Read our interview with Schwirzer below:
Interview by Dawna-gene Milton
Visitor: Because love is fundamentally the most important thing to humans, how does this book teach us how to live it in the way God intended it for us?
Schwirzer: I show in the book all healthy human relationships must be grounded in divine love. Divine love enables us to love by providing two things: source and structure.
First, God’s love gives us a source of love. Because our source-supply of human affection can run dry, we need power from outside of ourselves to love others. God must soften and change our selfish hearts in order for us to get past the point where love doesn’t feel good anymore. Only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can do that.
Secondly, it gives us a structure of love. God’s Word lays down relationship principles outside of which our human love will dissipate. For instance, sexual love must be kept within God-given boundaries in order to thrive. The Law is really the grand principles of divine love in codified form, so it serves as a guide for healthy, holy relationships. The Law is God saying, “This is how love works.”
Visitor: In this imperfect world you talk about loss of love, why do you think many people forget to seek Jesus when going through the grieving of a breakup?
Schwirzer: We humans have a knack for running from God exactly at the point where we need to be running toward Him. I think shame keeps us running the wrong way. We assume God will shame us, when He is hoping to resolve the shame.
As I developed 13 Weeks to Peace (the prequel to 13 Weeks to Love), we fallen human beings reflexively try to fix ourselves apart from God. The first thing our parents did after falling into sin was to make fig leaf garments. We’ve continued the trend ever since. But any healing journey always begins with surrender to Jesus and His righteousness and power to save.
Visitor: Why do you think people tend to forget that Jesus Himself went through pain just like us?
Schwirzer: I’ve noticed a lot lately that even the most consecrated believers experience a subtle shift in their view of God when they start focusing more on their religious experience than the source of the religion, Jesus. They begin to see God solely in terms of what He expects of them and obsess over whether or not they’re meeting His expectations. We’ve cultivated this largely in Adventism. Such a state of mind effectively blocks out the message of a loving Savior. Our religion becomes about us. We must move the focus back to Jesus and saturate ourselves with revelations of His hesed, His faithful love. He keeps His promises even when we fail to keep ours. A focus on this will, ironically enough, bring about much more faithfulness in us.
Visitor: This book is on relationship health and its prequel was on mental health. How do these topics tie in together?
Schwirzer: I was half way through writing 13 Weeks to Peace when I realized I needed two books, one on individual mental health and one on relationship health. The first book establishes the great controversy theme and that God created us to show forth His true character. The second book shows how that true character of love can be lived out in the practical realm. The heavenly trio of Father, Son and Holy Spirit created us to reflect the love that formed the substance of the Godhead itself. Wow, what a calling! We are literally designed for love. I show this on a biological level, for instance in how a parent’s care of a child literally formats it for relationships. It’s quite thrilling to realize how love-destined we are.
Visitor: 13 Weeks to Love incorporates discussion questions into it. How do you suggest people use these?
Both books make excellent individual journey guides, but they function best as group study guides. People all around the world are using 13 Weeks to Peace in small groups, prayer meetings and Sabbath schools. They just read one chapter a week and then when they meet they use the questions as a discussion guide. The book is also full of worksheets that give extra information and tutorials in various self-help and communication techniques. The books are very hands-on, engaging and practical.