The Woman They Wanted

Shattering the Illusion of the Good Christian Wife

The Woman They Wanted

Shattering the Illusion of the Good Christian Wife

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"No one is coming to rescue me. I am going to have to rescue me."

As a twenty-three-year-old singer and the soon-to-be wife of youth pastor Joshua Harris, nothing in Shannon Harris's secular upbringing prepared her to enter the world of conservative Christianity. Soon Joshua's bestselling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye helped inspire a national purity movement, and Shannon's identity became "pastor's wife."

The Woman They Wanted recounts Shannon's remarkable experience inside Big Church--where she was asked to live within a narrow definition of womanhood for almost two decades--and her subsequent journey out of that world and into a more authentic version of herself. Entering conservative American Christianity was like being drawn out to sea, she writes, inexorable and all consuming. Slowly, her worldview was narrowed, her motivations questioned, her behavior examined, until she had been whittled down to an idealized version of femininity envisioned as an extension of her husband and the church. This decidedly patriarchal world, perpetuated even by the other women, began to feel like a slow death. However, when Sovereign Grace Ministries fell apart due to leadership conflicts and Shannon found herself outside church circles for the first time in years, she heard her intuition calling to her again. As she began to shake off the fog of depression and confusion, that voice grew louder. In honoring it, she awakened to the realities in which she had been trapped and found her truest self.

Singular and compelling, The Woman They Wanted will inspire women looking to reestablish connection with themselves, their inner wisdom, and their purpose.


"Shannon's story will captivate you. Her brave, brilliant, and beautiful narrative smashes the myth of biblical womanhood, and her courage will help women trapped in purity culture find hope for a better life."

Beth Allison Barr, James Vardaman Professor of History at Baylor University and author of The Making of Biblical Womanhood

"In silken prose and boundary-shattering perceptions, Shannon Harris tells her story of ascending, alongside her famous husband, to the heights of the Evangelical world only to learn--slowly, painfully, honestly, triumphantly--that who she was had gotten lost. The Woman They Wanted will become the vanguard of a new movement of women rediscovering themselves, their dreams, and their futures. This book will grieve you, anger you, and inspire you. In one word: stunning. I could not put this book down."

Scot McKnight, author of A Church Called Tov and The Jesus Creed

"For anyone who has felt limited by the pressures to conform and self-sacrifice for someone else's ideals, may you find solidarity in the pages of this book. Shannon's story is one of liberation and courage, of casting aside the expectations built by a church culture intertwined with patriarchy, power, and control. Most importantly, this book is about finding your voice again. May Shannon's story of courage call forth the brave within you as well."

Tara Teng, author of Your Body Is a Revolution

"The title says it all: The Woman They Wanted. This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and get a glimpse into the life of women in the church, and especially those who are married to the leadership. I couldn't put it down because Shannon's story is so honestly and poetically written as she shares how she had to be what they wanted rather than who she actually is."

David Hayward, artist behind the @NakedPastor and author of Flip It Like This!

"The Woman They Wanted reveals the dark underbelly of how evangelicalism views women and its degrading efforts to silence, shame, and mold women into submissive, oppressed shells of themselves--all billed as 'God's plan.' In her own story of healing from high-control religion, Harris shares her journey of picking up the pieces that were discarded in favor of becoming a 'good woman' and finding peace and wholeness within herself."

Laura Anderson, founder of the Center for Trauma Resolution and Recovery

"So many women know what it's like to play the part of the 'good woman' while slowly losing their sparkle and soul. Shannon has so much sparkle and soul, and her story of spending decades being 'the woman they wanted' and of how she found her way back to her authentic self will be a catalyst for many other women to say YES to their own journey of freedom. If you grew up in the church and never felt permission to be the woman you wanted to be, read this book!"

Morgan Day Cecil, creator of the Feminine Wholeness® Method


"Stunning memoir...A forthright voice fresh from a devastating church experience."


Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506483160
  • eBook ISBN 9781506483177
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 244
  • Publication Date August 29, 2023