The phone rang, and it was bad timing, but I answered it anyway out of habit. A friend from church was looking for some very specific information, so the call was quick. We accomplished the purpose and the call ended.
But the phone rang again. My friend had heard something in my voice, and she had heard accurately: emotions close to the surface, the sound of a day that had already gone on too long.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I don’t recall the specifics of my lie, but I’m certain the word fine would have figured prominently in it, and so I foolishly squandered the opportunity to admit that I was tired, overwhelmed, and feeling like a failure. I dodged an offer of grace.
Fine is a lie that isolates hearts and drives pain underground, and the soul that is determined to be perceived as fine will never uncover the treasure that is buried in weakness. Alia Joy offers readers the gift of words to put a shovel in their hands as she labors alongside them, patiently excavating the truth that blessing comes with vulnerability. Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack reveals Alia’s own story of poverty and longing and unearths her struggles with bipolar disorder, chronic illness, and faltering faith.
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
As North American Christians, we don’t have a category for struggle that does not go away. We are uncomfortable with the poor, the mentally ill, and the unlovely-unloveables who do not enhance our Instagram stories or look the way they “should” in our pews. Having been sold a narrative that includes gleaming smiles and answers to prayer that arrive just in the nick of time, we need a theology that is formed by Jesus’s teaching in the Beatitudes, for, ironically, poverty of spirit qualifies us for Kingdom living.
“We say God is all we need but we don’t live like it.” (37)
Leaning into our longing, listening to all our souls lack, and putting a name on our need sets the table for true biblical lament. Armed with a theology that accounts for emptiness and ache, we are able to sit with our own faithless flounderings and to speak truth into a friend’s anger or loss without expecting an abracadabra moment. Alia’s writing admits the risk in this, for, it is much easier to pray for the good life and to hang out with those who are living it.
For Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven
Fortunately, Scripture provides solid examples of men and women of great faith who poured out their disappointment with God in no uncertain terms and yet persevered in obedience. Their honesty did not disqualify them from God’s love or His service.
“We are not better Christians when we call the hardest parts of life ‘good.’ But we can learn to call God good in the hardest parts of our lives.” (156)
It is an act of faith to embrace the goodness of God while our story is still unfolding. It is a practice of radical hope to invite others into that unfinished story. As we embrace our own Glorious Weakness, we receive a refresher course in the “phonics of hope.” (196)
And who knows?
With a little practice–and a few more disarming phone calls– even the most stubbornly fine among us might find ourselves speaking fluently about a God who sits with us in our sadness and enters our brokenness.
Together, may we find grace to trust for restoration that comes in ways we cannot prescribe and may not have chosen, but that, nonetheless, reveals God’s great Kingdom here on earth.
Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Bearing witness to the goodness of God in the most unlikely places,
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