Monday, June 15, 2020

"Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack" - Alia Joy

I'm about seven months away from having had my latest limb amputation.

I know that's a weird thing to say, but it's true. I'm a paraplegic, double-amputee (left leg, above knee; right leg, below knee) with spina bifida. I've had well over 50 surgeries, though until my most recent amputation I'd been relatively stable for most of the past 30 years.

I'm a sexual abuse survivor, both as a child and an adult, and have had a few other significant life traumas along the way including the death by suicide of my wife and subsequent death of our newborn daughter.

The truth is that I've felt called into ministry for years, but it seems like my body has never really cooperated with the journey. Sometimes, I just plain struggle with performance expectations including mine and everyone else's. Other times, it's a matter of having a body that sometimes just can't keep up.

Sometimes, I think it's the fact that I have a body that really does require the presence of others and this seems so different from everyone else who ministers. They're strong. I'm weak.

Sometimes, it's just the fact that my traumatic background gets in the way. I've had ministry positions, but it just feels different.

All this to really say that I loved "Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack," an exploration what it truly means to show up for God "as is" and to give what we are to God rather than what we tend to think God wants from us.

Alia Joy is an Asian-American blogger/writer who lives into her honesty with a refreshing, almost unfathomable transparency and vulnerability. Raised on a mission field in Nepal, she was diagnosed with childhood leukemia and quickly transferred to Holland for treatment. With her family returning home to Hawaii, they lived in poverty and without needed supports from their church.

In "Glorious Weakness," she talks about growing up believing she'd destroyed her family's ministry. She talks about sexual abuse and bipolar disorder and chronic illness and body image and marriage and parenting and suicidal ideation.

She talks about it all. Yet, "Glorious Weakness" is, indeed, a rather glorious book and most certainly not a downer of one. In "Glorious Weakness," Joy talks about the God who wants the broken and the grieving and the uncertain and the wounded. "Glorious Weakness" explores lament in such a raw, honest way that it's remarkable and truly rare among Christian writers. It explores loss and grief and vulnerability and truth and intimacy with boldness that is simply astounding.

Oh sure, I definitely cried during "Glorious Weakness." Heck, that happened within the book's first three pages or so. But mostly, I felt like I'd found a kindred spirit who realized that she had a place with God and it didn't involve the images of ministry that we all too often see in the world but the miracle of showing up, living, making space, and opening oneself up in such a way that others feel free to do the very same.

In some ways, "Glorious Weakness" feels like one gigantic essay because it feels like Joy simply poured out her heart and mind and soul.

If so, it's amazing.

The truth is that I've been sitting around grieving a body that has needed more help and a lack of clarity regarding ministry, but "Glorious Weakness" opened up something inside me and I find myself moving ever so gently toward this idea that perhaps, just perhaps, I can be both "significantly disabled" and still serve God gloriously. While my mind had already been entertaining such a thought, "Glorious Weakness" lives into it so beautifully and gives such an idea space to grow and permission to blossom.

Both theologically based and biographical, "Glorious Weakness" is inspirational and perspirational. It's a book that will give you space to bring forth your hurts, uncertainties, scars, wounds, vulnerabilities, and so much more.

An ideal book for a Christian on a healing journey, living with chronic illness, or dealing with trauma issues, "Glorious Weakness" will soothe, challenge, inspire, and affirm.

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