The summer is in full gear in North Carolina. We are enjoying the sunshine, beach days, and the excitement of children and their play. I’m also taking this summer sabbatical to enjoy the many books that have been arriving in the mail and piling up on my book shelf. I am particularly excited to prioritize this summer’s reading to include books written by or about issues facing women.
Today, I’m completing a book review for my sister and fellow Redbud, Marlene Graves, on the recent release of her book, A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness. You can find out more about Marlena and the book at the official website: http://www.abeautifuldisasterbook.com/
I like the honesty of this book. Marlena shares her heart and experiences about those who have been hurt or spiritually abused in the church. In spite of the failings of people, she clings close to her God and grows more and more in love with his church.
In her young life, Marlena has spent a lot of time in what many would call “the wilderness.” We connected intimately as I shared some of my wilderness experiences a couple years ago. The wilderness or desert experience is normally what spiritual leaders go through when God is preparing them for ministry. Before launching his public ministry, Jesus endured the wilderness and fasted for 40 days as he was tempted by the devil to forfeit his calling to redeem the entire world. Moses and the Israelites traveled in the wilderness for 40 years before God allowed Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land. Many of the prophets of old (Jeremiah, Elijah, and Isaiah particularly come to mind) endured their testing in the wilderness as they continued to serve God and His people. All of the apostles, including Paul, likely endured wilderness moments throughout their lives, and as Marlena reminds us, “the hard truth, then, is this: Everyone who follows Jesus is eventually called into the desert (6).”
Through her intimacy and sharing, Marlena reminds us of the truths that we already know: that we live in a broken world…that sometimes bad things happen to “good” people…that sometimes “good” people hurt other “good” people…and “Yes, God does care about it all.” Because we are all born into a world that is tainted by sin, we will all surely be affected by this contamination. Contrary to the teachings of some, the one thing that we are sure to experience as Christians and disciples of Christ is suffering. In our suffering, Marlena reminds us that we are not without hope. God does not abandon us in our afflictions. In fact, “God uses our interior desert as a radical antidote to our spiritual sickness (8).”
Marlena has been brave when sharing how her own wilderness experiences have shaped her. Additionally, she shares a lot about the spiritual lives of the desert mothers and fathers. The desert fathers and mothers were early Christians who embraced a new form of martyrdom, including the simplicity of solitude, silence, and prayer. They literally went to the wilderness and pitched their tents there because they understood that they could hear God’s voice more clearly when separated from the noise of living in secular culture. Through their example and the character examples of scripture, we learn to grieve, lament, and even find joy in the wilderness. I am thankful that Marlena has written with integrity and boldness about finding hope when life is just hard.
If you like this book, you may also like:
“The Way of the Heart” by Henri Nouwen