Sunday, April 26, 2020

Christ Over the Coronavirus City Notes '20 | Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack

"We are called to a ministry of weakness. We cannot know grace without it." + Alia Joy

I'm not sure I could have thought of a better combination of books to anchor me into the grace of God and Christ over the coronavirus than Puerto Rican-American author Marlena Graves'  A Beautiful Disaster and Asian-American author Alia Joy's Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack. This book continues to be a balm I return to as I live in my own sense of weakness, some of which I touched on this past weekend:

FB Live Video | Wise and Wild with Christ and the Cross (or "How Does the Cross Make the Change?")

I'll simply introduce Alia by sharing the bio on the back of her book and then we'll dive in:

Alia Joy is a ragamuffin storyteller who has become a trusted voice in conversations around mental and physical illness, abuse, race, embodiment, poverty, and staying fluent in the language of hope. Alia lives in Oregon with her family where she abides in both weakness and joy.

"Introduction" excerpt adapted from Alia Joy's Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack

With Alia, experience the Christ who is and always will be Emmanuel, God with us, the God who bends low in our suffering and whispers, "I'm so sorry." + Seth Haines, author of Coming Clean: A Story of Faith

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Every weakness contains within itself a strength. + Shusako Endo

I've come close to death many times, first with childhood leukemia, but then many more times with chronic and mental illnesses. I've been sick for much of my life. I have bipolar disorder, which, in itself, is often fatal. Something like one in four will lose that battle to suicide. ... I've discovered that the lights have gone out for many of us. You know how, when you close your eyes, for a moment you can still see the outline of what you were looking at as faint orbs? That's how it felt when the light went out for me: I knew the light had mass and form and it was still there, but I couldn't make out anything. It's the smallest hope of light. And it's that hope of light that I want to share. When the whole world goes dark, even the tiniest glimmer shines.

God continually promises beauty from ashes, redemption from our sorrow. ... I will not pretend. I will not mask my weakness, my poverty of spirit, my broken places. I will scratch out a story of hope and glory. An X on the map, a cross to guide our way.

I've written about things like sexual abuse, body image, mental and chronic illness, suicide, doubt, grief, race, poverty, and identity. There's power in truth telling, in resurrecting the sunken things and sifting them, a couple good shakes to get the sand out and let the light back in. ... It's remaining fluent in our language of hope on an expedition that often feels foreign and hostile.

It's my hope you'll discover there are miracles and wonder and grace here, but they're often of the small variety. ... We live most of our lives in the middle spaces. In the here but not yet of Kingdom Come. 

This is about life to death and back again. About finding your way, not always out of the darkness, but through it. About surviving the storms and lashing yourself to the bough that will not break  the cross of Christ. Sometimes trials capsize me, but even in the barrage of waves, tossed to and fro, I know now I have never been unanchored. I am shackled to the grace that lets me breathe under the weight of the tempest. As Charles Spurgeon said, "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages."

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. + Henri J. M. Nouwen

I've lived so much of my life with scarcity a constant companion. Those feelings that God was not going to provide or come through for me is my Achilles' heel. It is my weak spot, the tender area where Jesus asks me to trust him again and again. To walk forward anyway and to believe that in these areas where there never seemed to be enough, he is. 

To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know anything so utterly as when we lack it? + Marilynne Robinson

I am learning that our lack leads to God's abundance. Barren places long to be filled. Sometimes howling at the moon in the wastelands with our fists raised to the heavens is our most honest prayer for Jesus to come down from the high and distance places we've relegated him to and walk with us on scorched and humble feet. Sometimes the holiest ground is the emptiest.

Next post: Christ Over the Coronavirus City Notes '20 | Glorious Weakness: I Am Not Labeled, I Am Named

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Soli Jesu gloria.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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