How Stress Can Be a Gift {Book Club}

We are back in Humble Roots today, discussing Chapters 1 and 2. Last week’s discussion on the shepherd’s voice and His love of his sheep paved the way for these two chapters. If we either (a) do not believe God loves us or (b) do not recognize our pride at needing to listen to his voice, we can easily end up where author Hannah Anderson found herself: withering on the vine.

I loved this paragraph early in: “As much as I wanted to create this idyllic version of a place where I could escape the difficulties of the world, it simply wasn’t possible. No place is immune to care or worry. No place untouched by the violence and burden of this life. Seeing the antitank gun reminded me of this and put Jesus’ call to consider the lilies into an entirely different perspective. If Jesus isn’t calling us to escape the cares of this world, what is He calling us to?”

This line also got a star in my notes: “Jesus understood this. He understood that small things can unsettle us more than large things; so when He called the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety—when He calls us to do the same—He does so in context of very mundane, very ordinary concerns.” As she went on to talk about the greatest sermon Jesus gave and the relationship to what we gain by worrying about daily things, I wrote this in the margin. “I just keep thinking Hannah needs a spiritual director.”

Maybe she has one. But I can testify that getting a spiritual director has done more for my spiritual life than I could have anticipated.

Anyone else smile that Chapter 2 began with a  quote from The Secret Garden, our June 2014 book and our discussion of Mary, the main character who was also a TCK? Hannah’s dissatisfaction with Christian truisms, (i.e. “all things work together for good”) rings a chord. I think she would find herself at home here at Velvet Ashes because we tend to lean into the truth and the tension of the truisms.

I loved her discussion of Jesus’ yoke. “Again, Jesus directs their attention back to the natural world; but instead of pointing them to things that do not toil (like the birds or flowers), this time he points them to beasts of burden—the yoked ox.” I had never been able to verbalize my not really identifying with the lilies of the field. I know God takes care of them, and he takes care of me. But. The “but” just hung there, I didn’t know where to go with it, I just knew something was missing. Hannah filled in the “but” — but I am not so much like a flower as I am like an ox. Thankfully, Jesus loves the ox too!

What stood out to you in her discussion of being yoked to unjust masters, the relationship between stress and pride, and Jesus’ invitation to take his yoke?

This section reminded me of our discussion—albeit in November of 2015, so a while ago—of  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. Especially the chapter on “Enlarge your soul through grief and loss: surrendering to your limits.” (You can read the Book Club post on that chapter here.) It was Scazzero’s work on limits that radically influenced me in my late 30s and I believe made a significantly “lighter” next decade for me. These are not easy or “light” lessons, but as I have leaned more and more into them, they are liberating.

Next week will will read further in Humble Roots and discuss Chapters 3 and 4. I look forward to your thoughts and connections you have made with your life, ministry, and other readings!

Amy

Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:

March 6—The intros to the two books (Wonderment in SD, Sowing Seeds in HR)
March 13—Part 1 (The Good Shepherd) in SD
March 20— Chapters 1 and 2 in HR
March 27—Chapters 3 and 4 in HR
April 3—Part 3 (Land of Milk and Honey) in SD
April 10—Chapters 5 and 6 in HR
April 17—Part 4 (The Vine) in SD (Retreat this weekend!)
April 24—Last week was retreat so to have time to focus on the retreat, no extra reading his week. We will have a Get to Know and get back to reading this week. Also, I will announce the summer reading!
May 1—Chapter 7 in HR
May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know 

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

11 Comments

  1. Spring March 20, 2018

    I really liked her comparison to children’s Sunday school. I have a kid in my class who always answers “Jesus” when asked a question. I felt this too as an adult when struggles happened. God works for my good, but how? And no one wants to acknowledge that this working is often painful. It truly is a reliance on Him that brings us to humility and wholeness.

    I love the idea of exchanging an unpleasant often self imposed yoke for his.

    1. Amy Young March 23, 2018

      Spring, you raise such a good point –the idea/truth that “God works for our good” is true, but mysterious. And points to how limited (different?) my idea of “good” is :)!!!

  2. Paola March 20, 2018

    This book comes comes very timely in this season of my life. I often forget how well the Father knows me. In a time of increased sensitivity to the needs of other and an increased desire to share Christ with people, I also find myself thinking that the need is overwhelming. I try to do it all and I end up sacrificing areas as vital as eating enough meals a day! It was eye-opening to read that His call to take upon His yoke and submit to Him is a calm to rest and protection. I can’t do it all and I don’t have to. He doesn’t need me, but He wants me to walk close to Him so He can give me rest.

    1. Amy Young March 23, 2018

      Paola, oh these lesson are so necessary for all of us, aren’t they? But if/when we get them, how life giving! And they truly are life lessons, we visit them again and again 🙂

  3. Anna March 21, 2018

    I liked the Willa Cather quote that she used at the beginning of chapter 1. “The kind of life that makes one feel empty and shallow and superficial, that makes one dread to read and dread to think, can’t be good for one, can it? It can’t be the kind of life one was meant to live.” So true! While we sometimes need breaks from our lives, we should really be building sustainability into our lives. It’s too easy to see ALL THE NEEDS, and never want to stop. And then we can do as the author did and perseverate on the unmet needs, or the things we did imperfectly, or the people we have disappointed.

    I also really resonated with the paragraph you quoted above about the impossibility of creating an idyllic life or place. “No place untouched by the violence or burden of this life.” The places to which God calls us are so often broken places with difficult circumstances. It always helps me to remember the time that Jesus was born into- a time of oppression and violence with a lack of hope. He knows what it is like.

    1. Amy Young March 23, 2018

      Sustainability! Yes, that’s it Anna. We will all have seasons that are fuller than others — or urgent needs that DO need to be attended to. But if we have been living with an eye to sustainability and that we are not God, when those season come, we can ebb and flow with them. The problem (at least in the past for me) was when I make excuses to live all the time as if everything is urgent because I have lost sight of who God is and who I am.

  4. Michelle March 23, 2018

    My favorite parts were in the second chapter. I specifically like what she talked about on page 40 about how we can carry the feeling that we need to change the world as a weight on our shoulders. “Pride convinces us that we are stronger and more capable than we actually are. Pride convinces us that we must do and be more than we are able.” And then on 42 “When we disregard our natural human limitations, we set ourselves in God’s place. When we insist that our voice and our work is essential and must be honored we set ourselves in God’s place. When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety.” I loved how she spoke of the freedom and rest that come in taking up Christ’s yoke. The call to be tamed and to find rest for the soul. I feel like I constantly battle surrendering to his Spirit, and doing it myself, in my life. I try to produce fruit instead of allowing HIM to produce fruit in me. I want to teach my heart to respond to the call to take up his yoke and find rest.

    1. Amy Young March 23, 2018

      Michelle, those parts stood out to me too :). I keep thinking about the crowds that followed and responded to Jesus invitation. I know there is a cost, a real cost and people do need to count it (here I’m referring to those we share the good news with!), but I’m wondering how we can explain the yoke of freedom we are offered? Just wondering out loud.

  5. Phyllis March 24, 2018

    I am LOVING this book. Maybe I’ll come back later and add more of a comment, but I’ll just throw that out for now. 🙂

  6. Cassidy March 24, 2018

    I had to underline the lines ” It is understandable that we fear the yoke. We fear the loss of control. We fear surrender. But we must also understand that without the protection of a good master, we are not safe. From the manipulation of other masters. From the expectations of society. From ourselves” This put something into perspective for me. It is not so much a matter of “if” we give up control. We have no control, we are simply deciding who we are putting in control. If we aren’t choosing Jesus we are by default choosing something else; whether that be Satan, society, others, etc. is sort of irrelevant.
    Once I saw it in that light, it feels easier to trust Jesus. Its not so much the control that we are relinquishing, but rather choosing who we let influence and guide us. This is a really powerful and eye opening idea.

  7. Suzanne March 25, 2018

    I appreciate her pointing out that Jesus isn’t out to shame us when we worry about the little things in life – what to wear, what to ear etc, though Jesus did point out that such worry is less than productive. (That was chapter one.) And that Jesus didn’t condemn Nicodemus for his fear of what his peers would think of him and so coming by night (chapter two). He invites us to share his yoke but at the same time, he understands our fickle minds and sticks with us nonetheless.

    Yes, Hannah needs a spiritual director! I meet with one monthly, just by Skype usually,, and that has been helpful in terms of re-centering on a regular basis.

    An interesting point she made was how feeling overwhelmed often plays out in actions such as indulging in junk food, pharmaceuticals etc. I can identify with the desire to indulge in chocolate, chips etc – stuff I know is unhelpful for my health and which I don’t even take time to enjoy – when I’m stressed. Crazy but true.

    Looking forward to chapters 3 & 4 and maybe some ‘how to’ guidelines for not worrying and for putting off our heavy yoke of expectations and putting on Jesus’ yoke???

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