The Myth We are Indispensable {Book Club}

This was one of those weeks when both of today’s chapters in Invitations From God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun parked themselves smack dab in the middle of the road of life.

It was a bit like Balaam’s donkey. Can’t get around them. Can’t push past them.

The invitation to rest (Chapter 4) and The invitation to weep (Chapter 5) may seem that they don’t go together. However, it turns out if we rest, often the space created allow other parts of life to surface. Parts we have been working so hard to manage or downplay or just keep at bay by our busyness.

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Okay friends, just being real here. I wrote the above about a week ago and then life jumped on me. Not in a bad way, but a way that took my head in her hands and turned my head to look in a different direction.

This is going to be a shorter post and I need help to keep the book club discussion ball in play. I know you get what these kind of weeks are like :). In a nutshell, the family of one of my best friends were in a terrible car accident a few miles from my home. You can read about it here.  Of the six passengers in their mini-van, four were hospitalized (the dad required the jaws of life to cut him out and he was flown to the hospital about two miles from my house).

So, being “local” and “an M in China for 20 years” and wanting to be the eyes, ears, and hands of my friends for their family, it has been a rich week. One we will not forget, any of us. I’ve known the family for about 25 years, but after this last week, we much closer. But, And, Yet . . . however you combine the sentiments, it is now Saturday and I’ve read the chapters without writing one word for us. Karen needs to make an image, so there is no more time, I need to get words out of my head, through my hands, and to you.

I share all of this for two reasons. One, I believe you care about me and when we share a bit of our lives, it helps root all of us in reality. Two, if this is another post that is a bit random, now you know why.

The irony that we read this week about rest is not lost on me. God’s invitation to rest came in a week where God wanted to remind me (us?) that you don’t get all of your ducks in a row so that you rest. No, we are invited to rest in midst of reality. In part, this is why I hadn’t written. Like you, I had choices to make on my time and instead of trying to shove everything in and pretend that I could move along as if I could “do it all,” I chose to rest at night and not work.

Calhoun made the point in this chapter that not resting is the behavior of slaves. I even underlined that point in my notes. Slaves do not rest. Are we slaves or beloved children? How are you living your life? As a slave, or a precious child?

“An identity based on doing is always precarious and unrestful. And it is not what God intended.”

“Rest is a transcendent anchor in the midst of doing. God wants us to rest because he knows a society that encourages overwork is no different from a society that encourages lying, murder, stealing and promiscuity.” Dare I add, not just a society, an organizational culture.

I was thinking about the invitation to weep before I read Chapter 5. In my small group we are working through Emotionally Healthy Church Workbook. (Side note: if you are looking for material to use with your team/small group, I highly recommend it. We have been together for over 13 years with me participating whenever I could be in the US; and this material has taken our group to a deeper level. We do not have the DVDs and people have not read the book. The workbook is enough.).

Last week I lead the discussion on grief and loss. What was interesting to note is the ways in which people minimized their loss. After the second person said, “Well, I know this loss isn’t like someone dying . . .” I had to say something. Death is not the only marker of a legitimate loss, but I think many of our cultures have programmed us to compare our losses to death.

If there is no dead body, buck up! 

Is that the message of Jesus? Is that the voice of a loving Father? Is that how the Comforter comforts?

No. The invitation to weep is not merely for dead bodies. Do not numb yourself to the reasons to weep within your own family, marriage, team, city, country, or life. I’ve been reading The Soul of Shame and a major takeaway is that shame seeks to disintegrate, but God wants us integrated. Weeping (acknowledging what is really going on, so it could also involve hurt, disappointment, or joy) when a situation warrants it, is an act of integration and love. It fights off shame.

So, this is what I’ve been thinking about and living as I read these chapters. What have you been facing as God has brought these lessons to life for you?

Grace and Peace,

Amy


PS: The Reading Plan

  • March 12th: Intro and Chapter 1
  • March 21st: Chapters 2 and 3
  • March 28th: Chapters 4 and 5
  • April 4th: Kimberlee Conway Ireton
  • April 11th Chapters 6 and 7
  • April 18th Chapters 8 and 9
  • April 25th Chapters 10 and 11

10 Comments

  1. Hadassah March 28, 2017

    Thank you, Amy, for being so real with us and sharing authentically about what is happening in your life. That is what I appreciate about VA: its a place where we can share openly about what is going on in our lives and still be loved. It’s a real credit to the work God is doing in all of us through this community. I’m not done reading through the chapters, and may share a few thoughts once I have, but just wanted to say your post was appreciated, no matter the length. (PS, I sent you a message on Instagram about a book series I started reading last week that I think you’ll like.) And keep us posted on your friends, too.

    1. Amy Young March 28, 2017

      Hadassah, thank you for the kind words! When you consider that at least several of them could be dead . . . it is amazing how well all are doing! Three have been discharged. Two of the four hospitalized were college students on spring break, they have not gone back to school this week (hopefully next?). For the two who were not hospitalized, it was their parents who were hurt — so they will need prayers for post trauma stuff. Walking around a crash site and wondering if your parent(s) are dead? Awful. Of course. So, I think the next few weeks will be important as the trauma kind of settles into them. The dad is now in physical therapy and learning how to maneuver and live as his extensive injuries heal. Hopefully can go back to their home state within a week and continue the healing process there 🙂

  2. Cecily March 28, 2017

    I don’t have the book, so I am not following along, but I had to say something because I am in a season of rest and weeping. The Lord is meeting me in the most tender ways as I am finally letting Him into the darkness that has haunted me for a long time. How many times last week did I suddenly dissolve into tears over seeming nothingness? Many. But I believe that the indescribable weeping is a prayer of intercession to God–one that my words have no way to formulate. Now, this week, the tears come every time I see the Lord reaching out to me in my darkness and pain. I know that in the weeping, our spirits were connecting, and now He is expressing His love to me in a way that is tangible. Oh, what a Savior!

    1. Amy Young March 28, 2017

      Cecily 🙂 glad you commented! People don’t need to have read a book to comment! I’m thankful God is meeting you in this season and that you are leaning into the weeping instead of away. Blessings sister.

  3. Sarah Hilkemann March 28, 2017

    Thank you for sharing honestly, Amy! Praying for this family you have been ministering to, and for you.

  4. Ruth March 28, 2017

    Your comments about grief being about more than just people dying reminded me of this article a friend shared today with the comment “Grief is grief. Doesn’t matter if it’s a person, a pet, a place, an experience.” Oh so true, but it is especially hard in cultures that don’t like dealing with grief! https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/things-i-wish-i-had-known-when-my-dog-died.html?contentCollection=smarter-living&hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&referer=http://m.facebook.com/

    1. Amy Young March 28, 2017

      Yes! When I have experienced loss in China I found that for the most part I couldn’t share the grieving process as much as I wanted because I found responses to be the opposite of what I found to be comforting :). This is tricky because I believe all need to grieve — it is a part of being a broken human. Thanks for the article, I enjoyed reading it!

  5. Elizabeth March 28, 2017

    I am loving this book. I am so glad you chose it, Amy. I need to get my hands on a hard copy so I can lend it out here. I feel like Adele is saying all the things I’ve been learning over the last several years. The invitation to participate in my own healing, to practice the presence of people, to rest, to weep, to admit when I’m wrong (yes I peeked ahead!). This is going to become a go-to recommendation for me, the way Emotionally Healthy Spirituality has become for my husband. Adele feels more conversational to me, but I confess I haven’t read EHS in a few years. I resonated with the slaves-don’t-rest idea and appreciated the scientific explanation for what we already know intuitively to be true — that tears do cleanse the soul and make room for God. And yes — when we make space for rest, often other things come bubbling to the surface that we’d rather not deal with (a potential reason we keep on running too fast?).

    1. Amy Young March 28, 2017

      I agree that this is a “hard copy” book! And I also like her conversational tone — I feel like we are chatting over these deeply personal and important topics. I’ve said it before, but I feel the need to repeat myself 🙂 — the language of “invitation” has become such an important discipline in my spiritual walk. (You know I also love EHS, but the tone is, as you say, not as conversational)

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