We Don’t Want to Be Weak {Book Club}

We Don't Want to Be Weak

I had such big dreams when I moved overseas. I was going where no one else was heading, sharing Jesus with those who had never heard about him before. There would be churches and movements, transformation and discipleship and oh, the amazing stories I would be able to write home about.

A few months in to living in an isolated village area, I fell off my cross-cultural worker pedestal as it crumbled to the ground. How was I supposed to love the people there when I could hardly get along with my teammate? How was I supposed to see big things happen when I could hardly force myself out of bed? How was I supposed to share Jesus with my neighbors when they cut the electricity wires to our home, shut off our water, and gossiped about me within earshot?

Mostly I didn’t want to admit I was weak. It was too hard.

It’s not something that’s easy to talk about, is it? We don’t want to admit the places in our hearts and minds and bodies that are weak. We don’t want to talk about lack.

So, sisters, this space is going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to be vulnerable. And I think it’s going to be holy.

As we slowly ease into our next book, Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy, I hope we can make a few commitments to each other.

First, let’s celebrate Alia’s courage to share so honestly about her story. There may be things that we identify with and other things we don’t. There may be stories that are hard for us to read. But I want to reach through the computer screen and the Kindle screen and hug this woman for her brave and beautiful words.

Second, let’s celebrate each other. As you feel your heart stirred by the words you are reading, I hope you will take a brave step and share your thoughts in the comments. Are there stories in your own life that need to be shared? It might even be just admitting, “I’m weak”. Or, “I’m struggling”. Let’s link arms across the pages and continents and help each other do that.

You aren’t alone in your weakness, and neither am I.

In Chapter 1, Alia Joy says, “To believe that the experiences we have are valid, that the feelings and expressions of them are true and real and worthy of being listened to, is one of the greatest mercies we offer each other.”

I love that we have the opportunity to do this for and with each other in so many ways through our community, and I look forward to seeing what the Father has in store as we read Glorious Weakness over the coming weeks!

There are a lot of painful things in Alia’s story, and I want to gently give you that warning as we start this book. Stories of sexual abuse, mental illness and suicidal ideation could be triggers. I hope this will not stop you from reading this book and dialoguing honestly as a community, but also take good care of your heart!

I love this quote from the introduction to the book: “My saltwater tears have mixed with the ash from the Refiner’s fire, and they form the ink to pen my story, a story that helps me find my way to the beauty that was always buried and waiting.”

In chapter 1, Alia shares a story of going to the ER and how things changed in the way she was treated when the doctors figured out what was seriously wrong. Do you have a story of what feeling seen and understood is like? What are lessons you have learned when you’ve had to admit you are weak in a certain area? What thoughts are being stirred up to the surface as we start this book?

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:

October 15: Chapters 2 & 3

October 22: Chapter 4

October 29: Chapter 5

November 5: Chapters 6 & 7

November 12: Chapter 8

November 19: Chapter 9

November 26: Chapters 10 & 11

Photo by pxoxo on Unsplash

15 Comments

  1. Katherine October 8, 2019

    I only recently felt seen and understood about something painful that happen years ago. When it was happening I don’t think even I myself was able to acknowledge just how painful it was. I was so focused on being thankful for what I did have, trying to remember that the Bible is true no matter what we feel, and remembering that others have worse problems than me. I really resonate with what Seth Haines wrote in the Forward:

    “I suppose it’s natural, our tendency to try to run from suffering, to somehow try to drag other folks from their own. We Christians use the holy tools at our disposal (particularly, the misinterpretation of Scripture) in an attempt to pave a path around suffering. ”

    At the time when I shared my issues with others they would want to comfort me or fix the problem. I can see that now we skipped over just how much pain I was in. Its much nicer to end a conversation on a high note, and to thank the other for their help. It wasn’t until I had someone listening to me who believes- yes, God is faithful, yes, you still have things to be thankful AND you’re in pain (and that the pain is worth noting, rather than dismissing with a Bible verse)..

    Being heard and acknowledging the pain myself has made such such a difference. And now I also have a name for it so I can communicate about it with others which is important as it is still impacting my life now.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 9, 2019

      Katherine, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! It’s so true, I know my own heart wants to run from suffering. It’s hard to just listen to someone else’s pain without trying to think of all the possibilities, the ways I want to help them get out of their suffering. Your story and the quote from the forward are such a good reminder that it’s a gift to just acknowledge someone’s pain. To really hear them, let them process it. I know it’s a gift when others do that for me.

    2. Phyllis October 11, 2019

      The foreward really resonated with me, too. I’m in the midst of a pretty hard time, and sometimes it seems like the people who have stayed in it with me are the hardest to handle. I sat down to start this book, right after saying goodbye to someone who came to “comfort” me. This brand of comfort involves Bible verses quoted out of context. So, the foreword (and this book) are just what I need. I should quote, too, but it was pretty much the whole section.

      1. Sarah Hilkemann October 14, 2019

        Sorry to hear that well-meaning comfort hasn’t actually been that comforting, Phyllis. I hope you find this a safe place to just be!

  2. Beth October 8, 2019

    I’m new here to Velvet Ashes and this is my first time doing book club. I have enjoyed reading Alia’s story and her vulnerability in her words is so inspiring to me. My family and I moved to Tokyo recently, and these last couple years have definitely been full of moments of weakness, dependence and feeling unseen. One thing that I’m sure most women who move overseas experience is that shock of going from being capable, intelligent, self-sufficient in their home country to suddenly being unintelligible, incapable and so completely dependent on others for basic life stuff. That was definitely quite challenging for me. God has used this time though to refine me and also to bring out a gold I perhaps didn’t know was hidden beneath all the ugly rock in my soul. I loved the quote from Endo, “Every weakness contains within itself a strength.” I often quote 1 Cor. 12:9 to myself as a I fumble through conversations or just to try figure out what the food labels say. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Somehow I have to trust that God sees me in my weakness and for some reason has chosen to use me in my weakness for his glory. I wrote a blog post about that feeling of being unseen a little over a year ago if anyone would like to read it. https://trimmedtales.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/the-god-who-sees-me/

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 9, 2019

      Beth, I’m so glad you are here! Moving overseas does have a way of stripping away so much, and can even bring us to the end of ourselves. There is always something that I need help with, a way that I must depend on others. It’s a way we see grace, isn’t it? I love the post you shared and it’s a story I go back to as well, especially when I’m feeling alone and abandoned. No matter what, God sees me. And hopefully it’s a gift we can share with others too- truly seeing them and coming near to them.

    2. Jenny November 7, 2019

      Welcome, Beth! I really appreciate what you wrote. I lived in Tokyo for 3 years when I was right out of college, and the only Japanese I knew when I moved there was “Sensei” from The Karate Kid! I felt so inefficient. I remember getting frustrated that I couldn’t read my mail, and being angry that I had to memorize which ATM buttons to push to make a withdrawal because who can read bank kanji even if you have studied Japanese a while?! 1 Cor 12:9 is such an important reminder that the Lord is the One who will do it, not me.

  3. Abigail Zhao October 12, 2019

    This makes me want to read this book! 🙂

    1. Phyllis October 13, 2019

      You should join us. 🙂 I was able to check out the ebook with my MIL’s library card.

    2. Sarah Hilkemann October 14, 2019

      Abigail, it’s not too late to join in our discussion! 🙂 We’re taking this book pretty slow.

  4. Melissa October 13, 2019

    Am I the only one who felt convicted throughout chapter one? I always enjoy when pastors and preachers bring out a new side to a Scripture that I haven’t seen before, and Alia has managed to do that here. She has done it in a way that with every sentence I am thinking through situations from the past few weeks. How have I humbled myself? Did I too quickly offer advice? Did I really see this person, and their pain? Do I really think poorly of myself? Do I even understand this grace/blessing thing she talks about?

    I feel like this is going to be a book that will be difficult to read. Hard. Challenging. Convicting. I’m already rereading sentences over two and three times to make sure that I’m understanding exactly what she’s saying. This is not a book that I want to gloss over.

    I’m thankful for this community so that I’m not reading this book alone! 😍

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 14, 2019

      Melissa, I’m glad not to be reading this book alone too! And also that we are going slowly through it because I feel like I have to chew on different pieces and think through what she says. Like you said- it’s hard to read some of her raw and broken experiences, but I think her vulnerability is such a gift to us!

  5. Abigail November 4, 2019

    Just finished this book on a car ride to another city for paperwork that should have been done by the people we hired to help, but wasn’t, and it was a roller coaster race against time to renew my visa. I tried to read it slower but wanted to read more. I’m thankful Alia writes so honestly about living with a mental health diagnosis. Sadly there seems to still be quite a stigma around it, including in Christian circles. I’m thankful I have only received a few unhelpful “comfort” from well-meaning people in our multiple pregnancy losses in just over a year and a half of marriage. But I know I also have lots of room for growth to “mourn with those who mourn”. Of course we tend to enjoy the “rejoice with those who rejoice” part, unless it’s reminding us painfully of our own grief. It truly is a gift like the author says to just hold safe space to be honest about our pain and doubts.

  6. Jenny November 7, 2019

    I appreciate the author’s willingness to be real, to write about the hard, ugly parts. I never dealt with anxiety until I moved overseas the second time. I felt so weak having anxiety, and then we went to a debrief/renewal conference on our first home assignment, and one of our leaders who had served overseas shared her journey with anxiety. It meant so much to me to know that she had walked this path, too, and God used her! She actually shared that anxiety is quite common for those serving overseas. Since that time, I have put into practice some exercises and skills to deal with anxiety, the Lord has helped me in this area. It’s still a struggle at certain times, but knowing that the Lord has the victory and that others face this as well makes all the difference.

    1. Abigail November 8, 2019

      Thank you for sharing that, Jenny! ❤️🙏It’s actually so common, as the stat of up to 1 in 4 struggling with anxiety is seen everywhere around Sydney, where we are in this season. Love and prayers!

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