In a not too distant life I had a crumb of success blogging about fitness and portraying an image of myself as strong, optimistic, and going after inspiring goals. When I wrote about failures they were safe ones, small ones, and I put a positive spin on it. The unresolved, unredeemable stories of weakness and woe were never told. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen or heard an example of anyone telling those stories. That is, not until I read this book by Alia Joy, Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack.
Alia’s book is lesson after lesson in how to boast in your weaknesses, not to solicit pity or “make an exhibition” of our failures, as she puts it, but to highlight God’s grace. I was amazed when I finished the book. I’ve not read anything like this. Her poetic and even beautiful way with words balances out the severe subject matter as she invites you into uneasy vulnerability.
In no uncertain terms, Alia recounts the things that caused her pain and shame; from sexual assault to poverty, miscarriage and mental illness. She describes being someone people do not want to see; the isolation of living with the kind of struggles people do not want to hear about. I had a difficult time reading some parts; sometimes because of tears and sometimes because of feeling convicted and called out on my weaknesses and failures.
Alia shows us how God meets her, sustains her and refines her in her weakness. The circumstances may not change, the struggles may not cease, which is hard to sit with, yet God is good. Walking through this heart process with Alia over and over again encouraged me apply this to my own weakness and sorrows.
So first I had to ask myself, what ARE my biggest sorrows? When have I struggled with unanswered prayers or un-healing wounds? Was I or am I able to see God’s grace and goodness through those seasons?
Let me tell you what, I’m not saying I can or we should ever compare struggles or sufferings in life, but the first thing I thought was,
“My life has predominantly been one of human strength and successes.”
Which is to say there are much fewer times and spaces in my life where I’ve been desperate for God, learned to lean into Him no matter what, and clung to a sliver of hope that God still loved me.
My response to my reality contrasting with what I read in
Glorious Weakness was twofold; courage and conviction.
Courage in knowing that whatever weakness and sorrow is ahead of me, God does not change. The God that Alia clings too is the same God that will be with me through whatever is to come.
Conviction in realizing how much I rely on myself and how little I’ve learned about being poor in spirit. Conviction in acknowledging how many hurtful reactions I’ve had toward those who have walked a different path. I have to confess I have dismissed other’s suffering because I believed “they brought it on themselves”. I have assumed they could improve their situation if they just tried harder or believed God more. My privileged experience and perspective has not taught me a loving or learning posture.
Still, I do have places of deep shame and weakness. They are there. But, like I said in the beginning, I have minimized them. I’m in the habit of putting a positive spin on things. I’ve often protected myself from embracing my human weakness. Which means I’ve prevented myself from truly admitting my complete need and utter dependence on Christ.
“True vulnerability,” Alia writes, “is a confession of the places where we doubt, the places where we’re not sure God is going to heal or touch or show up – the places we worry will always remain a little too broken, a little too human, a little too frail for polite company and pristine Sunday mornings.”
That being said, God has begun to graciously bring me to his feet these past couple years. When the trauma of my adoption surfaced an enduring ache broke through my anesthesia of denial. When the racial fog lifted and I began to see how my faith had been used to obscure part of who God made me to be, a kind of anger and grief ignited that I still wrestle with.
These are a few of the areas where I can see God stripping away my pride and self-assurance. Where I can answer the call to let Him use my weakness for His purposes. And thanks to Alia’s example, I better understand the importance of this; the glorious way that embracing our human weakness amplifies and accentuates God’s faithfulness to us and connects us more deeply with one another.
I HIGHLY recommend you request Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy through your local book store or library. However, you can also purchase Alia’s book on these sites: