The Flight: A Monthly Book Sampler (March 2019)

The Flight: A Monthly Book Sampler (March 2019)

Andrea Humphries, our resident bibliophile (and a board member), writes a monthly post about what she’s learned from the books she’s reading. Today, she’s here with what she learned in March:

I decided a couple years ago that I wanted to make a Lenten reading practice part of my observance of the season. One year, I read St. Augustine’s Confessions; last year I read half a dozen different books on the Eucharist; and this year, I tackled Fleming Rutledge’s award-winning opus, The Crucifixion. (Technically, I finished it in April, but I read most of it in March, so I’m covering it here.) It is, quite frankly, incredible. As she states in the introduction, it’s the culmination of twenty or more years of work, research, and ministry. I’m going to need to re-read it a couple times, at least, in order to really wrap my brain around the breadth and depth of everything Rutledge covers.

I was expecting to learn plenty about Jesus’ crucifixion and what it meant and means for us as Christians. I expected to learn about redemption, victory, atonement, and the other main themes and metaphors she addresses — and I did. I had to look up words and people; I have no idea how frequently I messaged a couple friends in seminary about it, asking questions and exclaiming over the really good bits, but it was a lot.

What I wasn’t expecting was how many of the ideas and concepts she raises — many of which she expects the average Christian to be, at most, passingly familiar with — were things I’ve been taught and heard preached for most of my life. I wasn’t expecting to come away from the book deeply grateful for the knowledge of Scripture that my upbringing gave me.

I don’t have a lot of the Bible memorized; when it comes to mind, it’s not chapter and verse, it’s characters and stories and a best guess at which epistle that bit is in. For example, I can never remember where “men of Issachar, who understood the times” is, even though that particular phrase has stuck in my head since a sermon I heard on it more than a decade ago. (I just googled it — it’s 1 Chronicles 12:32; but as best I can tell, none of the English translations phrase it exactly like that.) Because I know people who do have vast swaths memorized and have their reference down pat, I tend to feel like I don’t actually know that much. Turns out, I know a lot more than I realized, even if I now understand and read it differently from the people who taught it to me as a kid.

While I was reading The Crucifixion, I was also on the launch team for Alia Joy’s stunning first book, Glorious Weakness. Just read this quote from the introduction: “believing, hoping, and knowing God isn’t reciting a sinner’s prayer and calling it good. It’s remaining fluent in our language of hope on an expedition that often feels foreign and hostile.” It’s a deeply vulnerable, encouraging, and challenging book that I think should be mandatory reading for everyone, especially those in ministry. Honestly, the biggest thing I learned from reading it was just how much work I still have to do.

In my review, I wrote that Alia’s writing “calls the reader to the kind of honesty about our culture and circumstances that few are willing to risk. It's a call to climb down the ladder, rather than up; to embrace the hard and holy; to sit with others in pain and sorrow without answers.” If, perchance, you’ve never tried to do any of those things, they’re dauntingly difficult. But, I believe they’re also absolutely necessary.

Part of what makes them so difficult, at least for me, is that I’m pretty sure you can only learn to do them well by actually doing them. So far, that’s meant a lot of failure; a lot of saying words when silence would’ve been better; a lot of saying the wrong words; a lot of sitting with emotions — my own and others’ — that I’d rather pretend weren’t there. I’m an introvert and my default isn’t to “go there” with people. But I’ve learned over the past couple years — and Glorious Weakness clarified and emphasized this for me — that the depth and richness of relationship that I’m longing for only comes with me embracing my inevitable failure and trying again and again to climb down, embrace the tension, and sit with my people. I have to embrace my own vulnerability in order for others to feel safe trusting me with theirs.

I have a feeling that this is something I’ll keep learning, maybe for the rest of my life.

The Flight: A Monthly Book Sampler (April 2019)

The Flight: A Monthly Book Sampler (April 2019)

The Flight: A Monthly Book Sampler (February 2019)

The Flight: A Monthly Book Sampler (February 2019)