There is a kind of person whose childlikeness belies a deep internal fountain of wisdom; whose easy spirit was forged not in easy times but in valleys of all sorts. Marlena Proper-Graves is that kind of person.
Her first book, A Beautiful Disaster, will be released this Tuesday, June 17th. It’s a gorgeous book, full of thoughts about the God of the desert, which is a place we will all find ourselves throughout our lives. Marlena is a good guide, a keen observer, and driven by a deep love of God, God’s word, and God’s people. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
I got to co-write the book’s foreword, and thought I’d share a little bit of that here.
It is hard to imagine a more trustworthy guide in the wilderness than the author of the book you now have in your hands. Marlena Graves has been a friend of mine (Laura) for several years now, and the gentle wisdom I see in her is borne of the same long and painful winds that shape the hollow canyons of desert stone. This book is the kind of book the church needs at the time the church needs it. Living in an age of easy distractions and constant comparison can result in a sort of nice numbness, a feeling that I’m all right and everything else is all right. Our worlds, able to expand with the click of a mouse, have never been smaller or more centered around ourselves. We are separated not only from other people, but from God and from ourselves. This separation—this loss of integrity and wholeness—is a source of great grief in our lives…
The wilderness can take many different forms. Inspired by Jesus’ command in Matthew 19:21 to “sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor,” the Desert Fathers and Mothers moved to the Egyptian desert to live alone or in small groups. Their lives were austere, but the wilderness was the place of their choosing. My own (Laura) wilderness experiences have been mostly of the unchosen variety, time spent paralyzed by anxiety and fear of the future, uncertainty and powerlessness looming like a Scylla and Charybdis from which I could never be free. Others have been brought to the wilderness in deep despair and have hoped the sands and the time would act as smoothing agents, hewing the rough edges of pain. Some people spend their lives in the desert; some people are rarely there. The things that take us to the desert are varied. We may be there for a week or for years; we may be devastated or full of boredom; we may be alone or in great company. But here’s what we’ve come to learn: Time in the desert prepares us for more time in the desert. Whether we remain there is beside the point; the point is the person we become when we are there.