As you know, my very favorite kinds of books are those that leave me in tears one moment and cause me to laugh aloud the next. Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton is definitely one of those books.
In this collection of essays, Glennon, the creator of Momastery, encourages people to share their “secret selves” with others because “some people will want and need to hear about your secret self as badly as they need to inhale. Because reading your truth will make them less afraid of their own secret selves” and because “telling your truth will make you less afraid too.” These words profoundly challenged me, even influencing me to share the heartbreak of my own miscarriage.
Throughout the book, I appreciated the way in which Glennon modeled this sharing of her secret self with her readers, bravely tackling tough issues like addictions and eating disorders and doing so with a great deal of humor, wisdom, and poise. In a stunning display of courage, Glennon even tackles the divisive subject of abortion in her essay, Hard. She openly shares her own experience with abortion and then concludes, in what might just be my favorite line in this entire book, “I don't feel ashamed. I feel forgiven and whole, and I know that God never let go of my hand before, during or after my abortion. God and I are clear on that issue.”
It's honestly difficult to choose a favorite essay from a book as open and honest as this one. How can you really critique someone's art, the vehicle Glennon describes as God's way of offering a “safe way to express both joy and madness”?
Even so, as a youth worker, two essays particularly captivated both my heart and imagination. Glennon's essay, On Gifts and Talents, challenged me to think deeply about the way in which I teach spiritual gifts. According to Glennon, “We have to actually believe that our kids are OK. We can start believing by erasing the idea that education is a race. It's not. Education is like Christmas. We're all just opening our gifts, one at a time. It is a fact that each and every child has a bright shiny present with her name on it, waiting there underneath the tree. God wrapped it up, and he'll let us know when it's time to unwrap it.” As a youth worker, I pray I can be someone who helps teenagers unwrap the gifts with their names on them and discover how they might use those gifts – whatever they are - to serve and honor God.
Room for One More is one of the best essays on the church I've read in a very long time. In it, Glennon reflects on her reluctance to engage with a church community before concluding “We know that any faith worth a damn is a faith worked out over a lifetime of relationships with other people. Church is just a commitment to try to live a life of a certain quality – a life of love, of humility, of service – alongside others for whom you will care and allow to care for you, even when that's difficult.” In a day and age when people's perception of the church is increasingly far more negative than positive, as a youth worker, I hope that by the time my students graduate from my ministry they know and have intimately experienced the kind of church Glennon writes about.
No doubt, Glennon's is a book worth reading. It's one that invites you into the pages of her life, entrusting you with the kinds of stories that most save for their closest friends. As she does, you begin to understand that indeed, life may be “brutiful”, but it's through “paralyzing pain and impossibility” that we realize there really is “something True about Jesus.”