Interweaving biblical insights and personal narratives, this eloquently written book shows how God often uses suffering and desert experiences to form us into Christ's image. Marlena Graves shares her experiences of growing up poor in a house plagued by mental illness as a means to explore the forces God uses to shape us into beautiful people in the midst of brokenness.
This book offers a window into suffering through the motif of desert spirituality, revealing how God can use our painful experiences to show himself faithful. While no one welcomes suffering, God often uses desert experiences--those we initially despise and wouldn't wish on anyone--to transform us into beautiful souls who better resemble Jesus. Graves shows how God can bring life out of circumstances reeking of death and destruction, whether those circumstances are crises or daily doses of quiet desperation.
Readers who have experienced suffering and question God's purpose for it will benefit from this book, as will counselors, pastors, professors, and mentors. It includes a foreword by John Ortberg and Laura Ortberg Turner.
Part 1: This Wilderness Life
1. The Way of the Desert and Beautiful Souls
2. Who Am I?
3. To Your Cell for Goodness's Sake
4. Loved into Resurrection
5. Testing and Temptation
6. Careless in the Care of God
7. Waiting around for God
8. The Death of a Dream
9. The God Who Sees Me
Part 2: Wilderness Gifts
10. Weak and Wise Athletes of God
11. Trembling in Fear and Adoration
12. Children in the Kingdom of God
13. A Human Being Fully Alive
"A Beautiful Disaster is an extraordinary debut from one of today's most promising new authors. In the tradition of the prophets, Marlena Graves sings a wilderness song, seamlessly connecting her own story to both the biblical narrative and the questions, struggles, and joys of all who travel the wilderness road. With a voice that is gentle and strong, passionate and mature, Graves invites the reader to pay attention, to be still and know God. Let those who have ears, hear."
Rachel Held Evans, author of Faith Unraveled and A Year of Biblical Womanhood
"In A Beautiful Disaster Marlena Graves explores the spiritual wilderness with a host of fellow travelers from biblical persona to the ancient church to present company. She mines their wisdom about getting through life's deserts and eloquently shares lessons she has learned through her own brokenness. There is something here for everyone who has at one time or another wandered in the wilderness and asked 'Why?' or 'How long?'"
Dennis Okholm, professor of theology, Azusa Pacific University; author of Monk Habits for Everyday People and Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins
"To move through brokenness, we need to be both gently reflective and boldly courageous. Marlena Graves combines this unusual blend of necessary pursuits so that we don't simply 'get through it,' but move into a transformed life of flourishing daily in the Kingdom of God."
Jan Johnson, speaker and author of Invitation to the Jesus Life
"Marlena Graves's gentle wisdom, pastoral tenderness, and graceful conviction strengthen my soul. Meditating on Scripture and the wisdom of the desert mothers and fathers, she offers a balm to the hurting, and hope that our dry and weary times will, with God's help, bloom into something beautiful."
Rachel Marie Stone, author of Eat with Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food
"A Beautiful Disaster offers up a rich blend of theology, devotional, and memoir--and at times breaks into sheer poetry. Marlena Graves is one of the most gifted thinkers and writers of her generation."
Karen Swallow Prior, author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
"Marlena Graves writes with freshness and a clear, cool sense of authority as she guides us through Christ's wilderness, one metaphor at a time. She speaks as one who knows the consoling, challenging presence of God firsthand. Let her gentle willingness to meet you where you are lead you through dark places until you find comfort in the Jesus who teaches and strengthens us on the way."
Emilie Griffin, author of Wilderness Time and Souls in Full Sail
"Marlena Graves has walked through many wilderness experiences and periods in her life. And in this wonderful book she helps the rest of us understand both the blessings and perils of the spiritual desert. Marlena has experienced God's promise of making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to comfort and train those he loves. There is hope, help, and encouragement for each of us in these pages."
Joe Moore, national co-director for spiritual formation and prayer, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship