The newest book by Marlena Graves, The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself is a beautiful call to a life of seeing and serving, and growing closer to Jesus. It’s a beautiful call, but not an easy one. From the beginning, the author lets us in on what it will cost us to follow Jesus.
Each day of our lives God asks us to relinquish our rights in favor of his will – that our will and his will may become one. To choose emptiness entails a deep trust in God as we take the downward descent into servanthood and humility. We give up the endeavor of propping up ourselves. This ladder of success is inverted. This is the path of Jesus and of his disciples.Marlena Graves, The Way Up Is Down
The downward descent is radically different than the American Christianity some of us know. The author writes this about the path of Jesus, “….It makes absolutely no sense from the human perspective.” This path to a deeper trust in God is a journey to becoming a people who love, not in word, but in deed. “Love is never mere talk,” Marlena writes. And this love, changes everything.
Marlena has a way of getting to the heart of the matter by sharing personal stories of her journey to learning that the way up is down. It’s like listening to a good friend and like a good friend, she doesn’t shy away from telling the truth, even when it’s hard to hear. The truth is received because her love for Jesus and her brothers and sisters is evident. She cares deeply and prays for solidarity as we move forward to make necessary changes in our communities.
First, there is a self-emptying in order that God fills us. This is no one-time happening. Instead it is a daily practice into “deeper communion with him. It leads us to the depths and glories of the kingdom.”
She shows us the importance of repentance, prayer, community, and fasting, without the rigidity of a checklist religion. There are no boxes to check. We practice these disciplines in a healthy rhythm, knowing God is with us and will never leave us. When we fail, God is faithful. We practice them to know God better and better, and learn to abide in Jesus.
Because apart from Him, we will not bear fruit. God is glorified when we bear fruit and the world sees we are His disciples (John 15:5-8).
In The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself, Marlena takes us on a journey of deeper love for God and others, and into a deeper trust of Him. She reminds us that there are unlikely teachers all around us, so we’re more mindful to see them. More importantly, she reminds us, there is no more beautiful life than the one who is becoming “more real” by surrendering to what God has called us to.