My pastor approaches every text she preaches out of by asking, “What is the trouble here?” and then “What is the grace?”
Rich Villodas, pastor of a large and diverse church in New York City, constructs his new book similarly. The “trouble” is clear–we live in a sinful world of trauma, racism, and unhealthy conflict. Wounded people wound others, and we pine for goodness, kindness and beauty.
But there is also grace. “We have to rediscover the truth that wholeness, healing and love are found in the ancient path of Jesus,” he writes.
Well, obviously, right? Every believer knows on some level that Jesus is the answer to our troubles. The problem is we usually haven’t gone deep or still enough to truly dwell in his love, and live the abiding life he calls us to.
The title of the book comes from a poem by Langston Hughes called “Tired,” which reads:
“I am so tired of waiting, Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two–
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.”
The “worms,” or trouble, says Villodas, are all embedded in sin, which goes way beyond just avoiding certain behaviors. “At its core, sin is failure to love.” This definition struck me as profound, and made me reframe the way I see sin. It’s not simply a matter of choosing not to drink too much or gossip or lust, it’s a chronic malfunction or “disruption” of us as believers loving our neighbor as ourselves. “What if you could trace all the horribly concrete wounds and fractures of our culture, churches, families and most intimate relationships to the disruption of love?”
There is a reason why there is such a widespread failure to love.
Villodas artfully reveals the forces and powers that are at work in our lives, undermining our efforts, undercutting our healing, and splintering our relationships. “To be born into this world means that we are all under a power that would have us live incurvatus in se, curved inward.”
He points out that Satan’s powers are diverse and pervasive. They show up everywhere, including in churches–and denominations. But we can fight back effectively and reclaim the wholeness and loved/loving life Jesus created us for.
Villodas shows readers how to engage in contemplative prayer and healthy conflict, forgiveness and justice. He lays out how to cultivate humility and a calm presence, dismantling the false self that clings to us like barnacles.
I adored this book, my favorite non-fiction read of 2022. Villodas is a winsome, relatable writer, and his stories will linger with me for years. But most importantly, I loved how this book gave me a new vision for a way of being in this world, a more humble, healing, tender and abiding way. As the back cover copy of the book says, “This isn’t the kind of book you read as much as the kind that reads–and transforms–you.” (Waterbrook)