Shalom Beachy, a crucial part of our Veritas Core Group had the chance to read and review the book The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and asked if I could post it on the blog. So I said sure and here is her reflections as well as some art work that she did based on her reflections. The Wisdom of Stability- A Book Review
Ever since I was a child, I have loved the imagery of Psalm 1; that the righteous is like a tree planted by rivers of water, bringing forth its fruit in season, whatever it does will prosper. For years, though, I saw this tree as a solitary elm, strong and alone. It stands on a bright flat prairie with a yellow sun and big blue sky, next to a straight wide river disappearing on either side into the horizon, like this:
I saw myself as a tree rooted and grounded and somehow fruitful, but ultimately alone. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s, far from my family and home in the Midwest heartland & transplanted into an urban community on the east coast that I really began to understand that God wanted me to be fruitful in the context of community. I fell in love with my neighborhood and began to see the heart God has for it. I began to identify my hunger for stability and relationship in this place and story. I wanted to dig my roots deep into God and I was desperate to find branches around me to lean into for support in times of storm, taller trees to look up to and to provide shade.
In The Wisdom of Stability, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes about rooting into God in a community, about staying there long enough to love it and hate it and love again. Throughout the book, he weaves in an easy yet effective introduction to the wisdom of the desert Benedictines and their commitment to God through the rhythms of work and worship. He shares a window into his own journey of life with a specific group of people in a specific place. I love the personal vignettes he shares at the end of every chapter, little snapshots into the neighborhood in which he lives and loves.
This book feels real. It’s a gentle yet hard hitting contribution for those of us who are sick of living life alone, who have this idea that following Jesus has something to do with living in community but half of the time are unsure of what exactly that is supposed to look like. Wilson-Hartgrove says some hard words here. Essentially, stay when you don’t feel like it anymore. Stay when the community you love and bleed for seemingly betrays you. When your relationships stab you in the back, embrace the pain and grief of dying. Stay. And in this staying, we will experience a manifestation of Jesus’ resurrection in our lives and relationships that we would very well miss in a society where it is possible for us to so easily move on.
This is a book that helps me to continue to define the thirst I have for belonging and community and rootedness and stability. It makes me thirsty for deeper waters and it challenges me with the reality that commitment at times may seem a very bitter grace. I don’t think Wilson-Hartgrove is necessarily saying I have to live in this specific neighborhood forever. But the book is a call to persist through seasons of boredom, apparent bareness, pain and death. It’s an invitation to give God the chance to do what He does faithfully over a lifetime… restoration and resurrection.