The Way Up Is Down by Marlena Graves

What They Way Up Is Down Is About

I suppose there are many people who, in their writing, suppose themselves to be following in the footsteps of Eugene Peterson. They think that they are turning things around and looking at them from a fresh angle, and in this way are helping their readers to become their truest and best selves. They may be thinking deeply about God and Scripture, but that doesn’t mean that they are thinking well. After all, one doesn’t wind up on best-seller lists by trying to think well about the subject of one’s book. Too much for what passes as Christian literature these days is alarmingly devoid of the mind of Christ.

In her book The Way Up Is Down, Marlena Graves stands firmly in the line and legacy of Eugene Peterson. Her book reads like a deep reflection on this great line from Peterson’s The Jesus Way: “To follow Jesus means that we can’t separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it.” Graves, in other words, is pointing us in the direction of true discipleship. The way of Jesus — the way of resurrection and glory — is the way of self-emptying, of lowliness, of humility.

Emptiness comes before fullness. …In acknowledging and admitting our emptiness, being poor in spirit and contrite in heart, in taking the posture of a servant, we too can become open to realizing God’s strength and power in us and in the kingdom. When we are full of ourselves or other things, we obstruct God’s grace.
-Marlena Graves, The Way Up Is Down, p. 10

Steeped in the Church mothers and fathers of both East and West, Graves offers us a vision for the journey of discipleship that is connected to those who have gone before us. We are not trailblazers. We are not forging a new path like the pioneers of the past who headed out over the Appalachian mountains in search of new land. The Way Up is a journey with others, and as Graves so beautifully attests through the stories of her own life, those others are not always precious to the world. But they are precious to God. And invaluable to us, their travelling companions.

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