TMU's Fall/Winter 2021-22 Book Club
Hello everyone and welcome! If you're here to join our book club you have come to the right place! If you are here just visiting you can expect some beautiful discussion ahead.
For our inaugural book club we will be reading and discussing This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson. I chose this book because it embodies truth, vulnerability, faith, art, and beauty. It carries themes that I hold dear to my heart and that TMU stands for: holding onto hope, faith, and Jesus Christ all the days of our lives. Sarah shares her experience of finding God in beauty during her battle with mental illness. She shares, "This Beautiful Truth is one of those hidden books of the soul, a work of doubt and yearning and quiet wonder that came to me after many long years of struggle."
We will read one chapter a week and go over discussion questions. All of the updates from me will be on this page and sent to your inbox once you join our mailing list (Sign up for my newsletter to join!) (Note: If you are already signed up for my newsletter but want to be added to the book club mailing list email me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
We will also have a private Instagram chat (follow me @tomyunderstanding) going where we can stay in touch throughout the book club. It'll be fun!
Chapter Reading schedule:
- Chapter One, November 17
- Chapter Two, November 24
- Chapter Three, December 1
- Chapter Four, December 8
- Chapter Five, December 15
- Chapter Six, December 22
- Chapter Seven, December 29
- Chapter Eight, January 5
- Chapter Nine, January 12
- Chapter Ten, January 19
You're welcome to join at anytime! Happy Reading!
UPDATE: We moved the group Instagram chat to an email thread instead.
Chapter One is titled “This Is the Broken Place: A Shattered and Beautiful Mind.” Sarah goes into detail of what her mental illness is and how she felt about herself and God in the beginning of this struggle. I appreciate Sarah’s gentle approach to her own story as she recounts the beginning stages of her mental illness. I feel I can be hard on myself whenever I struggle, so to see her gentle candor and grace is a beautiful example for me on how to be gentle and gracious to myself.
In this chapter she also references the book of Job, “Job is a drama of questions, a story that echoes with honest anguish. Yet answers are never given in the listed, scientific way we think they ought to be in the modern world...God doesn’t offer explanations; but oh, he offers his own heartbreakingly beautiful self" (Clarkson, 36). An encounter with God can be enough; it can get us through the suffering, the grieving, the questioning. Speaking for myself, I know when I have gone through something heartbreaking and I feel God’s presence, I am so comforted that I receive the strength He provides to walk through it.
- On Page 19, Sarah shares how in her girlhood she was introduced to the rival stories of the world: “Beautiful or broken? Despair or hope? Evil or love? I’ve been trying to answer those questions ever since. I’ve been trying to decide which story is true. And I think this is the fight to which each of us is called every day of our lives.” How do you find this to be true?
- Sarah shares her knowings as: “instants of beauty that caught me off guard and left me flushed with wonder” (Clarkson, 38). Start keeping track of your knowings during the course of this book club and each week we will share one or more of our knowings in our group chat.
- Where have you seen God’s beauty break through into the story of your own suffering or grief?
- What form has beauty taken in your life? Where do you believe God is in relation to your suffering?
Chapter Two talks about the wrestle every person goes through. The wrestle between faith and discouragement, hope and disappointment, believing and giving up. On page 48 Sarah writes, “I didn’t know how grief could make an endless night of my inmost thoughts, and how I could blame God for it with fierce, hot breath and yet ache for his touch at the same time, pleading for his light.” I know this wrestle. When you’re angry with God, finding nowhere else to put the blame for life’s hardships on so you look to Him. You blame Him and distance yourself from trusting Him, and yet you long for that comfort and peace only He can offer. “But even as I struck him with my accusations, I became aware of my anguished desire for his love” (Clarkson, 52).
- Have you experienced a time of wrestling with God? Are you still wrestling? What was the outcome or turning point for you?
- What false things have you believed about God?
- What can you imagine would be an image in the third gallery of redemption?
I was moved by the chapter titles alone at Chapter 3: “Beauty Is Truth: Love Sets Us A Feast”
Love nourishes us. Love sets us a feast. Love is hospitable. Love takes care of our needs. God is Love.
Sarah paints us a picture of the effects that isolation can do to a person. On page 69 she writes: Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that I was starving. That the body and soul of me, however nourished in the ordinary ways, were almost wild with yearning for touch and laughter, for people to see me and want my company, for beauty I could hold in my hand and taste in my mouth.
Yet it was that very unmet ache whose yearning led me to the lonely Saturday I had just spent in a high, shadowed room in an old house, thinking that faith was a dim thing and God an idea I could no longer desire. But the touch of my host’s hands drew me out of darkness and into the light of human affection.
This chapter made me think of the uninvited. Of those who say they’re fine or who are always focused on their to-do lists and what their routine permits. Some may be hiding behind the veil of busyness when it’s truly isolating. Missing out on the experience of beauty and joy of community, connection, and the warmth of hospitality starves the soul.
We get the opportunity to experience God’s beauty and goodness through feasts. Feasts could be dinner parties with friends, a walk alone through a garden, reading a stellar novel. On page 78, Sarah writes: Beauty teaches us not just that God exists but that he is lovely and good. Beauty tells us that we were created for joy and summoned to healing. From the glory of the Trinity, whose life is an endless communion of peace and love, we were formed, and to that ultimate glory we are being redeemed.
It’s not fulfilling to just know about God, we must also experience God. We could be so full of knowledge that there’s no room for love, joy, or peace. On page 85, Sarah writes: I found that my need for mathematical answers to all my hardest questions fell away in the face of the beauty so lavishly set before me. A solid answer is no bad thing, but an answer cannot stand in the place of God, nor fill the ravenous need of an aching soul.
I had a similar revelation when I wasn’t getting the answer to my why’s when I was really in a struggle. I came to a point in my faith where I needed God’s peace and joy more than I needed the why. My circumstances weren’t changing and I didn’t want to live on being jaded and in despair because I was stuck on needing the why.
Where and how and when have you tasted and seen God’s goodness in a tangible way?
How do you understand the relationship between God, creation, and your own physicality?