The Gravity of Joy / Angela Gorrell

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Theologian Angela Gorrell discusses her book The Gravity of Joy, a theological memoir that lays bare the experience of finding the bright sorrow of joy alongside devastating grief, suffering, and pain. The book recounts her experience of joining the Yale Center for Faith & Culture in 2016 as an Associate Research Scholar for our Theology of Joy and the Good Life Project and to teach our Yale undergraduate course, Life Worth Living. That winter, the reality, the extent, and the dangerous potential of joy would become devastatingly clear. The highly abstract question of what it means to live a life worth living would become painfully acute. Interview with Ryan McAnnally-Linz.

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This episode contains some sensitive material about suicide. Use some discretion as you consider listening, and if you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Show Notes

  • Read the book: The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found
  • A devastating winter of loss
  • Suicide and opioid deaths as “deaths of despair"
  • “Despair is the feeling I think that people can feel when they feel like no one can reach them. No one can get to them. And for me, joy is a counteragent to despair because joy is the feeling that we get after recognizing truth, meaning beauty, goodness, our relationship to other people."
  • Joy as a work of resistance against despair (e.g., Willie James Jennings)
  • "Joy as an illumination that there is something more.”
  • Grief vs Despair—what prevented your grief from becoming despair? Who reached you?
  • “Even though I was a year and five months in grief… angry… constantly afraid of getting another call."
  • Suicide watch in a women’s correctional facility—“These women are going to minister to me."
  • "Is our study of joy too shallow?"
  • Different kinds of joy
  • Joy and sorrow—from the book: "Joy doesn’t obliterate grief. . . . Instead, joy has a mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even—sometimes most especially—in the midst of suffering."
  • The ocean as a spiritual sanctuary, the rain as an indicator that change is coming
  • "I suddenly found myself rejoicing over what ought to be, what was to come. I suddenly believed that joy might make its way to me again. And just the mirror. Like what if of joy like found me on that beach, running in the pouring rain?"
  • Women’s prison bible study—feeling welcome to a community without shame
  • Humanizing one another in a dehumanizing institution: “The Gravity of Joy is my effort to humanize people who are incarcerated."
  • God’s activity in suffering, pain, and joy: “God was always seeking after you."
  • Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good"
  • I hope people feel seen.

About Angela Gorrell

Dr. Angela Williams Gorrell is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary and author of The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found and Always on: Practicing Faith in a New Media Landscape. Prior to joining the faculty at Baylor University, she was an Associate Research Scholar at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, working on the Theology of Joy and the Good Life Project, and a lecturer in Divinity and Humanities at Yale University. She is an ordained pastor with 15 years of ministry experience. Dr. Gorrell’s expertise is in the areas of theology and contemporary culture, education and formation, new media, and youth and emerging adults.

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