Monday, May 12, 2008

Some Thoughts on Grace

Anne Lamott, a talented writer, spiritual seeker, single mom, and former drug addict, writes with brutal honesty about her journey of faith and her passionate opinions on a variety of topics.

Grace (Eventually): Some Thoughts on Faith is the third of Anne Lamott's books about faith and life and how they intertwine. I first discovered Lamott years ago, before she was very well known, when my friend Mary lent me Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. I was struck by her raw honesty and beautiful writing. Not many mothers will admit to their desire to throw their newborn baby out the window (because he wouldn't stop crying)!

At first, I struggled to get into Grace, but eventually it took hold of me. My favorite essays covered topics such as:
  • Lamott's helping in a dance class for developmentally disabled adults

  • Her description of an old friendship that went sour because of her jealousy and her friends' self-absorption and materialism

  • A panel discussion she participated in when she had the courage to speak her own truth about her views on abortion

  • Her experience helping a dear friend to end his life (because of a debilitating cancer)

  • An experience she had with a dishonest carpet dealer and her decision to move on and not harbor anger about the loss of her money

  • Her reflections on the difficulties of raising a teenage son

  • Her look back on life with her mother
Lamott's theology is deeply accessible and all-inclusive. She writes with anger about George Bush and his administration, and some might find that offensive, but I find it incredibly honest. This spirituality is not for goody two shoes! If you are easily offended, find another book. If you value raw honesty and reflections on how faith can turn your heart around, you will like this book.

Here are some of the memorable passages in the book--they caught my attention either because of the quality of the writing (her similes are amazing) or because of the depth of her spirit and honesty.

"As a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women are a crucial part of that. It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society."

"Grace arrived, like the big, loopy stitches with which a grandmotherly stranger might baste your hem temporarily."

"Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking."

"'I liked those ladies! They were helpers, and they danced.' These are the words I want on my gravestone: that I was a helper, and that I danced."

"He got me a cup of tea with honey, toast with honey, yogurt with honey, like I was John the Baptist with the flu."

"And she is going to dance, dance hungry, dance full, dance each cold astonishing moment, now when she is young and again when she is old."

"I remember staring at my son endlessly when he was an infant, stunned by his very existence, wondering where on earth he had come from."

"Jealousy always has been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed. I’ve had many years of recovery and therapy, years filled with intimate and devoted friendships, yet I still struggle. I know that when someone gets a big slice of pie, it doesn’t mean there’s less for me. In fact, I know that there isn’t even a pie, that there’s plenty to go around, enough food and love and air. But I don’t believe it for a second. I secretly believe there’s a pie. I will go to my grave brandishing my fork."

"Mel was somewhat surprised that as a Christian I so staunchly agreed with him about assisted suicide: I believe that life is a kind of Earth School, so even though assisted suicide means you’re getting out early, before the term ends, you’re going to be leaving anyway, so who says it isn’t okay to take an incomplete in the course."

"You've got to wonder what Jesus was live at seventeen. They don't even talk about it in the Bible, he was apparently so awful."

As you can imagine by reading these quotes, many in the fundamentalist communities are not Anne Lamott fans! She recently appeared on the Stephen Colbert show and quietly referred to God as "She." The blogosphere and amazon community is full of incensed Christians, trying to figure out just what the heck people see in Lamott. Another reason to find her appealing! Here is another quote from Lamott, summarizing how she feels about salvation:

"I don't believe God is a God of judgment. I certainly think the right-wing God says that if you're anything other than what they are, you're doomed, and I can't find that in the Bible. The right-wing Christian God is a God of extreme bigotry and elitism...Jesus as I understand Jesus welcomes everyone to the table."

Since that sums up how I feel about faith and a God that includes everyone and every journey, I am an Anne Lamott fan.

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