Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott

Published in 2007. 257 pages.

I read Anne Lamott's previous compilations of personal essays on faith - Traveling Mercies and Plan B - in 2006. (I posted some thoughts here.) I liked Grace (Eventually) about as well as Plan B but not as well as Traveling Mercies.

What I love most about Lamott's writing is that her spirituality is so "real." She takes her everyday struggles - with things like body image and her teenage son and "forgivishness" - and finds God in them. She shares her vulnerabilities with us, her readers, and we are strengthened as we realize that we, too, can receive God's grace.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking. [page 50]
When Jesus was asked about beauty, he pointed to nature, to the lilies of the field. Behold them, he said, and behold is a special word: it means to look upon something amazing or unexpected. Behold! It is an exhortation, not a whiny demand, like when you're talking to your child - "Behold me when I'm talking to you, sinner!" Jesus is saying that every moment you are freely given the opportunity to see through a different pair of glasses. "Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." But that's only the minor chord. The major one follows, in his anti-anxiety discourse - which is the soul of this passage - that all striving after greater beauty and importance, and greater greatness, is foolishness. It is untimately like trying to catch the wind. Lilies do not need to do anything to make themselves more glorious or cherished. Jesus is saying that we have much to learn from them about giving up striving. He's not saying that in "Get over it" way, as your mother or your last, horrible husband did. Instead he's heartbroken, as when you know an anorexic girl who's starving to death, as if in some kind of demonic possession. He's saying that we could be aware of, filled with, and saved by the presence of holy beauty, rather than worship golden calves. [pages 79-80]
The best way to change the world is to change your mind, which often requires feeding yourself. It makes for biochemical peace. It's almost like a prayer: to be needy, to eat, to taste, to be filled, building up instead of tearing down. You find energy to do something you hadn't expected to do, maybe even one of the holiest things: to go outside and stand under the stars, or to go for a walk in the morning, or in such hard times, both. [pages 252-253]

(By the way, this was book two on day three of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. Fortunately, I'd previously started reading this one, so I was able to finish it in the time I had today. I'm officially one book behind.)


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