Saturday, October 29, 2005
Traveling Mercies: Some thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott
I grew up Catholic. People did not get up on the altar on Sunday and testify about their beliefs or experiences. Retreats in highschool and college were incredible because people did do it there. Not up on an altar but in a circle of their peers. They shared experiences from their life and how God had helped them through it. It was amazing.
It was not until I started going to the Wednesday “all-faith” services when I worked at World Vision that I found that Protestants do this every week. It was still amazing.
Anne Lamott does it in book form. Anne doesn’t tell you why you should believe what she believes. She shares experiences. My life experiences have been nothing like hers but I agree with much of what she has come to believe.
Her life, while imperfect, has made her wise and she shares her simple wisdom. She asserts that the two best prayers that she knows are:
Help me, help me, help me
Thank you, thank you, thank you
They are simple but powerful. Her father’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries who raised their children in Tokyo. She mentions how much disdain her father held for Christianity and they all proclaimed that they did not believe in God mostly to win favor with their father. Her mother went to an Episcopal church on Christmas Eve. She was not brought up with any type of religion whatsoever. She was surprised and bewildered to find God when she was a college student. A professor introduced them to Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and she says her life changed forever. They talked about the story of Abraham and when she left class that day, she knew there was a God. It made no sense to her and she could not explain it but she suddenly or finally believed that God exists. She was bat mitzvahed and even learned Hebrew.
About fifteen pages after that, after much drinking, drugs, bulimia, pregnancy and an abortion, she finds Jesus sitting in her bedroom. Now, while I’ve not been lucky enough to sense His physical presence that close to me before, I believe that she did. She tried to ignore Him for a while but eventually gave in. She has stopped ignoring Him and even looks for Him; then she shares how and where she finds Him.
It is not about a particular denomination or a certain set of beliefs. It is not even as serious as I’ve made it sound. Ms. Lamott is hilarious. She can be relating a story about a sick friend or something her son is going through and just when you’re ready to cry with her, you are laughing out loud at the next thing she says.
The title comes from something that the “old people” at her church say to people when they are leaving for a while. “Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound.”
This is another book that has sat on my “list” there on the left corner for a while. I read a few pages at a time, and received a little more inspiration each time. I highly recommend it. If you do not have time to settle in with the whole book at one time, just read a page or two. You may learn something about yourself, you might find a new way to relate to people or you might just laugh. Chances are you will experience all three on one page.