For people who have read Anne Lamott’s previous writings on faith and life, this book will come as no surprise. It continues her own confessions, struggles, insights, longings, and gropings toward understanding herself and a fuller relationship with God and with her fellow human beings.
For those who have not read any of Lamott’s earlier books, pick this one up. Lamott writes with humor and unfailing honesty as she confronts her own (and our) human greed and selfishness and love and honor and, yes, mercy.
Woven throughout are her own takes on various Bible passages and people that may well resonate with the reader. They certainly do with me. Listen to her about St. Paul with whom I have long had a difficult relationship:
“Putting aside the little problem with all the people he had killed, he was annoying, sexist, stuffy, and theoretical. He was not a great storyteller like the Gospel writers. He often got preachy, and his message was frequently about trying to be more stoic, with dogmatic ‘Shape up’ and ‘Shame on you’ talks. He was cranky, judgmental and self-righteous, worse even than I. Yes, he had moments of genius and light, but then he’d start wagging his fingers again. Yet, he knew my heart, he knew the struggle with our dark side: ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’ And he preached the willingness to be loved and included, as is. He knew that people like me would want to have the willingness to have the willingness, but that this is scary and hard. He knew that it comes from the pain of staying the way we are, cut off from ourselves, squandering our lives, envying others, bingeing on whatever, terrified of making mistakes.”
Lamott explains that it is mercy – the promise to offer and receive relief and forgiveness – that lies at the heart of all great faith traditions and our own spiritual identity. Mercy gives us the chance to “soften ever so slightly” so that we can understand one another more deeply. Mercy is, in her words, “the medicine, the light that shines in dark places.”
This book is beautiful, with so many wonderful passages that beg to be read and savored, pulled close into your heart and pondered there. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.—Jeanie Smith