Anne Lamott was in town this past weekend so Jeri, her sis Cheri, and I met up at a downtown church to hear Anne talk about none other than her thoughts on faith during her latest book peddling, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. I hadn't met Jeri before but as is the case with reading the musings of other fellow bloggers, I felt as though I had.
In any event, I really enjoyed Lamott's talk. Much more so than the reading of her latest work, actually. There were easily 1,000 people who packed the church to hear her speak, and yet strangely, it seemed as intimate to me as a small salon gathering. Her soft-spoken nature surprised me. She comes across kind of spacey and unassuming - sort of a cross between the witty and wise Diane Keaton and an adorable, cutsie Melanie Griffith - I wondered at one point if all those drugs from her former addict lifestyle hadn't perchance gotten the best of her. And yet her thoughts on faith are lucid and anything but spacey.
What's refreshing is how irreverently reverent she is about her Christian faith. She's not praise the Lord! preachy but rather, unabashedly honest, questioning and grateful. "The opposite of faith," she claims, "is certainty." This may be the only thing she knows for sure about this quest called God.
Apart from the fact that she knows she hates process. "There must be an easier way," she laments, than the mistake-ridden path of living, learning and passing it on. "If I were God," she says, "I'd have a completely different system." It would be more like a kitchen drawer organizer and there would be a definite out-box corresponding to the God box system she utiliizes. God box?
Yup. She admits to having a physical box where she stashes notes and prayer requests to God. Think Wailing Wall on a local scale. She's unabashed in her praise of this system. It works, she insists, eventually, which is another thing she hates. It's part of the reason she thinks God is so clever. Her prayers are always answered....somehow, somewhere...they just seldom resemble the original request.
Lamott read a couple of excerpts from her new book, a loose collection of commentaries about grace and the notion of forgivishness, as she calls it. One of the tales she read is about the estrangement of a friendship since partially mended, while the other is the riveting account of an assisted suicide she facilitated years ago. In both cases, grace was a change agent for her.
She believes strongly in the power of grace, even if it does seem as though it isn't an immediate process. Grace, she notes, "often buys me a few minutes," whether this be in matters of Sunday school discipline, parenting a teenager, writing a book or radical self-care, as she calls it.
She took some time to address the process of writing, as detailed in her book Bird by Bird, and then stayed to sign books. I lined up to get my book signed, something I haven't done since waiting to get Eric Estrada's autograph at a car show. Thankfully, the line-up was only a ten minute wait. I decided to buy Bird by Bird, so titled to describe the process and reality of what she dubs "shitty" first drafts (my blogs in a nutshell).
Which is metaphoric, really, of this journey through life we are all in together and of the "muddling glory of God" and eventual grace that abounds, if only we would but pay attention.