Monday, January 12, 2015

Faith, Grace, and "Why me, God?"

Here I go, blogging about something I almost never share--faith. I think I said recently that I would occasionally blog about politics because sometimes circumstances--like the current Congress coming out as if they'd been named king of all things--drive me to the point that I can't be quiet. You'll notice that so far I've shown great restraint--wait for it, it's coming.
But faith is pretty much a private matter. You have yours, I have mine, and we each respect the other. But tonight I read something by Anne Lamott that I am compelled to share. I recently commented to a friend that my faith had deepened in recent years. I'm not sure how. It's not exactly church-related, though I have been a churchgoer (often irregular) most of my life. But what I sense lately is a deepening sense of faith that doesn't depend on the ritual of the church, which I have always valued. Anne Lamott said it perfectly in an article in the new issue of the AARP Magazine: ..."by faith, I don't necessarily mean religious conviction. I'm talking partly about belief in the existence of a divine intelligence but also about faith in goodness, in things mostly working out. And let's not forget faith in ourselves--the conviction that we are loved and chosen--which is such a component of the spiritual life."
A lot of people in dire circumstances, wonder "Why me, God?" Classic story of Jonah and the whale. On the other hand, I often wonder, "Why me, God? Why am I so blessed when there is so much misery in life?" We were talking about this the other night, and another woman and I agreed we could have been born in Afghanistan or Boko Haram territory or any number of other places; we could have been born homeless or in abject poverty in the good old U.S. But we weren't. I believe to a large extent that we make our own fortune--not exactly the doctrine of good works, but more that what happens to us that is good is of our own making--through ambition, education, kindness, inquisitiveness (ah, the open mind). You get the idea. And yet going almost back to John Knox's Calvinism I have come to believe in Grace as a strong component of my faith. In, as Lamott says, the essential goodness of things. So when I say of someone suffering some horrible misfortune, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I," I really mean it. And I am grateful.
But with grace comes, to my mind, obligation, the obligation to help those less fortunate than we are. And that may indeed lead me back to a political rant. But not tonight.
If you've not read Lamott, I suggest you do. Her book that most impressed me was a wonderful one on writing and life, Bird by Bird. When she was young her brother postponed a big project on birds until the last minute. Then he sat at the kitchen table, overwhelmed by the scope of his project. His father advised, "Just take it bird by bird, son." That's a good way to take life. Lamott's latest title is Small Victories, which is on my "To Be Read" list. But there are others you might want to explore.

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