Finished! One of the pitfalls of a bibliophile (at least this bibliophile) is the tendency to read multiple books at a time. Micah and Kristen recommended Gilead some time ago. Patty finished reading it just after we purchased the book. I on the other hand had it in my queue and began reading it several months ago. This would come across to some as a less than a, "ringing endorsement" of a "Pulitzer Prize" winning novel. Do not be fooled by my misdeed. Read this novel and read it carefully. I have a couple of posts in mind from this one and in fact am certain I posted something just after I began, whenever that was. My embarrassment did not let me do a search of my blog to find the exact date. Dear reader if you feel so inclined be my guest. I can handle the ridicule. It is my consequence.
Grace. My friend Spencer Burke asks questions about grace for which he was excoriated by some. I plan to review, A Heretics Guide to Eternity, and will have further thoughts in the future. One of the compelling things about Marilynne Robinson’s novel, and yes I am aware of conflating two books here and am attempting to recover my first line of thought, is her sprinkling of images of grace in the ordinary. I have a sense that our dualistic divide between the sacred and the secular keeps us from seeing grace in the normal affairs of life.
I recall a time in junior high when I talked smack to my parents while at Braum’s. My father came to discipline. You should interpret that as my understanding that life as I knew it would be altered and maybe for a good deal longer than I would hope. I recall my dad coming toward me and in my fear I simply urged, "Dad, don’t hit me." Now you should know that "hitting" us three boys was not common and should not in any way be read to imply abuse of any sort. In fact, what I did deserve was a good thrashing for my utter disrespect. I will never forget my Dad stopping, turning and walking back into the Braum’s resuming his conversation with other folks from the church.
I often recall that moment as an awareness of grace. What I acknowledged before my Dad was my deplorable and embarrassing behavior. He helped me see that recognition signaled something of a change in understanding of my relationship to my parents. You ask, "Did you talk smack again?" If I did, and I am sure I did, I thought longer about the consequences. My awareness of grace came in the throws of what should have indeed came to me. Some would suggest I received mercy and so it was merciful. But, I don’t even recall being grounded or even harshly spoken to so I prefer to name it "grace."
In Gilead there is a scene where the narrator describes himself as waking from a nap to discover his wife on the porch swing. She moves to make room for him and he lies with his head in her lap covered with a quilt. A conversation ensues with something of a mystical character. He was known but there were some things not known about him that left many wondering if not disturbed by his presence. He feigns sleep during an exchange between this person and his wife. Here is a brief excerpt,
I believe I may have found a way out of the cave of this tedious preoccupation, however. It’s worth a try. So:
When I was sitting there on the porch last night more or less feigning sleep and your mother took my hand and held it in her hands, that was a great happiness to me. I see I did indicate this – "her two warm hands" – and I noted that at the same time she spoke of me much more kindly than I deserve. Only thinking back on it did I realize that she was speaking as if from that settled life she said she had always wanted and as if it could not be lost to her, though in every practical, material sense she knows it will be. That pleased me, too. Remembering when they said what they did about looking in windows and wondering about other people’s lives made me feel companionable with them. I could have said that’s the three of us, because, as the Lord knows, for many years I did exactly the same thing. But in that moment, the way she spoke, it seemed that all the wondering about life had been answered for her, once and for all, and if that is true, it is wonderful. The notion is a source of peace for me. (Robinson,Gilead,p.202)
"Her two warm hands." Now there is an expression of grace. Too often we hold hands with little reference to the person whose hands we hold. It has become so commonplace, too familiar. But, when you think of those whose lives have been wrecked by abandonment and abuse, "warm hands" become welcome hands of grace.
Thoughts shared in conversation pointing to the affirmation of a reality longed for and found express grace. "it seemed that all the wondering about life had been answered for her, once and for all, and if that is true, it is wonderful." Oh the thought of hope fulfilled – that is grace. Ordinary. Real. Grace.
What would we see in our world if we could once and for all collapse the two-tiered universe of the "sacred and secular"? Could we imagine such a place where the grace of God becomes more apparent than receiving what we don’t deserve in the extraordinary circumstances of life?
Oh the thoughts of grace … leave a note of what you see … if indeed you are able …