Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mercies & forgiveness

I finished Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies about two days ago. I quite enjoyed it, although I think I might like Bird By Bird a little bit better (I blogged about reading that title here). I now find quotes from Traveling Mercies running through my head. My favorite takes place on page 131 of the paperback edition printed by Anchor Books in February 2000. Here's some context from a few pages earlier.
I went around saying for a long time that I am not one of those Christians who is heavily into forgiveness—that I am one of the other kind. But even thought it was funny, and actually true, it started to be too painful to stay this way. They say were are not punished for the sin but by the sin, and I began to feel punished by my unwillingless to forgive. By the time I decided to become one of the ones who is heavily into forgiveness, it was like trying to become a marathon runner in middle age; everything inside me either recoiled, as from a hot flame, or laughed a little too hysterically [...] I decided I was starting off with my sights aimed too high. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, "If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo."

So, she starts by trying to forgive an "Enemy Lite", a parent of another student in her little son's classroom. The forgiveness experiment does not progress well at first.
I smiled back at her. I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.

It drove me to my knees.

I have thought thoughts that meet that criterion; I'm ashamed to admit I've voiced many of them. Reading this book, I especially have been encouraged to make a renewed effort at (among many things) forgiveness, as well as at thinking thoughts and saying words that won't make Jesus want to go drink gin (I'm not trying to be flippant by phrasing it that way). I love that quote because it's true to my experience, although my experience has never included and possibly may never include having a first-grade son.*

Related: Mary McKinney of was nice enough to email me with the news that Anne Lamott has a blog. Right here, to be precise. ¡Gracias!

*Full disclosure: I also find the quote hilarious. Anne Lamott can definitely turn a phrase.