Traveling Mercies – my two cents

I just finished Anne Lamott’s, Traveling Mercies. Some of you who were following my journey through the book via Facebook over the weekend know – I loved it. I devoured it. I totally ignored my family all day Saturday and buried my nose very far into her addictive storytelling.

Her writing style is such a joy to read. It’s contemporary, jaunty, springy, heart-awakening, funny, and stretching. I laughed out loud, gasped, cried, and felt known – then the next minute I felt totally off kilter and irritated. One moment I was wrapping my arms around her in my mind, the next furrowing my brow and pointing my “shame on you” finger at her. It was so much fun.

Her story, her life, the way God has pursued her so obviously since her youth, was a real kick in the stomach for me. I knew from some of the opening lines of her story – if I was to have met her in person at any point in her life, I would have totally dismissed her. I would have judged her lifestyle as one confidently rejecting the Lord. I would have assumed she was too far from the cross to bother with. I would have been totally wrong.

That’s hard for me to see this in myself. I wouldn’t have reached out to her, because I would have looked at her life choices and made assumptions, judgments, assigned her a certain value, and probably felt sorry for her. And here she is, an amazing women who has responded to God, who has allowed God to heal and free her, who has experienced God in personal, supernatural ways I ache to, and who has used a gift He has given her to encourage an audience toward God – an audience many of us would stride confidently past.

So, that’s one thing.

The other is her position on abortion. She readily admits having had at least one. She shares that she felt upset after one of them, but later, says she politically and theoretically supports abortion.

Now, all weekend I’ve been thinking, “How could this be? How can she reconcile herself to this? How could it not burden her heart to know babies are being killed? How could she not feel passionate about protecting them?”

Well, I’m not exactly sure about this, but in reading more about her thoughts on this issue, I think if I were to ask her about it, she would ask me this question in response.

“How do you reconcile your own lack of passion and burden for the lives of people around this world who have been born, but who are being oppressed, murdered, raped, who are starving, being stolen and used for sex, who are waiting for the Christian community to feel as passionately about them as they do for babies they can’t see or hear.”

I think she would say it better than that, and I have a feeling there would be a look in her eye that would sear my soul and give me serious pause.

I care about those issues too, but honestly, and sadly, they don’t burden me like they need to burden me. She is a passionate supporter of the rights of the born, as she calls it. I can’t join her position on abortion, but I admire and am totally tracking with her passion for justice and freedom for the suffering and oppressed.

And then, this question. How did this happen in my life – this tilt, shift, preference, interest and lack of interest? I’m ashamed to say, I tend to follow the Christian tide. Are we all passionate about abortion this decade? Great – I am too. Are we passionate about poverty and educating our children? Swell – count me in.

Do I ask God what He would have me burdened about? Do I concern myself with what the Bible says about these matters? Do I let the American Christian Community at large give  me my marching orders? Uh, yeah. I do.

Is that terrible. No.

Is there room for improvement? Oh yes.

I appreciate having Anne Lamott’s voice in my life. I’m so glad she will be in heaven with us all. She will certainly liven things up!

4 thoughts on “Traveling Mercies – my two cents

  1. this is a great take on the book, jess. i struggled through it several years ago — loving her writing and honesty, but feeling like i shouldn’t like her so much because of those places where i disagree with her. your perspective is very refreshing and definitely gives me pause to judge — thank you!!!

  2. Heidi says:

    Boy, this is a heavy one for me. I feel so strongly against abortion. A friend told me a long time ago, “A baby can’t speak for itself in the womb.” She was comparing people’s feelings on war vs. abortion. She made the comment that the baby’s can’t speak up, but a grown man can and makes his own decisions. I don’t care for either, but I have to speak up for those unheard babies. Thanks for listening and for your comments Jess!

  3. jessdager says:

    I totally agree with you Heidi, on the abortion thing. I am totally and utterly against it in every circumstance. I don’t mean to say that I’m reconsidering that at all, just that I tend to carry the subtle thought in my mind that it’s presence in society is the greatest evil there is or something. Her writing helped me, one, think through why I felt that way, and reconsider how I might begin to see other evils as also requiring the voice of God’s people to rise up against those with the same unity and passion we do about abortion.

  4. Jeanna says:

    I have heard non-Christians refer to the ‘Right to Life’ stance as caring for life from conception until birth (meaning that we, as Christians, don’t tend to have the same Right to Life passions in people after they are born.) How sad that we are perceived that way. What can we as a Christian community do to help change that perception?

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