Thursday, October 25, 2012

on rough edges

Three years ago, during our east coast summer, I read this book by Anne Lamott called Grace (Eventually) and kind of hated it. I had a really hard time relating to her, and can I say something honest and ugly and completely unflattering? I had a hard time thinking of her as a Christian. She didn't seem victorious at all over her issues, and that bothered me. (I know, that says a lot more about where I was at the time than it does about Anne Lamott. She's a brave soul.)

This weekend I read it again and pretty much loved it. I found the pockets of grace easily, amidst the political rambling and the lack of traditional Christian tidiness. I found good news there.

Here's the thing about her: she's rough around the edges, and she doesn't polish her image for her books. It was upsetting the first time around, this lack of polish. This time it was a relief.

What I get now, and I'm not sure why I didn't then, is that you can't possibly begin to talk about grace until you talk about the ugly stuff. Without one, the other doesn't exist. There's a startling beauty that begins to unfold when a person is vulnerable; truly vulnerable, not in the "I used to be this way but look, God helped me and I'm so much better now" way that we're all so fond of. She has a way of capturing the beauty of the human condition without airbrushing it, without leaving out the f word and the angry hot tears, and the confusion.


I'm definitely over myself more these days. I've prayed a lot of "why do I suck so much; please help me" prayers. I've apologized without any real idea of what I'm going to do to fix it. I've gone to bed bone tired just from being with myself all day. I'm in over my head and it turns out, much to my disappointment, that I'm not strong after all. I'm actually pretty ridiculous. I'm the proverbial old man grumbling "get off my lawn" and the optimistic kid saying "will you play with me?" at the same time. I read once that you grow up the day you look in the mirror and have a good, long laugh at yourself. Well.

But grace allows me to rest. Grace says, go to sleep and try again tomorrow, knowing full well that tomorrow might actually be worse. Grace teaches me continually to be kinder to myself even when I know that might be a mistake, because I might take advantage of it.
That's me, trying to make any progress at all with family, in work, relationships, self-image: scootch, scootch, stall; scootch, stall, catastrophic reversal; bog, bog, scootch. I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things; also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark. 
I suppose that if you were snatched out of the mess, you'd miss the lesson; the lesson is the slog (p. 93) 
It speaks to me. I've become a student of the slog.

Silas came up to me just now, face covered in yogurt and said "Hey. Mommy. Owp." Too often I approach prayer like it's some kind of favor I'm doing. That's so not the case, ever. I just need help.

I'm making peace with the human condition (or you know, trying to). Opportunities abound for being taken up with our less pleasant qualities. It will always be tempting to say snarky things, to react, to judge. Especially in response to people who say careless, mean things....and oh, they are so much more up in our faces nowadays (or does it just seems that way to me?) I read today that the best way to be friends with people who you disagree with is to say "tell me why this is important to you", and then just listen. That pretty much sounds like the best and hardest thing ever. It is hard to have a conversation. It is hard to really listen and not just wait for your turn to talk some more.

All the ugly things that I bump up against and want to react to are inside of me too. I keep running into them. So I'm free to let others off the hook. Theoretically. Hopefully.

We are such fragile people, it's amazing we can experience love at all.

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