What will you remember most?
It’s a question my friend, Teresa, asked as we drove along in the dark, I-77 South stretching long in front of us.
Hum I said. It was taking some time, the sifting of all the contenders, so many beautiful possibilities floating around bumping each other at the top. There were Anne’s comments on surrender. And truth. And wonder and mercy. And then I remembered her saying this, and my soul shifting, and my heart opening.
Just say what Jesus says. She smiles. Just say “Me, too.”
THERE ARE SO MANY reasons I love Anne Lamott. She is a generous giver, a compassionate teacher for seekers of every kind: the lost, the found, the addicted, the broken, the resurrected. We are all worthy, she preaches, each and every one chosen. And it is our responsibility (as well as our joy) to lift each other up, to pull each other along in a world that is overwhelmingly difficult and yet beautiful beyond belief.
She is also a writer’s writer, Anne Lamott, a powerful storyteller who gets down to the bone of the thing. Her truths are raw and real; her honesty disarms in a way that casts every speck of pretense aside. I’ve never had the privilege of studying with Anne and yet she is my writing spirit guide. For each and every what-on-earth-am-I-doing chapter of my manuscript’s first draft she was there on my shoulder cheering sweetlyYou can do this. One sentence at a time. Just get it down. It feels so overwhelming, the largeness of a novel, a thousand mile journey you walk in the dark. And Anne would say: Tell me what happened. I’d write. Then what happened? I’d write. Then what happened?
A COUPLE OF WEEKS ago, out of the blue, I clicked on my inbox to find this email from my sweet, soulful friend, Joanne.
Anne Lamott is coming to Charlotte. Here are tickets.
It was a generous, thoughtful gesture from someone I adore and don’t see nearly enough. It was also a powerful God-wink. I knew He had things to say to me.
AND SO WE were there, Teresa and I, when Anne Lamott walked onto the stage at Ovens Auditorium. She’d had one hell of a day, delayed more than six hours at Dulles and arriving 30 minutes after the start-time of her talk in Charlotte. She came straight to the gathering with no time at all to relax or recharge or even change her shoes. Instead she took a big drink of water, exhaled, and began answering life’s toughest questions before a crowd of thousands.
This one came up in no time.
So what is mercy, anyway?
Mercy, she said, and smiled. Mercy is grace in action.
(That’s as perfect a definition as I’ve ever heard.)
And then she offered this by way of explanation. When a friend is troubled or shamed or downtrodden or broken hearted, our nature is to try to “fix” things by offering advice, or worse yet, platitudes.
This is not Mercy.
Mercy, she says, Mercy is sitting with someone in their pain with no judgement and absolutely no intention of changing anything. (One person changing another is not possible anyway, she points out.) Mercy, like Jesus, simply says
Do you feel the relief I feel in realizing this?
Are you happy to lay down the burden of “fixing” things?
Can you exhale knowing in the pain you’re allowed to just be with it?
It is a gentle, compassionate way to live, and it was my biggest lesson of the night.
Yet there was so much more. So much more.
We’re so hungry for what we’re not giving.
You are being pulled for.
When someone shares deeply, say thank you.
Help is the sunny side of control.
The ultimate act of mercy is to listen.
80% of anything is a miracle.
THANK YOU, ANNE. Thank you, Christ Church. And thank you, Joanne, for this gift of grace—and mercy—in my life.