Sunday, January 16, 2011


I am reading a very interesting novel--Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, which won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago. It takes an unusual form--a long letter written by a dying man to his very young son so that the son may know who he is when he comes of age. (Don't worry, I won't spoil it for you; I'm only two-thirds of the way through it myself).

Ostensibly, the letter writer desires to convey to his child what he would say to him during their time together if he had lived. Inevitably, though, it becomes a revelation of the spiritual battles still raging within the father's heart as he prepares to meet God face to face. Beautifully written, glowingly poignant, and quietly humorous and human, the book in many respects is a modern-day Confessions of St. Augustine. Earnestly contemplative, the father's letter to his son becomes an article of faith through which he slowly comes to grips with his own need to forgive and let go of what has deeply wounded him.

Incidentally, the father is a Congregationalist pastor.

At a number of points, the novel overtakes the reader very simply and suprisingly to the point where it has become necessary for me to pause and think about how what has just been written applies to my own life. There aren't many novels that could be read for lectio; I think this is one. It is that powerful.

Following is one passage that struck me as a universal struggle for us all. I thought it was worth sharing and praying over:
When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?

If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights.You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person.

He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.

I am reminded of this precious instruction by my own great failure to live up to it ....

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