At a time when each day dawns with a new argument, the type of argument that brings forth the red-faced, screaming intolerance in everyone, Anne Lamott reminds us of the pure, always-available power of mercy. These days I could use a gallon of that right now. This is her tenth book. Lamott is the kind of spiritual author we look for in these scary and unsettling times. She has been to hell and back many times herself. She carries within herself the survival character qualities that we cherish: resilience, wisdom, faith and humor.
We can be so beaten by the world that we “shove mercy and trust into a drawer.” Lamott says it is much easier to walk around and pretend we don’t care about others, what they think of us and the hurtful words we hurl. A lot of us need reminding that “forgiveness and mercy mean that, bit by bit, you begin to outshine the resentment. You open the drawer that was shut and you take out the precious treasures that you hid so long ago there.” Reading Lamott’s book feels like sitting down with a friend who wants to remind you that it all really will be okay.
“Hallelujah Anyway,” is a 2017 slim (176 pages) manual on faith. It mixes theology and psychology with Lamott’s own personal grievances and life stories. Organized into nine chapter-like essays around mercy, the book is peppered with cryptic takeaways like, “Maybe mercy and grace belong together, like cream and sugar.” I liked her reminding me what C.S. Lewis said: “We don’t have souls, we are souls. We have bodies.”
In wonderful vignettes, Lamott explains with creative musings the Story of Jonah, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Woman at the Well, the Raising of Lazarus, the Book of Ruth and Joseph showing mercy to his brothers after they sell him into slavery in Egypt.
Anne Lamott challenges me to grow spiritually: “Mercy means that we no longer constantly judge everybody’s large and tiny failures, foolish hearts, dubious convictions, and inevitable bad behavior. We will never do this perfectly, but how do we do it better? How do we mostly hold people we’ve encountered with the understanding of a wise, caring mother who has seen it all, knows that we all struggle, knows that on the inside we’re as vulnerable as a colony of rabbits?
“Sometimes when we cannot take it one more day, like the renowned octopus who recently escaped his aquarium and headed toward the sea, a mentor appears, who knows things, and more important, knows that he or she does not know things. We want what that person has, a gentler way of seeing, a less rigid way of thinking, less certainty, more play.”