USA Today had this to say about Anne Lamott's <Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith: "You'll love Traveling Mercies for Lamott's unblinking confrontation with God's love, and you'll buy copies for all your friends struggling with faith." Religion News Service said this: "Lamott has developed an entirely new genre of religious writing. Gritty, stark, and humorous, she catches the reader by surprise when she points her pen heavenward.... Anne Lamott [is] the patron saint of struggling sinners, a woman who loves God enough to be divinely human."
A few days ago, a reader left a question on my website asking what the characteristics were for faith in God in Traveling Mercies. This is a great question because the book is comprised of essays about her experience with faith. Unfortunately, I can't answer this reader's question as fully as he or she would probably like. It has been a number of years since I read this book cover to cover and I no longer have a copy of it to go back to now to refresh my memory. So I will call on others reading this post who have read Traveling Mercies to add their comments.
Here is what I remember: I loved the book. It made me laugh! A friend was reading it at the same time and we would read each other parts over the phone and laugh so hard we couldn't talk. But while I was laughing I was also deeply moved by the spiritual impact of what she wrote about. One of the things I remember best--and actually go back to thinking about quite often--is the story of how she came to faith in Jesus. Her life was not going well in general. At that particular time, she was quite ill and alone. She had the sense that a presence was in the room with her. She had a sense that that presence was Jesus. Turning over in her bed so that she faced the wall, with her back to the presence, she thought she would rather die than believe in Jesus. Her illness passed and she returned to her daily activities but she couldn't let go of the sense that the same presence--Jesus--had moved out of her bedroom and was now following her. Constantly, like a cat. When she would go in her house she would slam the door behind her to make sure he knew he wasn't welcome. This went on for awhile. Then one day as she approached the door to her house, feeling the presence behind her, she held the door open and said, ok, he could come in. And that was that. She believed and from that day on her faith grew. Based on this story I think it is fair to say that Lamott would not say she herself mustered the wisdom to have faith, but that it resulted from God intervening in her life. The faith didn't come from her seeking God but from God seeking her. She sees God meeting her through many people and situations. My recollection is that the rest of the essays in the book would support that. That said, she does act in genuine response to the faith God gave her. She describes in hilarious self-deprecating detail these efforts to live as a person faithful to God in response. (For example, she wonders if her trying to be gracious and thankful still counts if she is doing it through clenched teeth and with her hand in a tight fist behind her back.) That is the gist of what I remember. Forgive me if I got any details wrong as I don't have the book to check it against.
If someone else reading this has something to offer on what Lamott's Traveling Mercies has to say about faith in God, I invite you to post a comment.