Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Anne Lamott & Jealousy

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a place of winter For the Years of Winter…

I am considerably ill at ease about this, but I am enormously jealous of Anne Lamott.
Before she became a Christian, and sometimes after, it seems, she got to live a dissolute life of drugs, affairs with married men, booze, abortion, more affairs, single motherhood, more booze… It’s what’s called in conservative Christian circles “building a testimony.” After you’re converted, when you’re too old for dissolution anymore, you get to tell about all the cocaine and affairs and booze and how Jesus has saved you from all that, and people say, “Isn’t that dramatic?” and they buy the books in which you give your testimony, and give you more money to come give it in person.
I would have built a testimony, but I never got the chance. At age 14, I traded my life for my sister’s. She was desperately ill, and I told God I’d be a preacher if “He” would keep her alive. It was mostly selfishness; I just didn’t want to do without her. God came through, despite my motive. [1] Mary V is still alive, notoriously healthy, and works fulltime, even though she’s still four years older than I. How can you build a testimony when you have to start living like a preacher when you’re only 14? Oh, sure, some churches think it’s neat to have preachers who build a testimony on Saturday night and preach about it on Sunday morning, but Methodists are picky about that sort of thing.
To be fair to Anne Lamott, she lived in CA, I lived in IN. That may explain it all.
She was the state tennis champion in her age group. I never even saw a tennis ball except the one we used to throw through a hoop on a barn side when a pig ran off with the basketball.
I desperately wanted to be a cocaine-crazed, booze-swilling, sexually promiscuous, unwed parent, self-loathing former sports star, but I had no choice. I had to live the life of a coffee-sipping, tee-totaling, totally married husband, doting father and grandfather, personally sensitive, hillbilly liberal. Who wants to pay to read or hear a story like that?
I can’t even say, “Yeah, but I’ve had a better life, because health is better than illness, and faithfulness is better than promiscuity, and wholeness is better than brokenness,” because that would sound self-righteous and holier-than-thou and mean-spirited and small-minded and intolerant and judgmental and unforgiving. It would make me sound like the elder brother, or the workers who spent the whole long damn hot day detasseling corn at Princeton Farms and only got the same pay as the slug-a-beds who didn’t show up until the last hour. Everybody knows those are the worst kind.  Jesus said so.
[Even for a hillbilly liberal Christian, some words of Jesus are hard to hear and bear. I prefer Matt. 5:18.]
I wish there were something I could say to ameliorate my jealousy, like Anne’s testimony makes me laugh and cry at the same time, and that I read her sentences over and over just for the sheer joy of it, and that any day you get to walk toward God with Jesus at your side is a better day than any other, and that we’re not so different, really, because we both try to walk that walk every day, and we both write little essays, stories, really, about faith and life, but that would remind me that the only thing that separates us is that she’s the best writer in the world and that I write a blog with 20 underappreciated followers, which would make me even more jealous.
Tony Bennett said of Faith Hill that “She is the Sinatra of female vocalists, always just a little better than everyone else.”
Okay, so in addition to having a better testimony, Anne Lamott is the Sinatra of writers. But I forgive her.
Anne Lamott’s reflections on faith are in TRAVELING MERCIES and PLAN B. Her book on the art and craft of writing is BIRD BY BIRD.
1] There is a bit more to this story. You can read about it in THE STRANGE CALLING.
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!
You are always welcome to Forward or Repost or Reprint. It’s okay to acknowledge the source, unless it embarrasses you too much. It is okay to refer the link to folks you know or to print it in a church newsletter or bulletin, or make it into a movie or TV series.
{I also write the fictional “Periwinkle Chronicles” blog. One needs a rather strange sense of humor to enjoy it, but occasionally it is slightly funny. It is at}

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