I’ve never read anything by Anne Lamott before, although I’ve heard her name. So when a member of my book club suggested Traveling Mercies, I was excited to see what her writing was all about. And I’m glad I did. Lamott is from the San Francisco Bay Area, a place I’m familiar with having been born and lived in Northern California for several years. It was refreshing to hear mention of places I knew or could relate to her experiences at the beach while looking at mountains. But I connected with Lamott on a different level as well.
In this book, Lamott explains how she came to find her way into the Christian faith and her journey discovering God and strengthening her faith. I’ve been born and raised a Christian and made the decision to be a Christian at 13 and have never looked back. Sure, I’ve questioned God, been angry with Him, but I’ve never wanted to walk away. Lamott came to Christianity from a completely different angle. She wasn’t raised in any faith and only came to Christianity when she was at the lowest point in her life. From there her experiences with God have been difficult, but seeing faith and God’s love through her eyes, renewed my own faith.
The beauty of Lamott’s writing is that she is able to capture such everyday moments and make them sound surreal or supernatural. She has a command of language that is able to take a discussion of how she battles with her hips and thighs and yet sounds reverent when she realizes God doesn’t love her for how she looks but for who she is on the inside. I think sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that the language I use with God has to be formal and complicated and that I can’t discuss everyday things with Him. But Lamott challenges that idea and seems to argue that it’s the discussion of the everyday things that draws us closer to God.
One of the most poignant moments is when she is hiking with a friend and they end up walking through the trails in a marsh. They are attempting to climb a berm, but can’t get a grip on the muddy slope. As they catch their breath and clean up the mud on their clothes, Lamott describes the silence that exists in the marsh. It’s in this silence that she is able to listen to God and help her process emotions and conflicts that she’s been avoiding dealing with. There’s many times in my life I run from the silence because I know what I’m going to see and hear and I don’t want to face it. But the encouraging thing is that, like Lamott discovers, God is in the silence. He’s sitting with us in the silence comforting us and letting us relieve ourselves of baggage that He’s willing to take for us.
I highly recommend this book whether you’re a spiritual, religious, agnostic, or atheist. Even if you disagree with her journey, you can still appreciate the scenery along the way.