Have you ever fallen in love with an author? The kind of love that makes you want to jump out of your skin because you’ve finally found it–you’ve found the one–the author who writes the way you want to read. It’s a magical thing to feel connected to someone through pages of a book. You feel like you know them, yet they’re a thousand miles away. For me, one of those authors is Anne Lamott.
She is an incredibly witty writer. She unashamedly shares too much in a way that makes you admire her and not judge her. The vulnerability she writes with is touching and poetic. Through her life, you get to see the rawness of humanity. Oftentimes in Christian circles, you find authors who shy away from the darkness of life. They want to appear more perfect as if that would make you like them. Lamott seems to do the opposite. Her humanness and openness are what draws people in.
She has written seventeen books to date and excels in nonfiction. Bird by Bird (published 1995) is an incredible book that helps writers understand the process of writing great content. She uses her own life to outline how writing is complicated yet rewarding. It’s a must-read for all aspiring writers. Operating Instructions (published 2005) is a parenting memoir that chronicles the first year of her motherhood. You can explore more of her work and biography here.
In Traveling Mercies (published 1999), you get to see how God loves the most interestingly odd and peculiar people. The book is a collection of essays about her life in the 1960s. She walks you through alcohol and drug addiction, bulimia, abortion, and loneliness. She paints a picture of her life, a time when she was lost beyond all reason and how God found her. One of my favorite lines from the book is:
“I had no big theological thoughts, but had discovered that if I said, Hello?, to God, I could feel God say, Hello, back. It was like being in a relationship with Casper.”
Lamott lived most of her early life isolated and didn’t know the Lord. I don’t want to spoil it for you because the book is so very good, and there are some beautiful surprises. You see God in a way that is refreshing and new. You begin to see Him as He woos this desperate, tired hippie into His family. It makes you love Him more and begin to see Lamott through His eyes, and you start to truly cherish her. Then, you realize how He must feel about you, and you begin to love yourself a little more, too. Lamott’s relationship with Jesus is very touching and comical. Here is a small snippet from Traveling Mercies where she describes her conversion experience:
The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.
And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends. I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.”
I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with. Finally, I fell asleep and in the morning, he was gone.
The experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my house door whenever I entered or left.
And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling – and it washed over me.
I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along my heels, and I walked down the dock past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams, and I opened the door to my house, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, “Okay. I quit.” I took a long deep breath and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.”
She is so unwaveringly wonderful in her writing. This was just a small tasting of her charm, but I feel confident that you will not regret reading more from her. And I challenge you to seek her out. Here is a great TED talk she delivered in April of 2017. Over all, Lamott is a writer you want to know and a friend you want to have. She inspires readers by opening her world to them so they feel welcomed like close friends, sitting and sipping coffee, having a heartfelt chat.
Featured Image by Annie Spratt