Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott is another one of those stories that I love to hear. Lamott tells the story of her life in bits and pieces, and tells how she came in and out of faith. She talks about her bouts with alcoholism and drug abuse, about the moments she felt closest to God and the moments she felt farthest away. She tells of the people who became her family, and the ways that their unwavering love changed her. She tells stories as I believe we should all tell stories, with a brutal honesty that comes from years of challenge and introspection. Lamott is a woman who knows herself and is so at peace with that identity that she can share it freely with her readers without any fear of what they might think or say. Most of all, I appreciate how she acknowledges that she is still learning and growing, even as a middle-aged mother.
It seems to me that we are always striving for that moment when we’ve got everything figured out. We tend to go through life waiting to arrive, feeling that someday, soon we hope, we’ll have figured out how to live life, and we’ll be done learning. Our parents will have imparted all of their wisdom, our teachers have taught us their lesson, and we will finally be ready to live life with ease. But that sort of arrival only happens in Disney fairytales - and the rest of us normal folk are left with the realization that we will continue to learn, grow, and change all throughout our lifetime. Part of the way through her story, Anne Lamott says something I really resonated with, and it’s this:
“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools--friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty--and said, Do the best you can with these, they will have to do. An mostly, against all odds, they’re enough.”
I totally get what she’s saying. As kids, we see the adults in our lives: our parents, teachers, and grandparents, and we can’t possibly imagine being so old or so wise. We liken those adults to superheroes, what with all of their wisdom, strength, and authority. Yet we realize, as we get older, that those superhero-adults are nothing more than other people like us, using what they’ve been given and moving accordingly. I’m at this weird crossroads right now between youth and adulthood, and sometimes it’s hard to navigate. But it helps to hear a story like Lamott’s, full of promise that, as we travel along, we will receive mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace. These traveling mercies come in all sorts of forms, and sometimes we may not even see those mercies as mercy until much farther down the road. But I believe that it is in small and seemingly insignificant moments that we come to understand who we are and how to best live life in this world. So what I’m asking God for in these next weeks as I figure out my next step is not the perfect job or connection, but for traveling mercies that will guide me along the way. And traveling mercies to you, friends, for wherever life finds you today and in the days to come.