Gifts of Desperation

My spiritual director lent me her copy of Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Today, I began to read and then I began to laugh (and laugh, and laugh) because I understood:

"In my experience, there is a lot to be said for desperation - not exactly a bright side, but something expressed in words for which 'God' could be considered an acronym: gifts of desperation. The main gift is a willingness to give up the conviction that you are right, and that God thinks so, too, and hates the people who are driving you crazy. . . .

I try to listen for God's voice inside me, but my sense of discernment tends to be ever so slightly muddled. When God wants to get my attention, She clears Her throat a number of times, trying to get me to look up, or inward - and then if I don't pay attention, She rolls Her eyes, makes a low growling sound, and starts kicking me under the table with Her foot" (pp. 20-21).

Before I was willing to believe my call to the priesthood:

  • in 1987, God introduced me to Rev. Taryn to show me that women could be ordained and, as importantly, be employed;
  • in 1992, God blessed me with a wonderful friend, Paige (now Rev. Paige), to show me that the wounded could be healed and that the wounded could help others heal;
  • in 1996, God had a complete stranger say, "you look like you should be a minister" (this was, in fact, a police officer who had pulled me over in Newton, Massachusetts for running a red light - apparently looking like a minister also relieved me of a ticket - "just a warning, ma'am"); and
  • in 2001, God brought Andrea into my life - that's a longer story, but trust me it was part of God's attempt to get my attention

This, of course, was all well and good and I (finally) returned to seminary in the spring of 2004. But I still had my doubts. So, in July, I finally received my kick under the table --- hard enough that the tears ran down my cheeks. I had hit bottom, a moment of desperation in my life, a moment when I had nothing to rely upon except God - and isn't that just the point?! G.O.D. - gifts of desperation. When all we can do is rely upon God, there God is. It is not that God wasn't there before, but that we just were too dense, too proud, too ego-driven, too [fill in the blank with your own personal character defects] to let go.

Tonight I was with a group of people who were trying to "make sense" of Katrina and the devastation caused by this hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi. I was really struck by the conviction of two individuals' belief in a "pure, positive God" (as one of them put it); they knew, without a doubt, that God did not cause the hurricane and that God was not punishing the people of Louisiana and Mississippi. And they prayed that the victims of the devastation would reach out to God for what little solace they might receive amidst the wreckage. Hearing their testimony made me realize that unlike my angst about God after the tsunami, my experience this past week has been quite different. I've been angry at our government, I've been angry at my own weaknesses in the face of this disaster, but I have been very clear about God - God was not in the hurricane. God is in the desperation. G.O.D.

Tonight I am grateful that I have been kicked by God and I continue to lift my prayers to God for all the victims of Katrina - and yes, for the government of the United States, because I cannot presume that I am right nor can I presume that God "hates the people who are driving [me] crazy. . . . "


Raisin said…
Debra, Anne Lamott's "Plan B" influenced me greatly last spring. I'm happy that you've been reading her book. What would she say about the hurricane?

Looking forward to seeing you next week.