Anne Lamott On Going to Church

I've recently told you how happy I am that I've started reading Anne Lamott. One of my favorite passages in her book Grace (Eventually) is one where she describes going to church in a foul mood. She wakes up with everything going wrong, with her son, her friends and family, with the world. With those dark clouds hanging over her she heads to church:

Then I headed to church.

And it was not good.

The service was way long, and boring, and only three people had shown up for the choir, and the song they sang sucked. There was a disruptive baby who had about three hours of neck control but was already spoiling everything for the rest of us. I sat with a look of grim munificence, like so many of your better Christians, exuding mental toxins into the atmosphere. I decided that this church was deteriorating. I had come for a spiritual booster shot and instead got aggravation. I was going to leave, and never come back.

Then something amazing happened. I would call it grace, but then, I'm easy. It was that deeper breath, or pause, or briefly cleaner glasses, that gives us a bit of freedom and relief. I remembered my secular father's only strong spiritual directive: Don't be an asshole, and make sure everybody eats. Veronica quoted a fellow pastor recently: "I'm only a beggar, showing the other beggars where the bread is." There are many kinds of bread: kindness, companionship, besides the flour-and-yeast kind...I realized I was going to get through this disappointing service, and anyway, you have to be somewhere: better here, where I have heard truth spoken so often, than, say, at the DMV, or home alone, orbiting my own mind. And it's good to be out where others can see you, so you can't be your ghastly, spoiled self. It forces you to act slightly more elegantly, and this improves your thoughts, and thereby the world.
Well, I've definitely been there when it comes to going to church. And I have often felt similar moments of grace in the midst of what I felt was a generally sucky service. But then again, I'm easy.

And incidentally, that little credo--"Don't be an asshole, and make sure everybody eats."--are words to live by. That's why you read Lamott, for stuff like that.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

4 thoughts on “Anne Lamott On Going to Church”

  1. Please tell me that you have read Barbara Brown Taylor's Leaving Church. If not, it is in my office at ACU and I will loan it to you.

    Update: I certainly have Altar in the World, but there is a chance Leaving Church has been permanently borrow by a student. If you haven't read it and want to, I will check the shelf.

Leave a Reply