Friday, December 08, 2006

And yet ... there's also Anne Lamott...

Anne Lamott
...more mysteries of divine union?
(Image from Writer Heroes)

Yesterday's post cast a subdued but jaundiced glance at the young, single evangelical women who go on blind dates with Jesus.

Perhaps a good man really is hard to find, but does one have to go all metaphysical? Even Solomon in all his glory was sometimes unarrayed. Okay, I'm joking ... a little. But I do think that there's a little alchemy of sublimated desire in these women, and a Freudian reading is tempting.

And yet ... there's also Anne Lamott, who accepts the sublimated desire that led her to Jesus and distills it further into even finer writing, proving that the best can emerge from the base:
I didn't go to the flea market the week of my abortion. I stayed home, and smoked dope and got drunk, and tried to write a little, and went for slow walks along the salt marsh with Pammy. On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily. It did not stop over the next hour. I was going through a pad every fifteen minutes, and I thought I should call a doctor or Pammy, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten so drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn't wake someone up and ask for help. I kept on changing Kotex, and I got very sober very quickly. Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, shaky and sad and too wild to have another drink or take a sleeping pill. I had a cigarette and turned off the light. After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. 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.

This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze 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 houseboat door when 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 just 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 at 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 houseboat, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, "Fuck it: I quit." I took a long deep breath and said out loud, "All right. You can come in."

So this was my beautiful moment of conversion.

And here in dust and dirt, O here,
The lilies of his love appear.

I started to find these lines of George Herbert's everywhere I turned -- in Simone Weil, Malcolm Muggeridge, books of English poetry. Meanwhile, I trooped back and forth through the dust and grime of the flea market every Sunday morning till eleven, when I crossed the street from the market to the church.

I was sitting through the sermon now every week and finding that I could not only bear the Jesus talk but was interested, searching for clues. I was more and more comfortable with the radical message of peace and equality, with the God in whom Dr. King believed. 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. Sometimes I wadded up a Kleenex and held it tightly in one fist so that it felt like I was walking hand and hand with him.
That's from Traveling Mercies, which I linked to yesterday, and Lamott trying to walk physically hand in hand with Jesus by holding a wadded-up tissue is not so far from preparing him a meal and having a spoken conversation as if with a lover.

Except that Lamott admits to being crazy.

Moreover, her concrete image of that wadded-up tissue is so much better than the self-image of some little "princess ... looking and feeling her best" when she's on a "prayer, praise, and pampering" retreat with her divine "Lover."


At 3:16 PM, Blogger Wildflower said...

This is an interesting post. I'm not Christian, but it is interesting. Somehow this story reminds me of my mother in relation to Jesus. Weird, I am aware.
I like your blog,

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Wildflower, thanks for the comment.

Is your mother like Anne Lamott?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:14 PM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...


That's pretty weird! So is this!

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, my computer usually has glitches with You Tube, and it did again this time, so I couldn't view the video.

Thanks anyway.

Jeffery Hodges

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