I haven't loved a book in quite some time as much as I loved Gilead, a Pulitzer-winning book written by Marilynne Robinson. It is the reflection of an elderly and dying father and small town preacher, written to a young son borne to him in his old age. He records the stories and insights that he would have shared with his son if he had been given the opportunity to know his son in his adulthood. The art of the book is outstanding and the tidbits of wisdom scattered through his stories are quite powerful. Some of these are shared below. - Sarah
"This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that if I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate."
"I believe the Fifth Commandment belongs in the first tablet, among the laws that describe right worship, because right worship is right perception, and here the Scripture commands right perception of people you have a real and deep knowledge of."
"The article is called "God and the American People," and it says 95% of us say we believe in God. But our religion doesn't meet the writer's standards, not at all. To his mind, all those people in all those churches are the scribes and the Pharisees. He seems to me to be a bit of a scribe himself, scorning and rebuking the way he does. How do you tell a scribe from a prophet, which is what he clearly takes himself to be? The prophets love the people they chastise, a thing this writer does not appear to me to do."
"There are certain attributes our faith assigns to God: omniscience, omnipotence, justice and grace. We human beings have such a slight acquaintance with power and knowledge, so little conception of justice and so slight a capacity for grace, that the workings of these great attributes together is a mystery we cannot hope to penetrate."
"I have often felt that my failing the truth could have no bearing at all on the Truth itself, which could never conceivably be in any sense dependent on me or on anyone."
"I have had a certain amount of experience with skepticism and the conversation it generates, and there is an inevitable futility in it. It is even destructive. Young people from my own flock have come home with a copy of La Nausee or L'Immoraliste, flummoxed by the possibility of unbelief, when I must have told them a thousand times that unbelief is possible. And they are attracted to it by the very books that tell them what a misery it is. And they want me to defend religion, and they want me to give them "proofs." I just won't do it. It only confirms them in their skepticism. Because nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense."
"There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal."
"Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful."
"I believe that the old man did indeed have far too narrow an idea of what a vision might be. He may, so to speak, have been too dazzled by the great light of his experience to realize that an impressive sun shines on us all. Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time. I believe there are visions that come to us only in memory, in retrospect."