Wisdom Writings

As an author, I always hope my words will impact my readers. But sometimes this goal reverses. Sometimes I find myself changed by another writer’s work.

blue and white image, various types of rules checked off

For me, that writer is Anne Lamott.

Several years ago, I was thrilled to attend a presentation by Anne Lamott. She was, as I expected, witty as well as inspirational. As tired as she was from a busy book tour, she once again reminded me of the impact of her faith walk.

Since I became a Jesus follower as a young child, my faith has evolved and grown through several transformations. During those early years of belief, I did not truly comprehend the power of God’s love. Nor did I understand exactly what Jesus had saved me from.

How many sins can a four-year-old confess? I just simply fell in love with Jesus and wanted to be with him in heaven.

But it was legalism that scarred my faith. During my challenging adolescent and teenage years, I was taught how I needed to perform. Submission was the loudest rule. In order to keep God loving me, I had to submit to every authority. No matter how toxic the control. Legalism 101.

Any mistakes brought an immediate need for confession. Inner angst in case any of the leaders or other saints at church somehow saw my errors. Would God truly forgive me? Could God really love me in spite of my imperfections?

The shame pit rapidly grew deep as I could never quite dig myself out and be holy enough.

Then Anne Lamott entered my life through her books. Here was a Jesus lover who was authentic. Not afraid to confront God with her doubts and ask questions. She experienced God in a unique way and showed how creative God is. How he uses every possible avenue to draw people to Jesus and love on us in the process.

It was okay for Anne to eat M&M’s for dinner. To occasionally use raw language. To write with a graphic honesty. Her writings showed me that being real meant being true to myself, to others, and to God. How to stop carrying that burden of perfectionism.

Her books underscored the truth that learning to live by faith is a lifelong journey. No one really knows my heart except God. Beyond that, I am not responsible to make everyone else accept me by obeying the rules. God is responsible for my growth.

As I studied more about faith, searched the interpretation of scripture as a whole, and opened my wounded mind — I saw how so much faith-learning was based in fear. If leaders could determine for themselves what was right and wrong through tradition or prejudice, then they could control others and prevent any radicalism. Legalism 201. The historic repeat of Pharisaism.

What the leaders forgot or refused to teach was that Jesus was one of the most radical and authentic people who has ever lived. He ate with ‘sinners,’ with the marginalized. He associated with people whom society and religion called untouchable. He respected women and invited them to join his inner group. He had the gall to say, “Hey, everybody. Just two important rules. Love God and love each other.”

What freedom I found in the authentic life of Jesus and in Anne Lamott’s words! In her mantra of the three most important prayers: Help. Thanks. Wow. I could wrap my battered soul around just two rules.

I reveled in Anne’s salvation story — how God pursued her when she was not interested, always scorning the Divine Three. She never worried about being good enough, because she did not care about pleasing God or meeting the established rules of religion. Yet God cared about her and loved her into belief.

This was a new definition of grace.

Recently, I reread another book — this one by a pastor — Mike Manuel. Torn: Embracing the New Covenant in an Old Covenant World. Again, God’s amazing grace through Jesus was underscored. Made certain through the words of scripture. NOT interpreted through the eyes of legalism.

Since I was already on the path of freedom and true faith in Jesus, Manuel’s words reverberated with truth. My only regret was all the years of wasted shame. And all the numbers of other folks who still live within that world of having to prove your faith through submissive words and works.

As an author, I am grateful for the words of others that pointed me to freedom. The ancient writings of long-deceased saints. The authenticity of Anne Lamott. The careful presentation of Mike Manuel.

And the whispers of the Spirit on my own soul. Reminding me daily that ‘who’ I am is not as important as ‘whose’ I am.

©2024 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Image: geralt / Pixabay

A new Bible study is now on Amazon. It’s All About Trust: How to Grow Your Trust in God. No legalism allowed.

2 thoughts on “Wisdom Writings”

  1. Living from my True Self, the woman God created me to be, is a life-long exciting, difficult, discovering experience! I’m grateful that I am journeying this phase with you as my friend.

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