Messiness of Grace

The spiritual life often feels like driving down Poplar any time before nine o’clock at night: slow, frustrating, and at times even absurd.  One piece of good news is that we’re not alone on the journey. There are a whole bunch of authors (and artists and musicians, but more on that later) to keep you company on the way.  If you’re feeling like grace isn’t happening in your life, or just need a refresher course on how to see God, these folks can help you imagine what grace might look like as you’re waiting for God to show up, or act, or whatever the case may be.  I’m attaching a list of ten authors and one of their stories, a novel in most cases.  I should warn you that these authors and books don’t do melodrama, wrapping up the disorder of the universe in a one hour episode, so you’ll probably feel a little unsettled at the end… kind of like in life.  These folks also aren’t theologians, so their stories aren’t adaptations of the catechism*, and besides, a lived experience of God doesn’t always clearly fit into human categories. So here they are: embrace the messiness of grace-

  • Georges Bernanos: The Diary of a Country Priest
  • Graham Greene: The End of the Affair
  • Flannery O’Connor: Wise Blood
  • Annie Dillard: Holy the Firm (essay)
  • Shusaku Endo: Silence (Scorsese is making a movie of it!)
  • Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited (the e is long when it’s a guy’s name)
  • Jack Kerouac: Visions of Girard
  • Walker Percy: The Moviegoer
  • Francois Mauriac: Therese Desquereux
  • Andre Dubus II: The Timing of Sin (short story in Dancing after Hours)

*Can you imagine what that would look like?

DISCLAIMER: To be clear, these are stories for grown-ups. The End of the Affair is about finding God through adultery, Dubus is pretty explicit about the screwed-up-ness of life (and also about sex) in his story, and Silence is about a priest committing an author-approved apostasy. In a word, this isn’t Narnia; it’s much closer to real life.

About the Writer:

Matthew Erickson is a Theology teacher at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis and a member of the Cathedral Young Adults (CYA) group.