Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College

By Malinda Patterson, Class of 2016

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Anne Lamott speak at the Festival and Faith and Writing. I read my first Anne Lamott book this year, and her words quickly began helping shape the way I approach life.   I was thrilled by the opportunity to hear her speak.  I love Annie because she makes me feel like everything might be okay in the end, without brushing past the fact that life can still be horrible to us.  She tells me how bad everything will be, but that there can still be joy in the midst of that.

In her keynote address, Annie talked about a lot of things, but to me, the most memorable thing she talked about was the importance of showing up.  In the midst of pain and confusion, sometimes this is all we have the capability to do.  I worry so often about being capable or qualified for the things life requires of me, so concerned that I won’t be enough.  Annie reminds me that I don’t have to be enough.  But I do have to show up.

Anne LamottAnne Lamott

     This can be applied to so many areas in life.  Be it writing, helping a grieving friend, or a approaching a task that I feel completely inadequate to complete.  This idea stays with me because I am uncomfortable with it.  I wish I had answers, I want to feel capable in a situation, I hate making mistakes.  I am bad at sitting in pain with another person.  I am bad at feeling helpless.

But then I remember the gentle words of Annie: “Mary and Mary didn’t have a good
answer at the foot of the cross.  But they didn’t leave.”

I don’t always need a good answer.  Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene sure didn’t have one.  But they stayed anyway.

When I find myself at the foot of the cross, I want to run.  I ache with discomfort and helplessness. But these are the times when I need to stay.  I need to sit at the foot of the cross, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

To show up without answers is an act of faith.  It is trusting that God has them, even if all I can see is death.  It is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, believing the one who brought me here knows why.  It is knowing I am not enough and so believing that God will have to be.

Annie’s words serve as a reminder that beauty is found in the moments when we embrace the pain, and refuse to look away.