Saturday, April 29, 2017

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado (My own thoughts mixed in)

English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith by [Lucado, Andrea]

The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith

Apparently, the subtitle has changed since the book I received. Mine was an uncorrected proof and the subtitle says "The Crooked Little Grace-Filled Path of Growing Up".  I think both apply.

This is Andrea's memoir from her year spent at Oxford getting her Master's degree and writing her thesis. There is basically nothing about her studies, but lots about her journey, in making friends, and finding her place in Oxford and also in life. England isn't necessarily known as a Christian country despite the old churches that still remain there. This caused Andrea to doubt what she grew up believing and wondering if it wasn't better to just go through life without faith as her non-Christian friends seemed so okay and content not believing in God. But in the end, she realizes that her faith is her foundation.

There are a few things I want to quote and comment on. When one of her friends asked her what her pillars were, she recited the creed. "I was shaky and not confident. I was unnerved by the smart, Oxford graduate across from me, but I said it, and sometimes saying it out loud is all we can do. Sometimes reciting the Creed we are uncertain about is what leads us to eventual certainty, or at least to a deeper assurance. This is why we write and sing hymns. This is why we read one book over and over and over again. Words, remembering them, saying them and writing them, are foundational for us. Our words make up who we are."  I like this thought. Sometimes going through the motions is all we feel capable of and I think that is okay. At one point in the book, Andrea also talks about letting other people's faith carry us for a bit when we struggle to find our way. Relying on that faith of our fathers in times of stress and turmoil.

Reading this book at this time of year and remembering the goodbyes of two years ago makes some of the things she says more real. When life is hard and you are struggling and groping, just continuing to do the foundational things more out of a sense of duty than any heartfelt reason is all that you can cling to carry you through. Eventually, you can come out into the light and you will again feel and believe the things you clung to so tenuously. I know there may be those that doubt that, but I think there is some truth in there.

Another thing Andrea talks about is good-byes. "Say the good-bye. Actually say the word, and then the words that need to be said before it and after it. Articulate it. Make it real, for yourself and if the good-bye is to someone else, for the other person too. If words need to be said, say them. If they need to be written, write them. Whatever you need to do." And I would add, do that on a regular basis, because you never know when the final good-bye will happen.

And then on saying good-bye to one's self. "Sooner or later we have to say good-bye to that someone we were before. To the parts of us that no longer fit. This is okay, I think. If we continued on in life with every version of us that we have ever been, we would all be very large and heavy people having difficulty walking down the street." It is about shedding the old skin and wearing a new skin that is "More humble and maybe less pretty and taut, but at least more honest." Life changes us and we need to accept that as well. While we may not notice the changes at the time, we can look back and see the changes.

And finally, if you made it this far, this is the last piece I want to quote and I think it is so fitting for this time of year for me, the second anniversary of some hard and sad good-byes. "We all have people over our mantels, don't we? The frames and the faces change as we go along, but we remember each of them. They have imprinted us in one way or another. All the people that make up so much of who we are and are becoming. No matter how far from them we go, no matter how disparate our twigs and sticks and leaves are in the end, the people over our mantels have played a part in creating us, and that keeps them with us in a way that no fire can burn up." I just love that thought of a picture over the mantel. Life is moving on and two years have passed since Dad and Cheryl and Bentley left this earth, but their picture lives on in my heart over my mantel. I will never forget them and I want to be a better person for having said good-bye to them. I would have rather not said good-bye, but this is life and so good-byes happen whether we are ready or not. And so to say good-bye in a real and authentic way without denying the fact that they are gone allows me to truly appreciate their lives and legacies.
I guess anyway, this was a new thought to me when I read this, but I like it. And I want to be changed and to be a better person because I have been willing to grieve and say good-bye.

Okay, this is a combination of a book review and my own thoughts on some of these subjects that Andrea addressed. If you made it this far, then good for you. I enjoyed the book. And for those of  you who don't know, Andrea would be a daughter to the all-popular Max Lucado, whose writings I very much enjoy, though, I think, he writes with a completely different, although very engaging, style as well.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books and I was not required to write a positive review.

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