When Reviled, We Bless

Earlier this week I finished reading Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead with my wife. We have read through three books together so far this year and we have both really enjoyed the process! Reading out loud before bed has become our daily routine and I highly recommend it.

[Spoiler Warnings]

I really enjoyed reading Gilead and felt that Robinson did a wonderful job in showing the weight and glory of “blessing” someone. The story is about an elderly reverend in Gilead, Iowa named John Ames. He is a widower and lately remarried and has a son of his old age. The book’s prose reads as a series of letters to his young son to read after he dies. John Ames is recalling much of his own life for his young son who may not be old enough to hear these stories before John dies.

Throughout the letters John Ames continually makes reference to his namesake “John Ames Boughton”, the son of John Ames’ lifetime best friend and another preacher in town. John Ames Boughton (“Jack”) is one of 10 children and John Ames preformed his baptism as a child.

Much of the story centers around John Ames reluctance to bless his namesake Jack. He confesses that he was unable to do so at his baptism and now feels the weight of necessity to do so in his old age even though Jack has lived a checkered life and committed many sins (including many against John Ames).

Having given a very brief synopsis, I wanted to use this post as an opportunity to share some of the best quotations from the book:

“It seems to me some people just go around looking to get their faith unsettled.”

“This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.”

“Existence seems to me know the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined.”

“Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it.”

“It has been my experience that guilt can break through the smallest breach and cover the landscape, and abide in it in pools and darkness, just as native as water.”

“My hopes are in peace, and I am not disappointed. Because peace is its own reward. Peace is its own justification.”

“Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life.”

“Remembering my youth makes me aware that I never really had enough of it, it was over before I was done with it.”

“But the fact is that his mind came from one set of books as surely as mine has come from another set of books.”

“Who knows where any mind comes from.”

“At the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object.”

“If we can be divinely fed with a morsel and divinely blessed with a touch, then the terrible pleasure we find in a particular face can certainly instruct us in the nature of the very grandest love.”

“Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”

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. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?

Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see.

“He will wipe the tears from all faces.” It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.

Beautiful quotes aren’t they?! I must admit, it is the ability to easily store quotes that makes the Kindle somewhat agreeable to me, but I much prefer the feel of pages and the smell of ink!

Which one is your favorite?

Michael

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