I would like to do a little more with a short article from Cosmopolitan that a friend sent me. The little piece is an interview Gloria Steinem did with Anne Lamott. As I have said, I am not a regular reader of this periodical. I know about Gloria Steinem. And I like reading Anne Lamott, although after a few books, I am not sure about reading more of her. I think most writers---certainly true for me---have a few foundational themes that recur throughout their writing. For example, I have a particular view of God that will not necessarily change week by week as I write more things. So it is with Lamott.
But this interview by Steinem asks interesting questions and gives me a chance to hear Lamott offer observations that both fit her and put her thoughts in a fresh fashion for me. The interview has a long title: “Anne Lamott Talks to Gloria Steinem about Writing, Kindness, and Making Sense of the Universe.”
One of the things Steinem addresses with Lamott is creativity. Steinem comments to Anne, “You have a gift for…super-concentrated phrases…” I fully agree with this assessment of Lamott’s writing. She can be so insightful and so funny. Her life has been such, there is always a ton of experience for her to reflect upon. And this is really where her creativity is generated. And I would like to call much of what she does “spiritual creativity.” And I think all of us are capable of our own version of spiritual creativity.
But first let’s follow Steinem’s intrigue with some of Lamott’s super-concentrated phrases. Steinem lifts up four such phrases as examples. Each in its own way is vintage Anne Lamott and has her particular charm. The first one has Lamott telling us, “Be where your butt is.” That’s worth a laugh and, then, we say, “Yeah, that’s it.” To be creative, be where your butt is. Where else could you go? Spiritually, this sounds like the advice to be in the present. Too many of us live in the past or worried about the future.
The second phrase Steinem cites sounds Catholic. I know enough about Catholicism to appreciate it. Lamott talks about “a rosary of loss.” As most of us know, the rosary is a number of beads on a string that forms a circle. A devout Catholic would hold the rosary in the hands and slowly move from bead to bead. Instead of spiritual focus, when our mind fingers our rosary of loss, we are actively going nowhere. I can hear Lamott saying, “Give it up…lay it down and get on with it.”
The third phrase Steinem introduces into the interview is powerful. Lamott notes that “expectations are resentments under construction.” This one is so close it can hurt. I know almost no one who does not have expectations. And doubtlessly we all know the precariousness of holding expectations. Not all expectations pan out. Some expectations are not met. Many expectations depend on others and we have no control over them. When that happens, expectations turn into resentments. To be spiritual is to put those resentments under construction. Otherwise, they eat us up and, often, destroy things for us and for others.
The last phrase Steinem brings to our attention is a good one for many of us. Lamott talks about “the necessary mercy to experience self-respect.” I suppose every knows the value and importance of self-respect. Sometimes however, we turn to others for our self-respect. And if we don’t get it from them, we are in trouble. This breeds and unhealthy dependence. I am confident God respects us and wants us to respect ourselves. Sometimes we will need the necessary mercy to experience self-respect. This means that God provides the gift for us to grow in respect for ourselves. This is a gift we should accept and practice.
All four of these phrases are examples of Anne Lamott’s spiritual creativity. Of course, I do not think we will do it like her. But we do have the creative capacity. I like her recipe. She says, “I make myself available for creativity, and I cultivate spaciousness through the outdoors, meditation, reading a lot of poetry.” I think about all the things I do to distract myself: tv, internet, etc. All of the work to blunt spiritual creativity.
My spiritual creativity might not be writing. It is Lamott’s venue. Here’s how she describes her process. “Then I get my butt into the desk chair, and through bribes and threats, I sit and wait while ideas and phrases get knit together inside my spirit and heart and mind.” Am I as expectant and patient? Maybe that is what spiritual creativity asks of me and you. Anne trusts it will come. Make yourself available and be ready to create when God speaks.
Here’s how she describes her process. “One day, I was just sitting bitterly at my desk, with no ideas, and something inside me said, ‘Laughter is carbonated holiness.’ And I looked around for the sound.” Again I laugh, but I move on to think about my own process. I won’t be funny like she is. And my spiritual creativity might not be books and speeches.
The invitation is to seek and be open to finding your own form of spiritual creativity. And when you find it, be obedient and create---create your life and your own ministry.