Marilynne Robinson & the Image Bearers – Festival of Faith & Writing 2012
“Which ‘image of God’ is it that you wish to harm?” Marilynne Robinson asked in her plenary talk to an auditorium full of writers, artists and readers at this year’s Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her words, so powerful, stuck in my brain. Crazy glued there for the pondering.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author echoed a topic I heard touched on in seminar after seminar – fear. Living in fear, we live lives that are shortchanged. Stunted. Whether we’re creating with words, images or through actions, if we live in fear’s grip, we react, rather than act. Our reactions are often based on the false. The untrue. We speak and act based on assumptions about others and ourselves. We hold the hand of fear, allowing it to lead us to places we were never meant to go. We allow ourselves to be held back from where we were meant to be, to live…to create.
The Need for Grace
Why not choose to show grace? I was so moved by author Daniel Taylor’s humble and honest presentation on writing about pain. His words, like Robinson’s echoed a theme that permeated most of the talks in which I was blessed to be an avid listener. Grace must be shown. We are all fallible, with life stories that have made us who we are. To write honestly, Taylor said, we must understand the human condition. I heard it echoed in the sentiment spoken by author, Jennifer Grant in a wonderful session on memoir with Amy Julia Becker and Margot Starbuck. None of us are perfect. Would we want our mistakes splashed across the page for all to see? There is always a backstory. Even those who wrong us have one. Grace should be extended. Always. In our words, whether written or spoken. And, in our actions.
Moments of grace have so often meant the world to me. Like the grandfather, who greeted me on the sidewalk saying, “Hello, beautiful. You should smile,” on a day when I was feeling quite less than. And the grey haired cashier at my small town drugstore who asked, “Honey, are you okay?” I was nearly brought to tears by her simple kindness. I could barely form the words to respond, after having just experienced the passing of my dearest friend the week before. And the grace of the sweet old man who upon spying my daughter rushed up to her saying, “Hi there, sweetie. I think I see something in your ear.” After magically pulling a quarter out of my piggy-tailed daughter’s right ear, he offered it to her. “I believe this is yours,” he said, handing her the gleaming silver coin. His smile was nothing compared to hers, which didn’t leave her face for hours. Days later, she even told her grandparents about the kind man and the amazing quarter in her ear. The return on that man’s act of grace far exceeded twenty-five cents.
All because of grace.
So many wonderful writers shared their gifts and insights at the Festival. All of them echoed the need for grace – in our work and our lives. Grace for others. And, for ourselves.
We must show grace. After all, we are the image bearers.