I must have the best job in the world.
As exasperating as publishing can be, I am always aware how lucky I am to be able to pursue everything that interests me and spend months exploring, probing and recounting what I learn along the way. But few books required as much reflection as The Color of Light, which was released in August of last year.
This week I was reminded of Analiese Wagner, the major character of The Color of Light, when the audio narrator, Karen White, and I each decided to give away a CD copy of the book. The Color of Light isn’t the first book I’ve written about a minister, and each one has made me think more deeply about what I think and believe. But this book was special because the minister is a woman coping with the day to day crises of a church and her own personal life. Along the way she is introduced to fourteen year old Shiloh Fowler, who with her family comes to live in an apartment in the parish house.
Do you remember when you were fourteen? Do you remember trying to make sense of the world, of the bits and pieces of theology you’d picked up along the way, of the disparity between the rich and the poor, the blessed and the damned, the believers and the doubters?
You don’t have to be fourteen to have doubts when your world falls apart. I felt lucky to explore those moments in the following exchange. I hope you’ll enjoy another look at it.
“And my dad?” Here her voice thickened, as if the words were harder to push out. “He had a good life, and he did good things for other people. Then everything fell apart and suddenly we needed good things done for us, only everybody was trying to move away, or grab whatever jobs were left. And nobody was left to help us.”
“That certainly doesn’t seem fair.”
“Do you think God made that happen?”
Analiese knew her answer was important. “I don’t think it helps to imagine God as a traffic cop. This person gets to go, this person has to sit at the light, this person has to pull over so God can give her a ticket. I don’t think it’s like that.”
“Then what’s the point of praying?”
“We can ask for guidance and strength, and I really believe we receive them. But I don’t believe God just steps in to change the world to suit us.”
“When you say things like that you don’t sound like a minister.”
Analiese made a turn on to a busy highway. “You aren’t the first person to think so.”
Shiloh was silent so long Analiese thought the subject had ended, but just before they got to the church she looked at Analiese again. “If what you say is true, I have to change my bedtime prayer.”
“Not if you feel God’s listening the way you say it now.”
“Not that much.”
Analiese sent her a smile. “Then try asking for patience and maybe strength to get you through this difficult time.”
“I want more than patience. I want to know what I’m supposed to do.”
“Then you have to be willing to listen for an answer.”
“How do you know when you get one?”
“That’s tough. I imagine it’s different for everybody. I feel things settle into place inside me. I feel calmer, like I’ve found a good path.”
“Do you get answers right away?”
“Sometimes I don’t even want them because they aren’t the answers I’m hoping for. So I don’t listen.”
“I kind of liked thinking of God as my fairy godmother.”
“That would be fabulous, wouldn’t it? Especially if it worked.”
Like Analiese, I don’t believe in a God who is a traffic cop or a fairy Godmother. I do find strength and patience through prayer, an immeasurable gift. What do you find when you pray? And if you do pray for something special, are you willing to listen for an answer?
I loved thinking about this. I hope you do, too.
Karen’s giveaway ends today, and mine ends on the 16th. So enter while you can for a chance to win The Color of Light and hear Karen’s beautiful rendition of Analiese’s story.