On the third last day of the Rossland ski season, after a morning meeting with the regional dean on the slopes of Red Mountain, I walked into my local bookshop. Walking up Washington past the clothing store, the parking lot, and then the thrift shop, that’s where you’ll find the Gold Rush, our little community bookstore.
On this particular afternoon, I entered the shop to pick up a book I had ordered a few weeks before: Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life.” The person behind the cash—a recently recruited staff person—asked my name. As I shared it, they lit up, recognizing me immediately. “You order a lot of books here,” they said.
I smiled, thinking about the last few titles I’d picked up. Kate Bowler’s “The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days” had arrived a few weeks before. “Faith Facing Reality,” John W. DeGruchy’s book that puts our world’s current crises in conversation with Dietrich Bonhoffer had arrived some time before, but on the same day as Kaitlin Curtice’s, “Living Resistance: An Indigenous Vision for Seeking Wholeness Everyday.”
I’ve ordered liturgical resources and biblical commentaries from this shop. I’ve picked up a number of great novels, including a few from the Canada Reads shortlist. Some selections help me in my parenting journey. Still others stir me up in my discipleship, challenging me to see the world more broadly, helping me to better respond to life’s realities, especially when they’re experienced in ways so different from my own.
As my mind flashed from title to title to title, the staff person asked, “are these books for a library…or do you read them all?” My smile broadened. Well yes. Of course. The wall of books at home, and the piles on my nightstand, do have a tendency to grow. Not quite a library. Not yet.
One of the beguiling side effects of ordering books locally has been the conversation that inevitably follows.
It all started when Christena Cleveland’s “God is a Black Woman” arrived. On the sunny morning I came in to pick it up, light dancing through the windows, I found myself staying far longer than intended. It must have been a half hour or forty-five minutes, we ended up talking about race and religion, the state of the world, and how we humans might find a way forward without killing one another.
Bit by bit, book by book, conversation by conversation, my eyes open ever more widely to the world in which we live, the world that God calls us faithfully to serve: Life and death, faith and meaning, the state of the world, all its possibilities, and our role in bringing these things about.
Annie Dillard, in “The Writing Life,” says this:
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
What is true of writing is true of the life of faith. Whatever gifts we have received, whatever insight; whatever impulses we have to live the good life, to embody God’s dream for the world is good now, and ought to be lived in the present. Dillard goes on, “The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to send it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.”
So often I find myself sitting on what I’m learning, not yet certain, not yet ready to share it with the world; worried that if I use something now, I’ll miss out on the possibility of something better, later.
Is this why we’re stuck as a church? With God, we co-author the future, and yet we’re holding on, afraid to go all-in, to give it all, waiting for just the right moment. When the finances are right; when the energy’s high; when we know we’re going to win.
But what if the time to go all-in is now?
What if, when we release what we have, God will continue to fill us up with springs of living water? What if God will fill us from behind and beneath, like the water in a well? If God has promised us the Holy Spirit, the one who brooded over the waters at the dawn of Creation, that filled the disciples at Pentecost, then surely it’s about time we release ourselves into God’s life-giving stream.