A New York City reader who bought a copy of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming yesterday (it’s not supposed to be on sale yet!) writes:
About half way through the book. … This is really a wonderful work. It is the first memoir to address loss and faith that I can recall in which the faith aspect does not become sugar coating.
Thanks for the compliment. I’m really glad that this is how my treatment of faith comes across in the book. Ruthie’s faith was absolute and unselfconscious, but that doesn’t mean, in my view at least, that it was an unambiguously good thing. For Ruthie — and this was true long before she got sick, as readers will see — faith just was. It was not something to be thought about or inquired into. The existence of God, and the fact of His goodness, was as real as the chair and the table at which one sits down to breakfast. You might think about the table and the chair, and admire them, but you wouldn’t be crazy enough to wonder whether the table and chair existed, or whether or not if you sat on the chair, it would hold you up. That was how Ruthie saw and experienced God.
Her brother? Not so much. My relationship with God has been (is) far more convoluted, agonized, and intellectual. I wouldn’t say it was better — in some respects it is, but in others it is not — but I would say that each of us, in the way we understood and lived our faith, were true to our given natures.
Ruthie, though, was put to the test in a way that I have not been, and pray to God I would not be. Her faith was not a sugarcoating over suffering, but rather like a rope line she held onto as she walked a narrow path along the edge of a mountain, through a blinding storm. There was nothing easy about her faith, though she made it look easy because she carried it so lightly. I still puzzle over the quality of her faith (“quality” = its particularities) and the quality of my faith, wondering about the strengths and weaknesses of both our approaches. I would not be surprised if readers of Little Way come away from it with questions raised about faith, not questions answered. I mean, there is no doubt at all that Little Way is an affirmation of faith and its power, but as the New York reader sees, it’s far from a book prescribing faith as a panacea. Ruthie’s faith was dearly bought, and tested by white-hot fire.