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‘Little Way’ And Faith As Sugar-Coating

A New York City reader who bought a copy of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming [1] 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.

change_me

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.

Little Way is on sale Tuesday, but you can pre-order it from Amazon [1] if you like, or Barnes & Noble [2]. Check my personal website [3] to see if I’m coming to your town on the tour this month.

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "‘Little Way’ And Faith As Sugar-Coating"

#1 Comment By Fr. Frank On April 6, 2013 @ 11:37 am

“Ruthie’s faith was dearly bought, and tested by white-hot fire.”

So was yours, Rod. That is why I admire you so much.

#2 Comment By JonF On April 6, 2013 @ 11:55 am

Re: Ruthie, though, was put to the test in a way that I have not been, and pray to God I would not be.4

Rod, I hate to be gloomy gus on what is actually a beautiful day here, but you should prepare for that test. We all should. Because it is coming: no one gets out of here alive. To be sure, some of us will lucky to go quite quickly– as did my step-mother with a sudden heart attack that swept her off in scant minutes. But many of us will have a slower decline, with pain and perhaps incapacity.
Thursday night I woke up not breathing due to my asthma– a sensation like drowning. This was followed by an hour of vicious coughing– I am, maybe, becoming my father, who died by inches from emphysema. The day is coming…

OK, taking off the sackcloth and ashes so I can finish lunch and go work in my garden.

#3 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On April 6, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

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.

I’m not criticizing your sister as this probably helped her. But this mode of thinking is astonishing to me, and I can’t wrap my head around it.

#4 Comment By JLK On April 6, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

“Faith just was” and “Faith was dearly bought” seem contradictory. “Tested by white hot fire” – absolutely. I very much look forward to the arrival of “Little Way”.

[Note from Rod: It is contradictory, I guess, but only because I’m using language sloppily. Sorry about that. For Ruthie, her faith really just “was” — but by “dearly bought,” I meant that it was tested severely. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. — RD]

#5 Comment By Erin Manning On April 6, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

As an Amazon pre-orderer of this book, I’m glad to share that I just received my order confirmation today with news that the book will arrive on Tuesday, April 9 (the release date). Can’t wait to get my official copy! 🙂

#6 Comment By JonF On April 6, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

MH, perhaps you’ve heard this: Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas. Some people are able to know (conaitre) reasons in such a manner, and others need “savoir”*.
I find I am much closer to Ruthie’s sort of knowing than I am to Rod’s– and yours– in these matters. That seems mildly odd to me given the value I place on reason and intellectual knowledge, but there it is.

* I hope you have some French– if you don’t, and for others too: “The heart has its reasons, which Reason knows not.” The verb conaitre means “to know– to be acquainted with” and savoir means “to know – intellectually”.