The prayer journal of Southern Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor was released a little over a week ago and already the buzz abounds. Friends, colleagues and writers I admire are talking excitedly about having this slim book in their hands. Renowned author Marilynne Robinson has even pondered it for The New York Times in her precise, elegant prose.
While I have enjoyed the hype, it made writing about the book more daunting. I was gripped by insecurity, wondering if there was anything worthwhile left to say.
It turns out that the 20-year-old O’Connor who kept this journal was well-acquainted with anxiety and doubt over her craft. Yet she kept writing, anyway. Angst-ridden as she was, she still believed she had words worth saying – in this case, to her God.
“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to,” she says on the first salvaged page of the journal.
Much of the collection is a detailed outpouring of this fear. O’Connor tells God what worries and shames her. Mostly she is afraid that her own preoccupations and limitations – her “self shadow” – will prevent her from seeing and adoring Him as she ought. Her language for herself is harsh; she calls herself stupid, lazy and “a presumptuous fool.”
O’Connor also shares her delights and joys, which are centered on her work as a fiction writer. Even at her young age she is rapturously devoted to her craft and holds it up against the loneliness invading her soul. Again and again she acknowledges God as the source of her work, thanking Him for giving her stories that allow her to be “the instrument for [His] story.” “I want to be the best artist it is possible for me to be, under God,” she says.
Her reflections on burdens and triumphs are pleadings for God’s mercy and “necessary grace.”
Read the rest of this post over at ThinkChristian.