A few years back a friend of mine, Jay Phelan, told me about a book about a pastor and a small town in Iowa and so I bought the book and was about 50 pages deep before I realized it was a novel and that Marilynne Robinson was a novelist. The novel, called Gilead, was short enough that, having found myself that deep, I went with the story and finished it off. I have myself to blame for purchasing and reading her next novel, Home.
I don’t know if I’ll finish Home, but I’ve entered her story world and I like this pastor Robert Boughton and his daughter Glory and her wayward brother, Jack, and the love of the father for his prodigal son. And her prose is mood-setting and leads me into a gentle, quiet and reflective place. And this section I’m about to quote reflects her prose and an idea I’d like to hear your thoughts about. What do you think of this “posture of grace”? The family has had a hard time with Jack, and forgiving him is a challenge:
“There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa used to say. You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding. Her [Glory’s] father had said this more than once, in sermons, with appropriate texts, but the real text was Jack, and those to whom he spoke were himself and the row of Boughtons in the front pew, which usually did not include Jack, and then, of course, the congregation. If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace” (45).
Some of you read Gilead, which was itself a posture of grace.