The Common Good
December 1994-January 1995

Stumbling Onto the Spirit's Signposts

by Shane Helmer | December 1994-January 1995


Jesus spoke all these things in parables; he did not say anything
to them without using a parable. -Matthew 13:34


Story penetrates our souls and is woven ...

Jesus spoke all these things in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. -Matthew 13:34

Story penetrates our souls and is woven into our being. Jesus understood the power of story, which is why he tried to convey the truth of God's kingdom through parables.

Flannery O'Connor also understood this power. She did not have a theological solution to what she believed was a mystery-our redemption through God's grace. She did, however, believe that the best way to approach this mystery was through metaphor and story.

O'Connor's fiction is as much about human nature as it is about grace and redemption. While ultimately trying to express divine truth, she also reveals a great deal about humanity's slow participation in the mystery. Her characters wander around blindly unaware of the holy meaning in ordinary events.

The world in which her characters move is ambiguous; awareness of God's grace does not come easily to these people. They are so fallen, and their consciousness is so impenetrable that only the most violent and soul-wrenching moments of life awaken them from their lethargy and prepare them for the intervention of God's grace. Ultimately, these moments reveal the love of God for unworthy people.

O'Connor works the same territory as philosophers and theologians, exploring the same questions and mysteries, but through fiction rather than exegesis. Her work, like the stories of the Bible, leads the reader into a strange land marked with enigmatic signposts. Here, faith and fiction meet at a crossroads where we are pointed to the road less traveled-our participation in the divine mystery. May we see the truth clearly.

SHANE HELMER, a former Sojourners intern, lives in Humble, Texas.

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