Not long ago, my loving mother played an old cassette tape for some friends of mine, exposing one of my best-kept childhood secrets: I was once a 6-year-old evangelist wannabe.
I was Southern Baptist when I was little, with the accent to prove it. My father’s tape recorder served as both devoted congregation and patient baby-sitter. For two whole sides of that tape, I sang, I clapped, I gave my theological interpretation of Romans 6:23. I seemed to have a grasp on sin. But I knew about faith, too, changing the verse to call Jesus "my" Lord instead of "our" Lord. Apparently, I hadn’t yet found any scripture references to sharing.
Once I recovered from my embarrassment, I listened to the tape intently, surprised, trying to remember that little girl with the huge conviction. Lately my faith resembled a dried mudpie left in the sun too long: misshapen and lumpy, full of cracks and crumbling away at the edges. That’s about the time I heard lyrics by Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in." I wanted to believe him.
Then I found Anne Lamott, a writer who calls that lyric one of her favorite theological lines ever written. This is a woman who knows cracks and who will tell you about them. She seems trustworthy enough; she is a 44-year-old white woman with dreadlocks who worries about her thighs. And she talks about loving Jesus as freely and fiercely as my 6-year-old self did.
"I may be giving myself such airs, but I think that I’m supposed to spread the word of the gospel," she says. "I think that my work as a writer is of no cosmic importance except that I can spread the word of God’s love and salvation." Anne Lamott is just brave, or foolhardy, enough to call herself a Christian evangelist.