“What is your greatest hope for this book?”
This question came to me the other day from my friend Colette Lafia, a spiritual director and the author of Comfort and Joy and Seeking Surrender. She had written to me to congratulate me on the publication of my latest book, Unteachable Lessons. But then she asked that simple question, which I suppose every author should ponder as he or she writes — and then markets — a new book.
What is the hope at the heart of the book?
So with gratitude to Colette for asking the question, here are some thoughts that I’d like to share with you, whether or not you are reading Unteachable Lessons or just stumbling upon my website for the very first time. Hope is very much what drives me as a writer, so I hope (pardon the pun) that my words can inspire a little bit of hope for you as well.
I hope Unteachable Lessons speaks to anyone who is seeking a deeper and more intentional spiritual life. I hope the book inspires readers to remember that life is our best and most faithful teacher. I hope we can all take a deep breath and remember that every day, no matter how mundane our circumstances might be, every day is a new opportunity to find grace in unexpected places, to access the wisdom that is already deeply encoded in our hearts, and to share that wisdom with others, through love, through service, or merely through simply being the persons God created us to be.
I hope Unteachable Lessons reminds its readers that wisdom can be brought to us by the most unlikely or surprising of messengers: a little girl in a wheelchair, an actress in a cathedral, a clerk in a gift shop, an old Dr. Seuss book. What does this mean? Well, for starters, we should always have our eyes and ears open. You never know when wisdom, or insight, or a new way of seeing is going to come calling. So pay attention! The surprise might show up any moment now.
I hope Unteachable Lessons brings mysticism down to earth. It’s not necessarily a book about “mysticism” like some of my other books are; but some of the topics that it explores — the value of silence, the beauty of prayer, the journey of learning to trust in God, the centrality of love — are topics central to the deep wisdom of the great mystics. Mysticism can seem like a daunting and foreboding matter, but the great mystics themselves, again and again, remind us that God meets us in the most humble and ordinary of ways. So that’s one reason why I tried to make this book a celebration of humble and ordinary moments in my life — as a reminder that all of us have the opportunity to receive God in humble and ordinary ways.
I hope Unteachable Lessons helps anyone who reads it to remember that people who are different from us are not our “enemies.” Some people have different abilities than we do, or different religious identities, or different political values. It can be too easy to shrink away from folks who we perceive as “different” — they are the people who can snap us out of our comfort zone; but they just might inspire us to see the world from a new perspective. Yes, that can be a challenge, but it can also be a lesson in love, or in acceptance, or in peacemaking. Those are the kinds of unteachable lessons we all need to learn!
Finally (at least for now), I hope Unteachable Lessons helps anyone who reads it to remember that humility remains at the heart of all spiritual growth and exploration. We live in a fast-paced, achievement-oriented culture, where “the one who dies with the most toys wins” — and it is far too easy to let that cultural bias infect our spiritual lives. We see spirituality as a program to complete, a process to master, a mountain to climb. We forget that the heart of spirituality is love, relationship, connection. It’s not a race to win, it’s a life to live. I’ve tried to keep this principle in mind as I wrote this book. “Truth is a pathless land,” said the 20th century spiritual teacher Krishnamurti. Likewise, spirituality is not an achievement to gain, but simply an invitation to be loved, and to love. May we all hear this invitation, and respond!
So those are at least some of my hopes for this, my latest book. And of course, I hope that anyone who might be blessed by it will have the opportunity to read it!
Where to purchase Unteachable Lessons:
Or you can get a signed copy directly from the author.