What an amazing instrument you are

I can’t tell you, though, how I felt, walking along beside him that night, along that rutted road, through that empty world – what a sweet strength I felt, in him, and in myself, and all around us. I am glad I didn’t understand, because I have rarely felt joy like that, and assurance. It was like one of those dreams where you’re filled with some extravagant feeling you might never have in life; it doesn’t matter what it is, even guilt or dread, and you learn from it what an amazing instrument you are, so to speak, what a power you have to experience beyond anything you might ever actually need. Who would have thought that the moon could dazzle and flame like that?

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Encountering others as questions

From Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Gilead:

This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate…

He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.