Gilead

Robinson, Marilynne

Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2004

pp. 40-41

The elderly John Ames muses over his many years in ministry.  “My reputation is largely the creature of the kindly imaginings of my flock, whom I chose not to disillusion, in part because the truth had the kind of pathos in it that would bring on sympathy in its least bearable forms. . . I’ve spent a good share of my life comforting the afflicted, but I could never endure the thought that anyone should try to comfort me.”  He reflects on the thought that all his written-out sermons are in boxes in the attic.  He’s afraid to read them because “most of them might seem foolish or dull.”  He would be OK with burning them—much of his life’s work!  But he won’t because it would upset his wife.  He calculates that he has written almost as many words as Augustine, and that there isn’t one word he didn’t mean with all his heart at the time he wrote it.  He says, “If I had the time, I could read my way through fifty years of my innermost life,” and adds, “what a terrible thought.”