Friday, April 1, 2016

On the Subject of Grace

I remember the precise day forty years ago when I fell in love with the writings of Flannery O’Connor.

A friend and I were in a little cabin in Tennessee on a peaceful winter day with a roaring fire blazing before us. I think I was sipping some Jack Daniels whiskey to be exact. It was a cozy and peaceful late afternoon just at sunset.

My friend handed me O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and said simply, “Here’s something for you to read.” I was prepared to further enhance my tranquility by reading the short story. I was half dozing and half awake. The more I read, the more my heart began to palpitate and I thoroughly awakened from the serenity of the moment. I finished every last word of the story and threw the book across the room saying, “Why did you give me that to read?”

I was shaken to the core of my being. Jarred to my senses. Aroused to contemplate the meaning of O’Connor’s words and to begin to read other stories and then her novels and everything else I could get my hands on about her extraordinary insight and journey.

These were my origins on the subject of grace which has been my focus for many years. O’Connor began to teach me about grace, grace in its most intense form as it occurs in the midst of suffering. I experienced a suspended moment of deliverance which has been growing since that sleepy day in Tennessee. I owe her a debt I can never repay.

-- Jeff Blake, of Covington, Georgia, is retired after spending his life in the non-profit world and with Berea College in Kentucky and LaGrange College in Georgia as a Major Gift Officer. Since he retired, he has written three books, Traveling on Grace Street, More Travels on Grace Street and Homestretch -This Journey on Grace Street. He proudly says his mentors are his nine grandchildren.


Unknown said...

Mr. Blake is a fine author of Grace. I recommend his two books that can be purchased on Amazon. Grace Street and More Travels on Grace Street. I hear he's got a third book coming out soon called Homestretch. I can't wait to hold it in my hands and heart. O'Connor's influence is evident!

Mike Felker said...

One of the top Biblical scholars I know always refers to O'Connor as "a modern day Old Testament prophet," a fitting term in my eyes. When I taught "A Good Man," my students were first horrified, and then amazed when they realized what she shows here as "the grandmother's head cleared for an instant" and she reached out to the Misfit: "Why, you're one of my children," and then died "with her legs crossed under her" and gazing up at the sky. I can think of few other passages in literature as powerful as that.