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Practice Justice

What I’m Reading Now: United States of Grace

A new book by Rev. Lenny Duncan
by Faith+Lead | June 4, 2021

By Micah Carver

Earlier today, I caught myself claiming to have finished reading Rev. Lenny Duncan’s newest book United States of Grace: A Memoir of Homelessness, Addiction, Incarceration, and Hope. While it’s true that I reached the final page and read each of the words, I’m not sure “finished” is all that accurate. It’s days later, and I’m still sitting with a heaviness. There’s a discomfort in my soul. His book is still working on me. Nothing about this is finished.

In his first chapter, Duncan sets the stage for everything he’s about to share – the physical, emotional, and mental pain he’s experienced, the hatred he’s endured, the isolation, the neglect, the near-death he’s survived—by quoting Dr. James Cone. “Sir,” Cone told a white man who’d insisted that the struggle for Black liberation had been resolved by the civil rights movement, “we live in two different worlds.” My initial reading of United States of Grace felt like something similar. I couldn’t see, or maybe didn’t want to see, the ways in which our lives overlapped—frequently, however, from different points of view.

As vividly and candidly as Lenny Duncan writes about the harm done to him, he never hesitated to implicate himself —to name and claim the harm he’d also done. As I’ve sat with his book, and with the stories inside his story, it’s Duncan’s courageous honesty that I keep coming back to. It’s what most compels me as I think about my own life and about each of our shared stories. Naming how and when may involve fear and trembling, but I am a victim and I am also a perpetrator. By acknowledging that in his story, Lenny Duncan helped me see myself more clearly. His book is a mirror but only if we’ll let it be. When we do, the promise is that grace is waiting, and it’s for all of us. “Once you find grace stuffed into the margins of your story,” he writes, “you can’t help but drag it out for all to see.” 

That idea might feel overwhelming some days. Maybe even most. To receive grace is to need it, and that need exposes my failures and fears. When I do, though, when I can find the courage to show and embrace the fullness of my humanity, those separate worlds we tend to live in become smaller until they merge into one. “Thy kingdom come,” I pray sometimes without even thinking about what it means, “on earth as it is in heaven.” So be it. 

Find out more about The United States of Grace.

About the Author
Micah Carver is an aspiring writer and freelance content creator. He enjoys words in the same way other people might appreciate their favorite t-shirt, a perfect slice of pizza, or the first cup of coffee in the morning. He also acknowledges that, while none of those things perform any of the actual work of writing, they can be helpful.

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