In the order of grace, the native speaker is not one who has never questioned the language s/he speaks and has no awareness of what other possibilities exist for speech; the native speaker is the one who can inhabit language without anxiety, without constant defensive activity on the borders of the territory, because of a knowledge that all truthful speech and action is activated by what is and always remains unsaid, the hinterland of God’s unimaginable judgement. By such an alignment with an unseen and unspoken judgement, the speaker is aligned with the divine liberty: not a gift of independent human freedom but an openness to the alien margins of human discourse out of which comes the raw possibility of change in the direction of absolution and generosity. I do not coincide with myself; this is a given, we might say, of all serious fiction, of the modern fictional consciousness, preoccupied as it is with growth, self-delusion, recognition of self and of difference. But for the Christian imagination, seeking words and pictures for grace, that fictional consciousness has to be connected with not only the mystery of change but what might be called the mystery of absolution, the unpredictable arrival of the liberty both to absolve and to receive absolution, without any denial of the chains of cause and effect. Grace, the strange gift of becoming a native speaker of the language proper to humankind, the language of being a creature, arrives at right angles to planning and deserving. It rightly provokes both bafflement and gratitude; and a fiction that is hospitable to the gospel will work out of both.