The Reverend John Ames is the narrator of Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. He is a third-generation Congregationalist minister, which means he pastors a Congregationalist church. He lives a rather scholarly and solitary life for more than forty years after his wife died in childbirth, but he gets married and has a son when he is sixty-seven years old.
Ames knows that he is not likely to see his son grow up, given his age and health, so he writes a journal full of letters to the boy, sharing the things he would like his son to know about himself, his faith, and his life. He shares wisdom such as this:
Christianity is a life, not a doctrine . . . I'm not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I'm saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own.
He hopes his son will benefit from such wisdom when he is grown.