19.12.10

Why I Can't Stop Reading Buechner

When I was at Belmont University, I kept hearing about this author named Frederick Buechner from the religion majors. I first read "Son of Laughter", probably because it was required reading for some religion class, and thus ended up in the free book pile at the end of the semester, and I had a habit of scavenging.


Later I read "Godric", and it remains one of the best novels I've ever read. From there, I've moved on to his non-fiction, and now our quotables page has a disproportionate amount of Buechner. Truth be told, I would quote him more, if I didn't feel weird about it. And now, like CS Lewis, Thomas Hardy, and Stephen Lawhead, I'll read anything that has his name on it, regardless of topic or genre.

Why? Well, he is a certainly an amazingly talented author, but there seems to be something more, and I've been trying to figure out what that something is. I recently finished "Alphabet of Grace", and I probably couldn't tell you exactly what that book is about, but as I finished, I was pretty overwhelmed with the beauty of what I just read.

His chief theme seems to be the grace of God in the everyday, the seemingly mundane. Now and then, he says, some ordinary event, a dream at night or two branches hitting against each other, break for a moment to reveal a weight of glory underneath that seems to have been there all the time. He even goes on to say that perhaps the reason we don't see it more is that, in our mortal frame, we couldn't handle more than the brief glimpses we get.

He is honest. Even to the point that some might call him crude. He doubts aloud, he bares his faults. And not only in this refreshing, in and of itself, but without this commitment to honesty, his assertion that God's grace is present in the everyday would ring hollow. As it is, his honesty brings it alive.

And then there is his method. He is indirect, and he purposefully strives to project the emotion of the thing he is stating, even above the rational "word" of it. And thus I am left at the end of a book, not sure of what he was saying, but feeling it with full force nonetheless. And I think his indirect method brings it alive as well. He presents little to no argument as to why he is speaking the truth. You don't have to be convinced. He just names it. And I think, "Oh, right, it actually has been there all along."

All this put together means that, when I set down his books, I can't help but look at my own life with a different lens. I can't help but sense the undercurrent of the omnipresent love of God, that breaks through every now and then. I rarely have to remind myself, and I never have to convince myself. It just sneaks in, like the light of the world on the darkest night of the year. And thus his work emulates the Christ he has served these many years.

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