Buechner Themes

Listening To Your Life

One of the clearest messages Buechner has woven into his many books is to pay attention—to your life, to the people with whom you are closest, to the things that happen to you. This, according to Buechner, is the best, and most authentic, way to experience yourself and God.

“You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it…. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.” (Beyond Words)

God is right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives…trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world. His work embodies “the persistent presentiment that Something is trying to get through in the midst of the muddle of our day-to-day lives.” (Dale Brown)

...the persistent presentiment that Something is trying to get through in the midst of the muddle of our day-to-day lives.
— Dale Brown

But perhaps, Buechner claims, the most important place to listen is deep within the quiet in ourselves. “I have written at length about the way God speaks through the hieroglyphics of the things that happen to us, and I believe that is true. But I have come to believe more and more that God also speaks through the fathomless quiet of the holy place within us all which is beyond the power of anything that happens to us to touch although many things that happen to us block our access to it, make us forget even that it exists. I believe that this quiet and holy place in us is God’s place and what it is what marks us as God’s. Even when we have no idea of seeking it, I think various things can make us fleetingly aware of its presence – a work of art, beauty, sometimes sorrow or joy, sometimes just the quality of a moment that apparently has nothing special about it at all like the sound of water over stones in a stream or sitting alone with your feet up at the end of a hard day.” (Telling Secrets)

In his second memoir, entitled Now and Then, Christian author Buechner expresses that listening to your life is the true essence and legacy of his writings: “If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”


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Frederick Buechner surprises and delights (and – very softly – teaches) us….He has articulated what he sees with a freshness and clarity and energy that hails our stultified imaginations.
— The New York Times Book Review

In a myriad of commonplace activities, he finds the presence of the divine, and he elegantly describes these persons, events, and observations, nimbly transporting readers into these realities. With his masterly crafted prose, Buechner edifies, inspires, and offers a timeless model for approaching our human experience.
— HarperCollins