Lessons from Buechner

We have a new devotional text in our pastoral care office here at the hospital. It’s Frederick Buechner’s Listening to Your Life (Harper Collins, 1992). To start the day off with some centering and prayer, I read his words of wisdom for today, February 15th. He writes,

Because the word that God speaks to us is always an incarnate word – a word spelled out to us not alphabetically, in syllables, but enigmatically, in events, even in the books we read and the movies we see – the chances are we will never get it just right. We are so used to hearing what we want to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear that it is hard to break the habit. But if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear him, he is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, his word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling. In that sense autobiography becomes a way of praying, and a book like this, if it matters at all, matters mostly as a call to prayer.

God’s word is such a tremendous thing to hear. It whispers in the sound of snow drifting silently to the earth (in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow). It floats on Debussy’s piano notes that lift my heart as I write these words. It shouts in the thunder, in the clanging of cymbals, in the yells of delight of friends gathered around a table recounting stories from our past. I hear it in the new growth of the grass in my yard as we prepare for spring. I hear it in my husband’s voice when he tells me how much he loves me before I leave for work in the morning. I hear it in the hands of nurses who softly pat the arm of their patients. And I hear it in my own story, as I listen to my life, God speaking to me and through me.

I hope you listen to your life. Listen for the word of God, that voice that called you forth into being from nothingness, the voice that creates and recreates continually. You know the voice, just as it knows you. We don’t always understand it but, as Buechner says, it is precious.

Amen. Let it be.

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