Last summer, I discovered Frederick Buechner’s lovely book, “Wishful Thinking.” Like many good books, it made me smile, furrow my brow, question, be convicted, and jump for joy inside–sometimes all at once. The book is basically a glossary, offering humorous yet often profound definitions of words that have perhaps become too familiar. The tone of the book, I imagine, is a gentle “No, don’t you see? You’ve gotten this concept all wrong. Here’s what this essentially means.” Needless to say, Buechner (which, by the way, is pronounced “BEEK-nuhr”) has quickly secured a place in my heart as one of my favorite authors. Below are excerpts from some of my favorite definitions.
From escapism: “The best moments we any of us have as human beings are those moments when for a little while it is possible to escape the squirrel-cage of being me into the landscape of being us.”
judgment: “Romantic love is blind to everything except what is lovable and lovely, but Christ’s love sees us with terrible clarity and sees us as whole. Christ’s love so wishes our joy that it is ruthless against everything in us that diminishes our joy.”
life: “After lecturing learnedly on miracles, a great theologian was asked to give a specific example of one. ‘There is only one miracle,’ he answered. ‘It is life.’ Have you wept at anything during the past year? Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty? Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? More often than note, do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn to speak? Is there anybody you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? If your answer to all or most of these questions is No, the chances are that you’re dead.”
Lord’s Supper: “The next time you walk down the street, take a good look at every face you pass and in your mind say, Christ died for thee. That girl. That slob. That phony. That crook. That saint. That damned fool. Christ died for thee. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee.”
Praise: We learn to praise God not by paying compliments but by paying attention. Watch how the trees exult when the wind is in them. Mark the utter stillness of the great blue heron in the swamp. Listen to the sound of the rain. Learn how to say Hallelujah from the ones who say it right.”
Sabbath: The room is quiet. You’re not feeling tired enough to sleep or energetic enough to go out. For the moment there is nowhere else you’d rather go, no one else you’d rather be. You feel at home in your body. You feel at peace in your mind. For no particular reason, you let the palms of your hands come together and close your eyes. Sometimes it is only when you happen to taste a crumb of it that you dimly realize what it is that you’re so hungry for you can hardly hear it.”
vocation: “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”