On Monday, Frederick Buechner passed away quietly in his home. The acclaimed novelist and essayist 96 years old.
In life, he wrote some of the beautiful pieces thoughts about God ever put into the english language. Over the course of 39 novels, memoirs and other books, Buechner (BEEK-ner) wrote about a God better than we dared imagine, a God who delighted in His people, poured grace out freely and offered each precious day of life as a gift.
Buechner was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Godric, his 1981 novel about a 12-century holy man attempting to rid himself of pride. And his Lion Country, about the a fake priest fleeing an ugly past, was a National Book Award finalist in 1971.
Buechner suffused his novels with bad and unusual people who are shocked to find themselves the recipients of endless mercy, and in turn become conduits of that mercy for others. Buechner’s God dispensed of grace in boundless quantities that defied reason and stunned the senses.
Buechner himself found that grace throughout his whole life. After a rootless childhood with a father who struggled to keep steady work before dying of suicide, Buechner attended Princeton and then began writing in earnest in New York City. He attended seminary after publishing a couple critically acclaimed novels, and his writing took on its celebrated exploration of divinity in the mundane.
“Contrary to widespread religious belief,” he wrote in an essay for The New York Times, “I don’t think God goes around changing things in the sense of making bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, or of giving one side victory over the other in wars, or of pushing a bill through Congress to make school prayer constitutional.”
Instead, Buechner believed that “God opens up possibilities of redemptive human change in the inner selves, even of people who wouldn’t be caught dead believing in Him.”
Through his many books, essays and pieces of criticism, he wrote of God in ways that his many, many fans have internalized. Among his many treasured quotes:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Wishful Thinking
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, 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.” – Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
“Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.” –