The Quotable Frederick Buechner

Ever since Dr. Greene passed, I have been enamored with one of his favorite writers, Frederick Buechner. I bought Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner in hopes to get into the mind and heart of what made Dr. Greene just that, Dr. Greene. I have been greatly challenged to be a better image-bearer in response to reading this short devotional book. If you’ve been on my facebook anytime this semester, I’m sure you’ve noticed one of Buchner’s quotes as my status. His short musings on theology, life, and just the human experience has caused deep and reverent introspection within my own heart. God has used this book within my life recently to bring light my own human experience living within a fallen world, my daily walk amidst pain that is wrangled with joy. The book has been used to help me to take time and stop to see the goodness in life, to see God in the small things like Dr. Greene always did. Below I have compiled some of Buechner’s best and most impacting quotes from the book. I hope they encourage you like they have encouraged me.

“God became light in the hope of being understood by the darkness. It is the central miracle of incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light.

“The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.”

“Pay mind to your own life, your own health, and wholeness. A bleeding heart is of no help to anyone if it bleeds to death.”

“The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own.”

“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’re going to die? More often than not do you 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 we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past … to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

“Pay mind to your own life, your own health, and wholeness. A bleeding heart is of no help to anyone if it bleeds to death.”

“Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst”

“Our happiness is all mixed up with each other’s happiness and our peace with each other’s peace. Our own happiness, our own peace, can never be complete until we find some way of sharing it with people, who the way things are now, have no happiness or peace. Jesus calls us to show this truth forth, live this truth forth. Be the light of the world.”

“Christians mean well when they say they want to be like Jesus, but they truly do not know what they’re saying. Being like Jesus means thinking of others all the time before you think of yourself. Their joy is your highest ambition. You cannot be truly happy if someone else is not truly happy.”

“With words as valueless as poker chips, we play games whose object it is to keep us from seeing each other’s cards. Chit-chat games in which ‘How are you?’ means ‘Don’t tell me who you are,’ & ‘I am alone & scared’ becomes ‘fine thanks.’ Games where the players create the illusion of being in the same room but where the reality of it is that each is alone inside a skin in that room.”

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

“…There’s something about his eyes and his voice. There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way the carries the cross- the way he carries me.”

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

“This other war is the war to become a human being. This is the goal that we are really after and that God is really after. This is the goal that power, success, and security are often forlorn substitutes for. This is the victory that not all our human armory of self-confidence and wisdom and personality can win for us, not simply to be treated as human but to become at last truly human.”

“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.”

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

 

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