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Listen to Your Life

Guest Author: 
Frederick Buechner

Editor's note: These extraordinary quotes come from the popular Christian author and theologian Frederick Buechner. Together, they suggest one of the key themes in all his work -- listening to one's life.

May spiritual companions and seekers around the globe use them as inspiration to discern on the role played by God - or however we name the ground of all being - in our "day-by-day" lives.

Blessings to you all. 

One of the clearest messages Frederick 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." (Dale Brown). 

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 . . . 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, 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.”


Frederick Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner) is an American writer and theologian. He is the author of more than thirty published books. His work encompasses many genres, including fiction, autobiography, essays, sermons, and other nonfiction. Buechner’s books have been translated into twenty-seven languages for publication around the world. Material for the post above - one of Buechner's "themes" - comes from several of his books and is used here with permission of the author.

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