You readers may all grow weary of me speaking of the years I spent as a book reviewer for CBA books. But that experience marked me, as a reader and a writer.
With my own column (and freelancing for other publications), I had carte blanche to order any book that struck my fancy to read and review.
Publishers were anxious to get reviews and I often received boxes almost too heavy to lift because they included others along with the ones I’d requested. I read every book I reviewed, cover to cover. I was conscientious and thorough.
Sometimes I reviewed reference books (the only ones I didn’t read completely), but not often. Since I myself published non-fiction, I was always interested when provocative, thoughtful books appeared.
They ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Whenever a Philip Yancey book was released, I could not wait to get my hands on it because I knew it would be honest and would tackle difficult issues like his Disappointment With God. (Which has been one of the most influential books of my life.)
But major publishing companies put out tripe, too. One book, which was advertised as a study of how to distinguish intuition from inspiration, I eagerly awaited. Imagine my disappointment in the fact that its hundreds of pages listed only two scriptures and those in the context of chanting them as a mantra. (Excuse me? Major Christian publisher? What were you thinking? I asked them. I’ll do you a favor and not write a review!)
Fiction was even more discouraging. I became paralyzed with the inability to monthly find/choose/order a novel or two that didn’t have a folksy feel to it, a fuzziness and warmth, all those emotions that were not helpful to me as a conflicted, art-craving person in need of mucking-around collegiality instead of melatonin.
And then my editor said, “Have you never read Frederick Buechner?”
And with those words, I saw light at the end of the Christian fiction tunnel. Buechner isn’t afraid to write edgy fiction about the God he called “the Fear” (a Biblical name for God, by the way.)
See what inspired me. Hear what I heard, in this passage from Son of Laughter:
“Arise, the Fear had told me. Did he know in his high heavens the weariness of rising? Lord as they say he is of all the living, can he guess the bitterness of death and dying? The flaming, footsore men? The camels’ burden? ‘Go,’ he told me. Can he without shame bid a man go and then cripple him for going? Can he show him the face of light and then leave him in darkness without even a silver hand to hold on to?”
And that was the light, the Buechner-focused light, that I’ve been stumbling toward with every written word since.
Share with us an example of a description of God from an author whose language stirred you to a greater understanding of God.