Reading time: 2 minutes, 26 seconds
Listen to what I have to say today. It’s important.
It’s not my message, and it’s not Frederick Buechner’s message. I’m pretty sure God sat beside dear old Fred and helped him write. And then Fred shared the important info, and now I’m passing it on to you.
Fred writes about what a preacher must do—not necessarily does but should do—while standing in his or her pulpit. Having read that, don’t think for a minute that this has nothing to do with you.
Erase all thoughts you might have in your head that might sound like: “I’m not a preacher. I don’t stand in a pulpit on Sundays with a message from God.”
Don’t even think such thoughts.
Because writing your memoir is not a hobby, not a pastime, not a fun thing you do when you have a few leisure minutes to yourself.
Writing your memoir is a ministry, a sacred calling, a holy project.
Eugene Peterson suggested that churches should ordain writers the way they ordain pastors.
Serving God as a writer is, indeed, a heavy, humbling responsibility.
Did you think I’d forgotten about Frederick Buechner? It took me a while to get back to his message but here it is.
Read it slowly—
recognizing yourself as a writer ordained—
as if you were a pastor ordained—
to share a message from God Himself.
Read Fred’s words several times.
Ask yourself what his message means to you
as a pastor-preacher/memoirist.
Frederick Buechner writes:
“ . . . Let him take heart. He is called not to be an actor, a magician, in the pulpit. He is called to be himself.
“He is called to tell the truth as he has experienced it. He is called to be human . . . . If he does not make real . . . the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.
“As much as anything else, it is their experience of the absence of God that has brought them there in search of his presence, and if the preacher does not speak of that and to that, then he becomes like the captain of a ship who is the only one aboard who either does not know that the waves are twenty feet high and the decks awash or will not face up to it so that anything else he tries to say by way of hope and comfort and empowering becomes suspect on the basis of that one crucial ignorance or disingenuousness or cowardice or reluctance to speak in love any truths but the ones that people love to hear.” (Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth; emphasis mine)
Frederick Buechner is calling us memoirists to be real, to refuse to merely entertain, to refuse to think of ourselves primarily as actors or magicians.
He’s confronting us, telling us to face up to what needs to be said. He’s urging us to tell it like it is rather than sugarcoating life and faith.
He’s calling out to us, reminding us that we have a sacred task—the responsibility to write about what hurts, about prayers God doesn’t seem to answer, about the terrors in the night.
Writing those truths can be painful. It requires courage and integrity and tenacity. Are you up to the task?
Ponder Fred’s words. Apply them to your memoir.
If you will take to heart Fred’s challenge, your memoir can speak to those who pick it up in search of God’s presence. It can speak to those who long to spot a little light in their darkness, to those who desperately need hope.
Don’t avoid writing the hard stuff, the mysterious stuff.
You can do this.