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I’m almost finished with the new book by my friend and fellow blogger Jeff Munroe, Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian and Preacher (InterVarsity Press, 2019).

It’s a fantastic book. The introduction alone is worth the price. Jeff shares about how, seven years after his wife suffered a massive stroke (which happened a month before their wedding), he stumbled upon one of Frederick Buechner’s essays titled “Adolescence and the Stewardship of Pain.” That essay changed his life.

Buechner suggests that instead of burying our pain like we all tend to do, what if we became stewards of our pain and offered it as a gift to the world? This had a profound impact on Jeff as he reflected on his own pain. “Being alive to pain and somehow becoming a steward of it,” Jeff writes, “calls us to a deeper, fuller, more honest life, out of the shallows and into the depths…” (p.4).

I was so moved by this part of Jeff’s book that I found Buechner’s essay and read the whole thing. Toward the end of the essay, Buechner challenges teachers (and all of us really) by calling for not so much a change in curriculum or pedagogy but, more importantly, a change of heart. A change of heart that risks moving towards one another and sharing our pain, which more deeply connects us to our common humanity. Buechner writes,

I don’t think it is always necessary to talk about the deepest and most private dimension of who we are, but I think we are called to talk to each other out of it, and just as importantly to listen to each other out of it, to live out of our depths as well as our shallows.

It seems to me that this is what we’re trying to do with The Twelve. For those of us who write, we may not always talk about the deepest and most private dimensions of who we are, but consistently I experience the kind of writing that arises out of that deep, vulnerable place. And it’s not just the deep places of pain. It’s also the deep places of joy, curiosity, conviction, and wonder.

More than ever, we need platforms like The Twelve where we can call each other out of the shallows and into the depths. Platforms where we can discover, as Buechner puts it, that “the story of one of us is the story of all of us.”

Thank you for your faithful support of The Twelve and Reformed Journal. And thank you for the comments shared from those deep places as well.

Would you please consider becoming a regular financial supporter of The Twelve so that we can keep providing this kind of platform? Or consider making a one-time gift? Every gift matters.

Thank you again for your support and for helping us move toward a deeper, fuller, more honest life.

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Brian Keepers

Brian Keepers is the lead pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa.

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