As I mentioned a few days ago, I recently finished reading Frederick Buechner’s Telling Secrets. At the same time, I was just starting Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, which had been on my to-read list for quite a long time and finally got moved to the top by my realization that the movie was about to open.
(This, by the way, is one of the answers to the question I’m sometimes asked, “How do you decide what to read next?” It’s brought to my attention that a movie or some other event tied to a book is coming up, and I read in order to know what the original story is, to recognize what changes are made in the transition to film, and to be able to discuss the work more or less intelligently.)
I’ve already posted my review of Miller’s book, so I won’t give the broad picture again here. And I haven’t yet posted one for Telling Secrets, so I won’t give that overview here either. What I do want to share here is an overlapping particular that struck me close to home.
Although both grew up for the most part fatherless, Miller and Buechner don’t appear to have much in common at first glance. With a 45-year age gap between them, the two men came of age in very different worlds and were shaped and challenged by vastly dissimilar influences and experiences. Truth, however, is true at all times, in all places, for all people, regardless of the road by which it is reached; and both Buechner and Miller arrived, by their own circuitous routes, at one of the fundamental truths which many Christians have in our heads but have trouble fully realizing in our hearts: God really, unconditionally, truly loves us, and because He loves us, it’s ok – right and proper, even – for us to love ourselves.
Miller recounts the story of his epiphany in this way: “I did know, I just didn’t believe…and then…the voice of God…Love your neighbor as yourself… it hit me…I would never talk to my neighbor the way I talked to myself…somehow I had come to believe it was wrong to kick other people around but it was okay to do it to myself.” Love your neighbor as yourself was a pivotal message for Buechner as well: he explains, “The other way to say it is, Love yourself as your neighbor. Love yourself not in some egocentric, self-serving sense but love yourself the way you would love your friend in the sense of taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself, trying to understand, comfort, strengthen yourself.”