The Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel said toward the end of his life, “What keeps me alive – spiritually, emotionally, intellectually – is my ability to be surprised.” Fred was surprised; he was surprised again when years later he read a transcript from that sermon by George Buttrick and found that the phrase ‘great laughter’ was not there. From just such surprises hang the destinies of us all, Fred said. And it led him to the rest of his life – to Union Theological Seminary, to becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. He, like Lou, put all his yesterdays and tomorrow together and chose.
Fred Buechner’s life as a writer of renown and as a person on a journey is as open and vulnerable as the open heart of Leo Bebb’s church, Jesus’ church, he writes about in his later novel Open Heart. This openness does not mean, however, that we see him completely any more than we see ourselves completely. There is always the mystery of what it means to be searching for “a self to be,” as Fred puts it, a search “for other selves to love.” That kind of searching takes a lifetime – and possibly beyond. He says in an interview in a magazine entitled Door, “It’s sort of a continuing dim spectacle of the subterranean presence of grace in the world that haunts me. The mystery of mysteries at the bottom of the well, at the far reach of the road is the mystery of God, of Christ. This is what I explore.”
From “Deep Calls Unto Deep: Reflections on the intersecting lives and writings of Fred Buechner, Tony Abbott, and Louis Patrick”