Wendell Berry poured this wisdom into the mouth of one of his fictional characters:
“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.” (Jayber Crow)
This is always the nature of story, and in Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace, Walter Wangerin, Jr. has scooped deeply to tell what he could about his lifelong awareness of grace, shining in darkness and healing our wounds.
With a glance in the rear view mirror, Wangerin recalls his childhood search for a physical Jesus there within the church building. Under the pews? In the restrooms? Certainly not in the “gobbledygook” of the morning service? He is encouraged in his searching by the faithful worship of his mum and the humble and sacrificial gift of a “bunch-backed old woman.”
Light in the Context of Life
An adoptive dad with a multi-racial family and with a season of shepherding an African American church, Wangerin writes as father and pastor, as victor and failure, as celebrant of a joyful faith and mourner of lost opportunities and hasty words. Theology and biblical narrative lie just beneath the surface of this handful of tales, emerging now and then into the full light of day:
“In the first covenant God’s part was to offer blessings, and the people’s part was to obey. On account of the failure of the people to uphold their part, it was the covenant itself that failed. In the second covenant, therefore, God in Christ decided to take both parts upon himself.
Mercy hath a human face.” (98)
As with all theology, the true beauty comes in its application and Wangerin’s son Matthew provided numerous opportunities to explore the relationship between law and grace. “Whims in him were deeds immediately,” (98) but it was the tears of his dad after an overwhelming disciplinary session that melted the little sinner’s heart.
Since God is “the giver of lazy afternoons,” (49) it follows that throwing a fish hook into an absolutely quiet lake with a fly-tying parishioner may fall under the category of ministry. Since God is the source of all forgiveness, “a free gift, freely given,” it follows that forgiveness between human souls should not be demanded as a law to be obeyed, but offered up freely with both parties going “straight to the source of grace.” (83, 84)
Grace for Ordinary People
Walter Wangerin’s stories are populated by a memorable cast of characters:
- the staunch librarian whose “spine was composed not of bone but of rectitude” (100);
- Billy who makes his living by the good will of others, but screamed in fury when Walter failed to include milk, butter, and cream in his donation package;
- Shrill Miss Brill, allergic to the very air she breathed, but afflicted much more by her “very self.”
Only slightly less shimmering is Wangerin’s fresh vocabulary with its images of “obdurate” children, leaves clothed in “umbers as dark as sleep,” God as “supernal” parent, and the motion of “perfervid” dances.
It is extremely good news for readers that young “Wally” grew up to realize that his wounded self, the cracks in his character that brought him shame, the broken people to whom he ministered (and who taught him what it means to minister)–this is where Jesus lives. This is where light breaks through and where God’s love comes rushing in.
This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Thankful for the Light,