Wounds Are Where Light Enters

Drawing Out a Handful of Light

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.”

Wounds Are Where Light EntersI have begun to experiment with including an Amazon affiliate link here in my book reviews. If you should decide to purchase simply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Thankful for the Light,

44 thoughts on “Drawing Out a Handful of Light”

  1. Enjoyed that description of God as a “giver of lazy afternoons.” That alone causes me to be intrigued about the book, haha. 🙂 Seriously though, that is a freeing statement for me right now. I’ve got a lot going on and am a bit drained, and feel guilty at the idea of a lazy afternoon. God’s not about guilt, though, is He? — Looks like a good book. Thanks for sharing. xoxo


  2. Oh, my, my mouth is watering as I read this review! You do have a way of putting me in touch with such wonderful “reads”. Thanks as always for your excellent reviews. I can take yours to the bank every time! Blessings on your day, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One time, I heard, “He who would not be broken yes no business reaching out to the broken”. It must be true with the wounded. And being human! Thanks for sharing these reviews (and bringing great books to our notice!) Michele. Blessings to you.


    1. Oh, mine too! We had a lively book discussion group going here last fall, and so now I love it even more. I read Hannah Coulter over Christmas vacation, and hope to read more Wendell Berry soon!


  4. Hi, from your neighbor at Faith on Fire link up. Thank you for sharing this review. Wounds truly are where Light enters and He is gloified in our vulnerability of sharing what He does in and through our woundedness. We always need reminders to look for the goodness and grace of the Lord in life. This looks like a good book.


  5. is this new? I love wangerin and will buy from your link!! reading his Reliving the Passion again for lent. Have you read: Little Lamb, who made you? as well as Paul? have a great weekend!


    1. Yes, it was new at the end of 2017. I saw your references to Wangerin on Instagram, I think. His style is so distinctive! Thanks for your encouragement, Sue! Happy Friday (and Happy Weekend!).


  6. That sounds like such an amazing book Michele, I love how descriptive Wangerin is. His words are so beautiful and thought provoking


  7. It seems you always are given amazing books to read and review. I love the image of fishing with a parishioner counting as ministry. I forget how God is always present with me so that means I have opportunities daily to share Him with others.

    Hope you have a blessed Sunday!


    1. I’m so thankful for books, and throughout my whole life, I’ve been grateful for the words of writers that take me outside myself and enlarge my world. I’m slowing down in 2018 on the number of new books I read in order to make time for some old favorites or some older books that I’ve “always meant to read” but never got around to.
      Thanks, Mary, for showing up here with encouraging words.


  8. One of the things I love about God’s Word is it not only reveals His love through the Divine, it shares how it reaches into the lives of broken people. Thank you sharing Wangerin’s book that seems to offer a new twist on the old, old story.


  9. Michele, I love your reviews. This book sounds good. I love stories that talk about where Jesus lives. I now have the honor of being a host for Grace & Truth. Thank you for linking-up with us. Hope you have a week full of blessings, Maree


  10. I am more and more in awe of how the Lord uses His people and inspires them with so many Truths and new insights.

    This book looks like it shares wonderful, edifying perspectives.

    Thank you for sharing this review.


  11. Walter Wangerin, I had not heard his name in a long time for some reason. I remember reading The Book of God many years ago. Thanks for another great review. This sounds like it would be a very encouraging and thought-provoking book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can imagine that your years of ministry would also make this book resonate for you, Donna. I hope all is well with you and your husband. All the best to you as you share truth in your marriage conference THIS WEEKEND! (Wow, that came up fast!)


  12. This sounds like such an amazing book, Michele! I do love the quote you shared at the beginning too – it’s so thought provoking! Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party. I hope you are having a lovely week!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This sounds like a book that would encourage each of us, regardless of where we are in life. “This is where light breaks through and where God’s love comes rushing in.” Amen!


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