“So beautiful! How can I learn how to do that?!?”
This is what I kept thinking as I read through Frederick Buechner’s rendering of Jacob’s story. His novel is remarkably true to the biblical facts, and yet it has a timelessly-contemporary artistry to it as well.
The book helped me to better identify with the original Genesis account — genuinely enhancing my worship of the LORD, the Fear. But it’s also compelling in its own right. The language is beautiful: poetic without being overwrought. The characters are vivid and multi-dimensional, totally believable, relatable. The scenes are rich with sight, sound, taste, touch, and scent. Yet nothing feels over-explained or over-reaching (a perfect antithesis to most “Christian fiction”). I love the way that Buechner respects his reader. And God. It’s something to which I aspire…
I especially appreciate the way “The Son of Laughter” helps me to sympathize with all the different players in those crazy patriarchal dramas. I can understand the tensions between the deceit and the blessing. Just as with any good work of fiction, the protagonist’s tragic flaws make him more likable. More sympathetic. A cursory reading of the Genesis account supplies the raw material needed for such an emotional connection — but a more elaborate rendering of the details (both embedded within the text and imagined from careful research and consideration) helps the process along that much further.
I can see ways that I’m like Isaac, traumatized by my past, timid strength from intimate communion with The Fear even while sometimes being bullied by others…. like Esau, driven by primal passions and careless moments of thoughtlessness… like Jacob, conscious of his own fear and cunning, yet also aware of the LORD’s blessing that overpowers his guilt and meddling… These stories help me to see God as powerful and accessible — but not in the same way as the little stone gods of the Canaanites. God is indubitably real and active, but still largely shrouded in mystery. He remains somewhat disconnected from the affairs of men until His powerful lucky seed can take root and grow into its true form.
The stories of the Patriarchs are full of majesty, mystery, and meaning. I’m realizing that it will take me a long, long time before I get to the bottom of it all — but as long as I get to meander through the stories with Frederick Buechner, I don’t mind the journey.