Jared Wilson taught me that writing about God and theology doesn’t mean being pedantic and dogmatic.
Tony Woodlief taught me that writing about the deepest angsts of life doesn’t mean being gratuitous and salacious.
Madeleine L’Engle taught me that writing to children doesn’t mean writing down to them, but writing up to everyone.
Annie Dillard taught me to collect stones and tree branches, and write about the ordinary things. That the whole earth groans.
Frederick Buechner taught me to write things as they are and sort through them after.
Andree Seu taught me to write the bible into everything and that we are written into the narrative before the foundations of the earth.
Lauren Winner taught me to write about the wrestling and not just the wrestled.
Wendell Berry taught me about peace in the wild things.
Donald Miller taught me that every church kid has a story, a lens through which we see the church, and a choice about what to do with both.
Flannery O’Connor taught me to be a student of all people, their stories and surroundings.
As I look over this list, I do not see the names of people who will go down in history for their theological correctness, their practiced wisdom, or even their verbal acuity. They are not men and women for whom the Christian life came/comes easily, seamlessly, or without glaring sins and sufferings. They are men and women not unlike those we see in the Bible—broken sinners using what was or is in their hands to navigate faith in a world that groans for its maker. These are the writers and thinkers who did not teach me what to think, but how to think, and I pray I am better for it.
I write this because if you want to be a better thinker (and writer), don’t read the ones who have their thoughts all thought out, bound in leather with gold inset; read the ones who are still thinking out loud as they write. Learn to fish, as the old adage goes, instead of feeding on another’s catch.