How one writer and minister has made a career of telling others about moments of holy insight.

You would not expect to find an old, battered license plate hanging on a wall in the home of a distinguished novelist. But the world of Frederick Buechner includes plenty of room for the odd, the unexpected.

The acclaimed writer and ordained minister loves to tell the story about the plate he refers to as a “holy relic.” In a bleak time in his life he was parked by a road not far from his Vermont home, worrying about his then-anorexic teenage daughter. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed, a car came down the highway with a license plate bearing the letters T-R-U-S-T. “Of all the entries in the lexicon of words that I needed most to hear, it was that word trust. It was a chance thing, but also a moment of epiphany—revelation—telling me, ‘trust your children, trust yourself, trust God, trust life; just trust.’ ”

Later Buechner was sitting in his living room with his youngest daughter talking over the very same anxieties, when, as he recounts, “So help me, there came a knock at the door and my daughter answered it. I heard her speaking to some male voice that I didn’t recognize. It was the owner of the license plate—the trust officer in a local bank, whose reason for the choice of the word became obvious—and he said, ‘Here, I wanted to give you this.’ ” The man had heard Buechner tell the story in a sermon and wanted him to have the object that had prompted Buechner’s roadside revelation.

Of Many Worlds

Buechner has made a career of telling others about such moments of holy insight. His “congregation” of readers, largely invisible ...

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