I know I am odd, but I almost cannot imagine reading a book and not wanting to read the author’s acknowledgments. Even in the most technical of books by the most erudite of authors, the acknowledgments serve as a reminder that the author is a human being, dependent upon the good graces of others to complete the long and lonely work of writing a publishable book.
Several acknowledgments through the years have made me smile. For example, Moisés Silva, after thanking several students and colleagues for reading a draft of the manuscript, made a tongue-in-cheek comment that pokes fun at the cliche about these people not being to blame for any errors that remain:
Of course, all of these friends expressed total agreement with everything claimed in this book, and they take full responsibility for any remaining errors.
B.M. Pietsch—whose fascinating dissertation turned book is actually a delight to read!—decided to have a little fun and blame the people in his life for the book he produced:
I blame all of you. Writing this book has been an exercise in sustained suffering. The casual reader may, perhaps, exempt herself from excessive guilt, but for those of you who have played the larger role in prolonging my agonies with your encouragement and support, well . . . you know who you are, and you owe me.
There are other acknowledgments that leave the reader—at least this one—with a sense of sadness:
I have seen more than one author’s preface include apologies to children who frequently asked during the writing of the book, “When is Daddy going to be finished?” This book has taken so long from start to finish that my children have all grown up and moved away during that time. Maybe they asked about it in former days, but they gave up long ago if they did.
My apology is aimed at others—at those editors, colleagues, family member, employers, students, and ultimately readers whose lives have been made at least somewhat uncomfortable by the book’s delay.
At least it finally got done.
Yikes! I felt guilty just turning the page to begin the book.
The other day I read John Piper’s “A Word of Thanks” in his new book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture, which is a sequel to his book, A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness.
Having co-edited Piper’s Collected Works, I think I have read the acknowledgements in all fifty of his books. But this is a uniquely beautiful meditation on the meaning of gratitude as a writer enters his eighth decade of life.
The kind of thanks one feels at age seventy is not entirely the same as when one was forty. It is more obvious now that every minute of life is a gift. Every pain-free moment is a gift. Every memory of something read or thought, one more year’s gainful employment, each day’s renewal of energy, friends who have not yet died or moved away, hearing the doorbell, seeing words on a page, one more spectacular October maple in Minneapolis just outside my window—all gifts.
Of course, they have always been gifts. But the closer you are to saying good-bye to a friend, the more precious he feels. Don’t get me wrong. My thoughts are indomitably future-oriented. I’m not dead yet. In fact, nearing the end makes me feel more alive, not less. That could be owing to the smell of heaven blowing back into this world. For heaven is a very alive place. Or it could be the adrenaline of urgency with less and less time left to do more and more.
In any case, I am thankful for every day, and every gift. I love being alive. And I love writing. Some things you just feel made to do. I suppose that’s what Eric Liddell meant when he said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” I’m not fast. In fact, the list of competencies that I don’t have is painfully long. Writing is not about being great. It’s about making something. Writing is my carpentry, my masonry, my culinary arts, my painting and sculpting and carving, my gardening, my knitting and crocheting and needlepoint, my coin collecting.
Writing is about the joy of creating—as Dorothy Sayers would say, sharing “the Mind of the Maker.” What an amazing thing: to make much of the Maker by making like the Maker. So I am thankful for the calling and the freedom and the pressure to write. I am thankful for Desiring God, where I work full-time, and where they expect me to write. They pay me to write. And they expect me to write what is true and what is beautiful. They hold me to it.
What a gift! The whole team is precious to me. And David Mathis, executive editor, stands out, because he reads everything I write, and his suggestions make it better. I thank God for David’s leadership of a great team of writers at Desiring God—Jon Bloom, Tony Reinke, and Marshall Segal. How can one not write with joy when surrounded by such thinkers and writers?
In one sense, publishing is secondary to my writing. If nobody wanted to read what I write, I would still write, because it’s how I see things, and how I savor reality. It’s how I learn. But the fact is that God has blessed me with an amazing partnership with Crossway. I love their vision, and they have been willing to publish my books. This is a gift to me. It’s much more than a business arrangement. It’s a camaraderie in Christ and in his global cause of glorifying the Father.
On the home front, the children are all grown and gone their ways. So only Noël and I (and the dog) are left. That leaves only Noël to celebrate in this paragraph. And what a gift she is! She has supported this calling to write from the beginning. She is a good writer herself. She is working on a biography of a missionary to China. God has been good to me in such a wife. I can’t imagine what life would have been without her. I said to her the other day, “I’m really glad you’re here to come down to from my study at the end of the day.”
Of course, behind all these gifts is the Giver. I thank God for Jesus, and for loving me in him, and for giving me his Holy Spirit, and covering all my sins. Noël and I look to him and say,
The Lord, our God, shall be our strength,
And give us life, whatever length
On earth he please, and make our feet
Like mountain deer, to rise and cleat
The narrow path for man and wife
That rises steep and leads to life.