"There is something more than a little disconcerting about writing your autobiography. When people have occasionally asked me what I am working on, I have found it impossible to tell them without an inward blush. As if anyone cares or should care. As if I myself should even care that much — like showing my baby pictures to strangers. And there is something a little geriatric about it, too — an old codger putting his affairs in order as the end approaches, marking his prized possessions so his heirs won't squabble over them later, writing names on the backs of old photographs so someday somebody will be able to tell who the people are. If anybody should be interested anyway.

"But I do it anyway. I do it because it seems to me that no matter who you are, and no matter how eloquent or otherwise, if you tell your own story with sufficient candor and concreteness, it will be an interesting story and in some sense a universal story. I do it also in the hope of encouraging others to do the same — at least to look back over their own lives, as I have looked back over mine, for certain themes and patterns and signals that are so easy to miss when you're caught up in the process of living them. If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that he speaks to us largely through what happens to us, so what I have done both in this book and in its predecessor is to listen back over what has happened to me — as I hope my readers may be moved to listen back over what has happened to them — for the sound, above all else of his voice.

"Because the word that God speaks to us is always an incarnate word — a word spelled out to us not alphabetically, in syllables, but enigmatically, in events, even in the books we read and the movies we see — the chances are we will never get it just right. We are so used to hearing what we want to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear that it is hard to break the habit. But if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember all the deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear him, he is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, his word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling in that sense autobiography becomes a way of praying, and a book like this, if it matters at all, matters mostly as a call to prayer."