Sunday, January 1, 2017

The War of Love

RIP 2016. Overall, it wasn’t a happy year, this one. It has been for many an entry into a bitter land. I am a person of faith and a meaning-making animal, so I am determined to count my blessings, foremost among which is the knowledge that I am loved by many and that I am not alone in the griefs I have experienced over these 12 months. In addition, in May our daughter Evangeline graduated from college and we also got to visit with our Californian transplant, Abby three times in one year! Tragically though, along with everyone else, we have been witness to much chaos as the terrible, catastrophic, cultural blood and greed wars continued unabated both here and abroad. This past year I also experienced the biggest health scare of my personal life and then in December both of my beautiful, but aging, parents were hospitalized for different, though mutually serious reasons. There has been abundant anxiety, there has been anguish of soul, there has been angst in the body. If any of this sounds familiar, then please do consider the following thoughts a hopeful dispatch, or encouragement to stay strong, from a friend out here on the front lines of our mutual, ongoing war of love.

Long before our daughter Esther died in 2010, I was aware that any new experience of grief would have the potential effect of reminding me of any and all past losses. Somehow I thought this knowledge alone would help to insulate me from any future despair, but it really hasn’t. Every loss carries in its impact a singular pain that is as unique as the individual loss itself. For example, as the recent presidential election evening wore on, I felt a slow and steady gallop of panicked grief press down upon my chest. Eventually, I could bear it no more so sought to escape through the solace of sleep. I tossed and turned, and as I did I dreamed that my daughter Esther was locked up far away in a frozen place, kept from me by oppositional powers in a kind of abandoned warehouse or hospital. I struggled to be reunited with her, feeling overwhelmed with sorrow and guilt as I imaged in my dream that I had not been to see her for several days. I then started to feel overwhelmed with worry as the obstacles in front of me appeared increasingly impossible to overcome. I did eventually arrive onto the gray hall leading to her room though at that very moment something lodged in my eye, which had the immediate effect of ruining my vision, at least temporarily. “So very close!” I thought, only to be delayed due to the physical discomfort and agony I felt. My dream ended there and I awakened again into this world, a new and fresh grief now birthed, firmly wedded to the memory of a former ripping.

Many years ago, I experienced a wild and dramatic conversion that lead me to make a home within what I later came to know as Evangelical Christianity. This event changed my life! In the long decades since that day my faith has continued to grow richer and deeper, though it has also fundamentally changed. I am no longer the biblical literalist that I once was. This has concerned many of my friends and family members, some of whom remain convinced that I buried all evidence of any, “true faith” the day my middle child descended into the earth. However, though many things are now different, I am in most ways still the same person, having spent my entire adult life as an ambassador of hope, a reconciler, bridge-builder and dedicated wall-breaker. It is true that since Esther's death a perpetual sadness has mocked my attempts at happiness, often wearying me with the addition of new griefs, which have become linked to former losses like some discarded necklace that nobody wants to wear.

I understand that some voted for Trump because they were fed up with politics as usual. They were hurting in many ways and sincerely wanted to see change, which was clearly understandable. However, for many people with a sincere faith practice like mine, a Trump presidency may eventually come to be seen as a journey of diminishment, a nightmarish passel of insults, and one long term of dis-endearment. Let me be clear, I do not believe that Trump is a villain any more than I believe that Hillary is a monster, but I do feel outrage that his incredibly inflammatory rhetoric and unacceptable behavior were largely overlooked while at the same time, she was so consistently and hatefully demonized. In the end, I remain convinced that our cultural-wide and deeply enshrined belief that powerful women must somehow be corrupt had much to do with the final outcome of this election (think The Fall). This is a terrible injustice, not only to Clinton, but to women in general, and I can only hope that going forward every citizen of this great country will work tirelessly to undo this ridiculous and hateful doctrine. I am mostly disappointed in myself, though, for my gullibility and overall naiveté, for having been so easily seduced by the false hope that good and reasonable people would somehow control things exactly as they wished, no doubt a wistful remnant of my earlier ignorance.

From my viewpoint, as 2017 dawns, we have entered a frozen place. Though chilling, I am trying to be grateful for each of these new, though unwelcome visitors and for any familiar, long settled ghosts that I understand to be made up of present sufferings, bitter memories, or past, beloved losses. But I cannot fully despair, for though my vision may become temporarily blunted at times (and with such beauty so close!), I have seen that a short life can have an enduring purpose, and that it’s possible for the hopeful and the courageous to live fully into any weakness, to stay warm into deepest winter, and to thrive even in the midst of chaos. Friends, that's what the war of love is for.

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door?
Because the truth is hard to swallow
That's what the war of love is for.

~From the song Question by The Moody Blues


  1. Amen, Wayne. I wish you and all yours a blessed 2017

  2. Hi! I just read Esther's book in the end of last year. But only now I'm going through her videos and came to your blog. I also watched your TED Talk yesterday and I thought it was beautiful. I think it's awesome that you and your wife decided to spread such a positive message inspired by her.
    About the Trump situation, I think it's important that americans just look very closely to what he is doing, and not let him get away with everything. I'm not american, but I think the entire world is a little worried about what might happen now. But I know that there are a lot of good people in the US and I think if you all just focus on doing good (which is something Esther always talked about), and watching out for the government, I really think everything will be fine. :)
    Happy new year to you and your family!