Monday, June 30, 2014


The Supreme Court of the United States
        There has been so much going on in our nation and the world about which I should like to have been commenting, but I have resisted the urge, having resolved to complete my current series of articles reflecting on the continuing experience of grieving the loss of my wife Margie, who died of leukemia eight months ago today.
        Although I have more to share on that deeply personal subject, I cannot help departing briefly from that resolution in order to comment on today’s decisions by the United States Supreme Court, coming so soon after some of their other disturbing rulings. I used to have such great respect for that august body, that had always symbolized for me the highest principles of impartial justice. But the Court’s actions today reflect once again the political partisanship and ultra-conservatism of the majority of the Justices.
        The Court voted five to four to permit business owners on religious grounds to deny their female employees coverage for birth control, coverage that is included in the Affordable Care Act. It is significant to note that the three female Justices —Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor—  along with Justice Stephen Breyer dissented.
        The ruling evoked strong negative reactions from most women’s groups, who see it as

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Throughout all our experiences of death Margie and I always had each other with whom to share our grief. Now I must grieve for her, without her. I talk to her often, and tell her things, as I always used to do, but there is no response. That’s when the awareness of her absence is hardest to bear.
But the theological dimension of my love for her is helping me to cope. What I mean by that expression is my awareness that to love and to be loved are gifts of God, for which I am immensely and constantly grateful to God, and because of which I can never take any friend or loved one for granted. It was our shared theological understanding of love that enabled Margie and me to savor our love for each other, as described in my earlier post (see SAVORING LOVE). We realized that “love is from God,” as John put it so directly in his first letter (4:7).
The theological dimension of love also includes taking seriously John’s affirmation that “God is love” (I John 4:8b), and since God is eternal, God’s love is eternal. In the months following the diagnosis of Margie’s fatal disease, we took comfort from the thought that because our love was a gift of God’s love, then our love, too, must be eternal. Death cannot destroy it. What form it will take, I have not the slightest idea. But that it will continue beyond this life as part of God’s love, I am convinced, because God’s love is eternal. That was the most comforting thought to both of us.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


We were meant for each other. 

During the final months of her life Margie and I talked often about ultimate things. What made our love for each other so strong was our common faith. We prayed together often —while driving in the car, at mealtimes, often spontaneously in response to something good or bad that had happened, and every night at length. Our bedtime discussions and accompanying prayers were especially meaningful to us both. We savored our love for each other. We both were certain we were meant for each other, that our marriage was literally made in heaven. When I fell in love with Margie I had the feeling I had loved her before I ever knew her. She was the faceless girl of my dreams, the someone I was always hoping I would meet some day.
I say “faceless,” because unlike Walter Mitty I had no mental image of my “dream girl.” So when I finally did meet her, it was not as if I had seen her before. It was not love at first sight. We liked each other instantly and enjoyed each other’s company, but neither of us was thinking “This is it!” We were dating about once a week, when she was a sophomore at Wellesley and I was a newly commissioned Ensign, soon to be heading overseas.
One day many months later, while off duty aboard ship somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, I
was leaning on a rail, staring at the ocean, and daydreaming about all the girls I had known. Somebody had suggested that I had already met the girl I was going to marry. That intriguing idea had precipitated this extended reflection on all of my past female acquaintances, starting with my earliest puppy loves

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I must begin what I have to say about the intertwining of faith, love, and grief by sharing very briefly my own internal faith journey. I can never remember a time when I did not believe in God. My faith in Jesus Christ came much later. It was an intellectual struggle, as I wrestled with the paradoxical nature of faith. On the one hand, there are many texts in the New Testament that would lead one to conclude that faith is our responsibility, that we can make ourselves believe. Jesus often commended people for their faith, or rebuked them for their lack of it.
There are, on the other hand, an equally impressive array of texts that suggest that faith is a gift of God, that it is not something we can make ourselves have, but something we find ourselves with. Jesus said, for example, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6:44, NRSV).
We can see the paradoxical relationship between grace (God’s gift) and faith (our struggle) in such texts as Ephesians 2:8, where the Apostle Paul writes “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (NRSV); and Romans 8:28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love (God), who are called according to (God’s) purpose” (RSV).
We think it's all up to us.
After a prolonged wrestling match with what I now view as a pseudo-paradox, I came to realize that ultimately faith has to be a gift of God. We depend upon the God we believe in to give us the faith to keep on believing. That is an unavoidable tautology. All of our “reasons” for believing are at root tautological. They are all faith statements, and faith statements are not self-evidently true. If they were, we could prove the existence of God and every reasonable person would be a believer. If my faith in God depended totally upon my ability to prove God, I could no longer believe in God.
While we are struggling to believe, we think it is all up to us. But the moment we find ourselves believing, we realize that our faith is a gift, that God was there before we ever started to believe, and that our Christian faith was the work of the Holy Spirit prompting us to accept what God was offering us in Christ. That, by the way, is exactly how Jesus said it would happen.
However one may come to it, the decision to accept Jesus Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior is the freest decision one can ever make. No one else can make it for us, or force us to make it. If we can’t make ourselves believe something we can’t believe, we certainly can’t make someone else believe. A decision of faith cannot be coerced.