Monday, August 24, 2009

A pirate looks at 39

In about six more hours, the sun will set on my 39th birthday.

As milemarkers go, 39 isn't one of the big ones. For one thing, it doesn't end in zero like many landmark ages and anniversaries. And while it does lie at the very cusp of middle age, it's not an age particularly noted for anything.

At 16, I got my first driver's license. At 18, I received legal recognition as an adult. When she was 25, Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne and ultimately became one of the best-loved and most powerful monarchs of England. At the age of 33, Alexander the Great had lain the foundations for what eventually would become modern Western civilization. But 39? That one's noteworthy only for being a year short of 40.

And that's essentially how I feel right now: that I'm staring down the barrel of 40 years old, and in another year it's going to blow my head off.

Six years ago, when I turned 33, I observed how nice it would be on my deathbed to quip that I had missed the best years of my career because I had spent them all with my children. Well, mission accomplished: Five years ago, I grabbed my career by its halter and led it to a place behind the stable, where I shot and killed it. Only, recently, I woke up and found its head on the pillow next to me.

Looking back I don't feel that I have much cause for regret. The past five years have been spent almost exclusively in the company of two children whom I have taught to read, whose scraped knees I have kissed, whose laughter has given me wings and whose razor-sharp tears have stripped me to the bone. I have sung with them, danced in their company, delighted in their artwork, and learned some of the most poignant and important lessons of love and life at their feet.

For their sake, I have served three years on the school board. For love of them, I have walked around in public with bows in my hair. I have scheduled my days around taking them to school, to the doctor's office, to friends' houses, and to art and ballet lessons. I have carried them on my shoulders, in my arms, and upon my back. Most of all I have carried them in my heart with such an earnestness that it has hurt.

I've received no salary for this new career, save in the only currency my children know: the tireless love and affection that they shower upon me.

It has been almost enough.

I only started to appreciate how much my career change to stay-at-home dad has cost me last Thursday, when I was talking to a friend. Only a few years older than I, Sonja is in the midst of a mid-life career change, to art history. She had just been offered an entry-level position, and she was thrilled. As she put it, it was difficult enough to compete with twentysomethings while she was in her 40s. There would be no way to start over again in her 50s.

There was a time when the world was an oyster with unlimited potential that I could crack with my good right hand. Now I am uncomfortably aware that a crocodile has eaten my right hand, and if I listen, I can hear the ticking of the clock that tells me the crocodile is coming back for the rest.

I have at most five, maybe six, years to begin my next career in earnest. Anything beyond that, and the odds stacked against my success will increase steadily with each year. So what's it going to be? Will I return to teaching? Will I return to writing news and feature stories, to magazines, or to editing and teaching other writers their wordcraft? I've done all of those, and I've done them well. On days when my neck doesn't feel the pinch of the blue monster, I am confident I can do them again.

Or maybe I should do something new. I could turn my blog into something with meaning and purpose that stretches beyond my fancy of the day, I could found an arts magazine with the local focus that I understand so well, or I could turn my full attention to my fledgling public relations business and make a living on that.

Whatever it is, I had better decide soon. That crocodile loved the taste of my hand, and he's definitely coming back for more.

What I really want, my driving passion, is not just to be a writer, but to be an author as well. The stories I can tell, the stories I need to tell, are stories that can inspire laughter, tears, longing and regret. Stories are the vehicle I use to teach the great truths that I have learned, and I want desperately to do nothing more than to take the sacred space at the head of my classroom and begin to teach.

Now, nearly five years after I left the workforce to spend more time with my children and complete the great novel that has been my ambition since middle school, I can safely say that I have spent more time with my children. The great novel, like many of my other children, lies gasping for breath in a pauper's field while I concoct excuse after excuse for not working to save it.

Three years ago, I wrote about my experience with cancer and the uncomfortable reminder it brought of my own mortality and how badly I had done on completing my life's most important work. Now three years later, I am shamed once again by how little I have changed. Age, like cancer once did, is awakening me to how briefly the candle flickers upon the stage before it disappears in a wisp of smoke.

If God is gracious, and if I am wise enough to accept that grace, I know that I can write and publish a few books in the years that lie before me, and I can give birth to many of the stories that have gestated within my mind all these years. I may even enjoy that moderate success that other writers have found, where they are not really household names, but they do enjoy a loyal following.

Whether I succeed or fail as a writer in large part depends on forces that are hardly mine to command, but I have seen the past 39 years that God prefers it when we give him something – anything – to work with.

In another 30 years, or 40 if I am lucky, I will ring down the curtain as everyone before me has done, and will exit the stage while younger performers put on their shows. When that day comes and the critics take stock of my life's work, I want to stand behind all my children and proudly say, “See what I have done with what I was given. I have been here, and I have mattered; not a thing has been wasted.”

That would be a good life.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

an open letter to tritium

Dear Tritium:

I've been reading some of the stuff people have to say about you, and it seems pretty clear that you've got a lot of people almost as impressed with you as you are with yourself. I mean, look at what they have to say: "It has an atomic mass of 3.0160492! Like, omigosh, that's the same as an atom of lithium!"

And the comic book geekboys all love you, because you occur naturally when cosmic rays hit the Earth's atmosphere and interact with hydrogen. "Yo, dude," they say, in that annoying stoner voice that we always associated with Star Trek Voyager. "That's just like the Fantastic Four!"

But let's be clear about something: Dude, you are freaking hydrogen. That's it. When it comes to the Periodic Table of the Elements, you are at the bottom of the heap. Ever wonder why you have trouble getting a date with the noble gases? That's it.

You might think you're something special because you've got two neutrons and deuterium has only one, but it's the protons that count, buddy, and you've got only one. Even if she didn't have a thing for carbon -- and who doesn't, after all? -- the department secretary isn't going to be caught dead on a date with you any time soon. She has standards, and she has a reputation to uphold. Suck it up and deal.

And there's the way you're used in thermonuclear detonations. My, aren't you impressive. Stick a little tritium in the nuclear warhead, and a regular A-bomb goes straight to H-bomb. The extra punch you pack increases the payout of the fissile material and blows the lid off an otherwise conventional nuclear explosion.

Of course, that's not all it blows the lid off -- one of those nukes can destroy a major population center, killing millions of people just upon detonation, and creating radioactive fallout that will screw up the environment for generations to come.

You know, tritium, maybe you missed this in your contemplation of how awesome you are, but the phrase "You da bomb" isn't meant to be taken literally. Real bombs suck, just like fourth-graders suck when they think that wearing bling makes them cool even though they ignore their teachers and talk trash about girls.

You want to talk radiation? Plutonium is impressive. It's named after the Roman god of the dead and for good reason. All you have to do is hang out around plutonium for a few days and you'll have some really freaky, frightening and fatal forms of cancer springing up all over your body. Same thing with uranium.

Not you, though. Your beta radiation is so wimpy that it can't even penetrate human skin. Even the cheap pocketknife I had when I was 3 years old could do better than that.

Sure, you talk big when you swagger into a bar with unbonded oxygen atoms. "Hey, baby," you say, "I have a half-life of 4,500 days, plus or minus eight days." Wow, I'm so impressed. That means in about just 12 years and four months, you'll have turned into helium-3, and your main source of income will be inflating balloons at birthday parties.

You think you're something special, but you know it's all just hot air. Even your symbol, 3H, is embarrassing. You know what that makes you look like? An isotope that didn't have even have enough protons to join the local 4-H club. How pathetic.

Maybe you haven't quite got the picture yet, so let me spell it out for you. Every single link in this article so far is to Wikipedia. Wikipedia. You got that? You're not even impressive enough for me to bother linking to a real reference source.

Look tritium, there is one thing you do well, and we're all proud of you for doing it. You know what it is: You keep the sun going. Our sun is a big flaming ball of gas, a fusion-powered furnace that keeps us warm and toasty on this planet. I know a few people have been complaining about your job performance there too, saying that you've been letting the sun lose mass so that eventually the Earth will break free of its orbit and plunge deep into space where we'll all freeze to death.

I can't say I'm wild about that, but the truth is that we've known all along that this was only a temporary arrangement anyway. Sooner or later, we all expected you'd want to move on up the Periodic Table of Elements and try something new: maybe a stint as nickel, or copper, or even selenium. That's how these things have worked as long as the universe has been around, and you want your turn.

It'll come. Just be patient, and keep doing your job.


Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Monday, May 25, 2009

That ugly, vicious thing we call divorce

I don't get divorce.

Much of this is due to my parents, I'm sure. They were married my entire childhood, and still are. They've fought over money and they've dueled over how to raise the kids, but they've never parted ways. Sometimes my mom gets aggravated over my dad's sense of humor, and sometimes he zones her out, but here they are in their late 60s, and they're still together. They celebrated their 44th anniversary just this year.

And here I am in my late 30s, and it seems like one couple after another whom I've known is coming apart. They swore to be there for one another, never to part, and that foundation of love that they laid is splitting. My best friend and his wife married 17 years ago. They're separated. My other best friend and his wife married 12 years ago and divorced last year. And now another friend writes, after more than 20 years, "We're divorcing. He won't even consider reconclilation."


Divorce is an ugly, vicious thing. It takes lives that have grown together like flowers whose stems entwine one another so closely that you scarcely can tell where one begins and the other ends, and it tears them apart. Staying married isn't easy -- I doubt anyone alive can possibly begin to explain just how much work, hard work, marriage is, and how much it hurts sometimes -- but God knows it's worth it.  When my heart was torn from me and I dropped into the volcano, it was my wife who saved me. When her mother died and drought came to my wife's life, I was there for her.

Marriage hurts, but in the end, it makes me far stronger than anything else does. I've been short on hope, but I made it through because my wife was at my side. I've lost friends, but I survived because my wife stood by me. I've lost jobs and I've seen dreams die, but because my wife was with me, I came out on top. I lost a son and though it was like the sun was extinguised and all life had vanished from the world, I found the strength to keep moving -- because my wife gave it to me.

How on earth do couples who swore to love one another all their lives, until the bitter parting of death, give that up?

When my friends Myron and Jessica separated two years ago, I told a friend of mine about it. I wished I hadn't. Jon is in his late 20s, but when he heard that two people he had never met were divorcing, I saw the pain in his eyes. His parents had divorced when he was 9, and he's never forgotten.

I have no anger, no harsh words for people who divorce. I know that their pain is deep and beyond expression. All I have is grief that anyone should have to go through such an experience.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lower the shields and prepare for transport

Maybe I should take Eowyn to see the new "Star Trek" movie; I think she'd find it very accessible.

In many ways, she's like the Enterprise herself. Get into a talk with her, and if her long-range sensors pick up something getting too close, she raises her shields immediately. Get in closer and it's all power to the forward shields, launch decoys, or whatever it takes to keep you from getting in a position to harm the ship. And if she determines you're a real menace, she'll shut down all nonessential systems and float dead in space like Kirk had the Enterprise do in "Balance of Terror."

Is there someone there? the Romulan crew wonders. Or is it a faulty sensor reading?

But every now and then it's possible to fly in close enough that you get inside the shields. You can see the dents and dings the ship has taken from its years of flying at warp speed, scan for metal fatigue where Klingon warbirds have struck with their disruptors, and even beam a landing party aboard.

It's a rare treat to walk the corridors of Eowyn's starship, but it's more satisfying than anything Paramount has produced for its franchise.

Today Eowyn let me aboard. She let me walk the corridors, visit engineering, and even gave me a seat on the bridge.  Put in non-Trek terms, this is a Big Deal. Essentially, Eowyn let me into the sacred grove as a sign of how much she trusts me not to desecrate it.

I walked carefully.

Eowyn and I were taking a walk while Ruth was at ballet, and discussion turned to hanging out with friends. Eowyn rarely does this, so I wasn't surprised when she made a silly remark to divert me. All power to the forward shields, Mr. Scott.

"You know," I said. "I've noticed that whenever the conversation gets uncomfortable, you make a silly remark. It's like this is you" -- I held up a clenched hand -- "and if someone gets too close, you try to keep them out here" -- I waved a safe distance away with my other hand. "Am I right?"

"Maybe," she said. But I could tell that I had nailed it. After all, it's not like I don't know where she learned this behavior. She has learned well.

But she has also learned over the past nine years that she can trust me when she wants to. And for some reason, she decided this time to trust me. To extend the Star Trek metaphor, she lowered her shields and allowed me to beam over, and while I was on board, we talked.

"I'm just kind of used to being alone," she said.

"Alone, or lonely?" I asked. She didn't answer, which was answer enough. "I see you alone too, and it tears me up inside, because I know how lonely you feel."

"It's okay," she said. "I'm kind of used to it."

And that, I pointed out, is one of the strangest things about human nature: We get used to anything, and tell ourselves that it's all right and even normal. I reminded her that the Bible tells us that Adam once had an easy time with his work. He would plant crops, and they would grow as easy as anything. It was work, but it was work that he could enjoy. But after the Fall, it didn't come as easy as it used to. Work became toil, weeds grew among his crops, and sometimes animals would eat his crops before he did.

"I'm sure Adam got used to living like that, but if he had a choice, which do you think he would have rather had: that life, or the one he and Eve used to have in Eden?"

"The one they used to have," Eowyn said.

So we talked some more about friends, and how sometimes you meet someone and she becomes one of your best friends almost immediately; and sometimes you meet someone, and you like her but she doesn't like you; and sometimes you meet someone and it takes a while to become friends, and you have to work at it, by talking with them, and hanging out with them, and getting to know one another.

"And sometimes that's risky, because sometimes you get hurt," I said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well," I said, "sometimes someone will do something that hurts you. They don't mean to, but it does, and you need to forgive them. And sometimes they won't do something that you thought they should, and that hurts too, and you need to forgive them."

"And sometimes they go away."


"Eowyn," I said. "I miss him too."

Of course it's not just Christian. It's Gabe and Kyra, two of her best friends from preschool whom we used to see regularly, except Gabe moved away, and Kyra's family didn't fully reciprocate our efforts to build and maintain the relationship. It's also Cassie, the older sister of one of Ruth's preschool friends, whom Eowyn got to know, but whose parents also didn't fully reciprocate our efforts to maintain the friendships.

And of course it's also the entire stinking third grade at school, when Eowyn was thrust into a classroom with none of her friends, and was barred from sitting with her friends at lunchtime because of some petty administrative need for control during the one time the kids have each day to be themselves.

But we talked. We talked for a good 30 or 40 minutes, sometimes on a bench, sometimes squatting in the parking lot. We talked about how there are a lot of people in her classroom and on her softball team who like her, we talked about the need to talk to friends and to reach out to people we like so that we can become friends, and we talked about how there's only so much that I can do as her father, and she needs to do the rest herself.

We talked a long time, and when we were done, I knew she had been crying, though she didn't want me to see the tears that had gathered on her nose.

We talked, and before we had dinner she called one of her friends and invited her to come over on Monday after school.

I'm trying, Lord. It's not easy, but I'm doing my best.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

It's pouring for the fourth or fifth time in the last six days. Huge, heavy sheets of water are pounding the pavement outside my window, streaking the air and scouring the streets, carrying away anything small and light enough to be borne upon the currents.

This isn't rain. Raindrops are small, they strike the window with a dainty tink-tink-tink that is calm and reassuring, as gentle as a bee on the flower. This is a river, falling from the sky in a torrent of a thunder god's wrath. If you go outside in rain, you feel refreshed and cleansed; if you go outside in this, you feel cold, tired and miserable, and all you want to do is to go someplace warm and dry off.

Rain waters the plants. This beats them to the ground, stripping leaves and even branches from trees. The only thing that is growing from this symphony of thunder and water is mushrooms. They came from nowhere, an army of decay, and suddenly the soldiers are everywhere, overrunning everything. They have overrun the back yard, appearing on wood chips, popping up between the blades of grass, and growing ever larger in the dim afternoon.

Meanwhile lightning strobes overhead. It barks thunder like a mighty cannon, rattling our ears, shaking our teeth, and making tall buildings groan and hide.

This must be what it was like for the neighbors of Utnapishtim: day after day of unrelenting water and no sun, until the creeks rose, the rivers revolted against the chains that fixed them to their beds, and even the highest hill disappeared beneath the cresting waves.

As it was in the days of Noah ...

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Friday, May 01, 2009

linkedin recommendation

As someone originally from the Northeast, I frequently have been disappointed by the quality of drugs available during my trips to the South. I've never found a dealer who could give me a nice cut of weed, one that didn't give me a headache when I smoked it; the last three times I tried to buy coke, the idiot tried to sell me Mello Yello; and the ecstasy dealers, when they weren't peddling useless shit, were so clueless that they actually preferred to sell E at clubs frequented by the police.

Ms. B., however, has renewed my faith in the South as a place to do illegal drugs. She runs her organization with an efficiency that borders on the brutal. There are no snitches in her organization, although there are several buried beneath parking lots and shopping malls in her area. Delivery of the smack was always prompt, discreet and at competitive rates.

What's more, this is some high-quality shit that she peddles. Smoking even a small dose of the crack that she provides was enough to put the monkey on my back, let me see all my bones, and give me an experience that neither I nor the fifty people I allegedly ran into that night will ever forget.

And the angel dust she sells -- wowza! The police claim that I broke the jaws and ribs of sixteen different officers before they were able to take me down.

I would be remiss not to mention the extensive connections Ms. B. has built up with local, state and federal authorities in Georgia. I attribute this not only to her line of work, which always draws official attention, but to her generous nature, which prompts her to give money, cars, expensive watches, junkets and other gifts to friends in need of them.

In short, you cannot ask for a better employee for your organization than Ms. B. She is going places, and believe me, wherever she is going, she will take a horde of clients in her wake. I would not hesitate to do business with her again, once I am eligible for parole in 2096.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The doctrine behind 'Good Omens'

The thing about "Good Omens" is, it's just as fresh and original the third or fourth time through as it is the first time.

Bar none, this is the finest novelization of the Apocalypse that has ever been written. Leave "Left Behind" under the short leg of your table, where it's actually useful; and never mind the attempts of other authors to cash in on Antichrist fever. If the End of Days doesn't happen the way authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett describe it, there needs to be a do-over.

The bulk of the action takes place in what is supposed to be the last week of history as the armies of heaven and hell amass for the epic conclusion of their war, at the culmination of human history. There's only one little problem. The forces of hell accidentally misplaced the Antichrist shortly after he was born, and no one's really sure where to find him.

As the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride their motorcycles toward Tadfield, England, a demon and an angel who have been living on earth for so long that they can't bear to see it destroyed, join together in a desperate effort to find him and avert Armageddon.

Not surprisingly, the book is full of oblique references to "The Omen." For instance, the infant Antichrist was meant to be switched with the infant son of an American diplomat, as in the movies. The satanist nun involved in the switch suggests "Damien" as a name for the baby, as he was named in the movies. And so on.

Originally published in 1990, "Good Omens" was ahead of the curve for the millennial craze that eventually spawned "Left Behind," so "The Omen" at the time was the most recognizable story to feature the Antichrist.

The fast pacing and British humor that Pratchett and Gaiman bring to the book are reason enough to return to this book again and again; but these two are intelligent writers, and there's enough meat in the book to draw me back long after the jokes will have worn out. (If that ever happens, which seems unlikely.)

There's an interesting humanism at work within "Good Omens" that expresses itself through the framework of Armageddon. Since Adam was raised not at the center of power, as the son of a powerful American diplomat, but as the son of nobody important in Tadfield, England, he's grown up free of the influence of both heaven and hell. He's just pure boy, loving the things a boy loves, doing the things a boy does, and seeing a resolution to the War in Heaven that neither heaven or nor hell apparently anticipates.

The book also repeatedly underscores the role and nature of humanity itself, as the unconsidered third party in this war. The angel Aziraphale and his demonic colleague Crowley, regularly are surprised by a capacity for goodness in humanity that astounds Aziraphale, and a capacity for evil that shocks Crowley. Crowley, we discover, took credit for the Spanish Inquisition even though he had nothing to do with it; and Aziraphale blows up the radar guns of police, because he always assumed that hell's side had come up with them.

In a sense, the humanist themes of "Good Omens" are a rejection of popular Christian eschatology, which often juxtaposes harmonious depictions of Christians leaping straight from earth to heaven via the Rapture, with horrific descriptions of the Great Tribulation, in which God pours out of his wrath upon the earth, and a third of all living things perish, a third of the grass burns up, and a third of the stars are darkened, and so on.

The existence of God himself isn't called into question in the book, ironically enough, although that admittedly would be hard to do when you have angels, demons and the Antichrist himself running around as major characters. God instead is treated fairly respectfully; the questions about his ineffable purpose, such as "Why put a tree right in the middle of a garden and say 'Don't eat from it' instead of planting it somewhere remote and inaccessible if it's such a bad idea?", are hardly new questions, and have in fact bedeviled Christian and Jewish thinkers and philosophers alike for thousands of years.

Crowley and Aziraphale wrestle with these questions themselves after Armageddon passes with the world unexpectedly still intact. Crowley ultimately rejects the notion of history as a cosmic chess game between God and Satan; and, given God's omnipotence and omniscience, decides that it is, instead, more like a very complicated game of solitaire.

Like any good piece of fiction would do, "Good Omens" ends there, leaving readers to sort out for themselves such questions, as well as the general morality of evicting humanity from Paradise over a piece of fruit.

As I once wrote about "It's a Good Life," the Twilight Zone episode where 6-year-old Anthony Fremont sends anyone who displeases him to "the cornfield," stories like this serve an important function for Christians and for the church, if we will let them.

Far from being attacks, they usually are thoughtful critiques of the message that Christians present as coming from God. Sometimes they point out ways that we have bowlderized or just avoided difficult or painful truths; other times, and I think "Good Omens" falls into this category, the stories can and should shore us up, and draw our attention to faults we never admit to ourselves or one another but that are painfully obvious to anyone who has listened to us for five minutes.

(In this case, I'd have to say it's the self-righteousness that glories in the suffering of non-Christians, combined with the narcissism of the prosperity groups that most push the Rapture. Gaiman and Pratchett serve this up in the midst of the Apocalypse with a scene involving an American televangelist who embodies both those traits.)

When you get down to it, "Good Omens" really isn't primarily meant to be a depiction of the Last Days or of biblical prophecy, any more than the book of Revelation is. It's a rollicking good tale, with several themes beyond those I just outlined. The book of Revelation, while it does contain prophecy, is primarily a book about the majesty and glory of God, and the promise that however bad things are, we can be assured that Good will prevail.

And isn't that a more meaningful story than the one they like to tell in church about the Antichrist?

Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Friday, January 02, 2009

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a difficult thing for all of us to extend when we have been hurt, especially by people or deities who should know better.

I think part of the conflict is that we've conflated forgiveness and restoration into a single act; i.e., "If you've forgiven me, why am I still in the doghouse?" It's like when Bill Clinton apologized for his adultery, his denials and obfuscations and then his perjury. "I said I was sorry. Why are we still dealing with this?" Because while forgiveness may be extended and received, there is still an aftermath to the offense that includes damaged trust among the other more obvious consequences of the offense.

Even God's forgiveness is like this. He may have forgiven David for having Uriah set up to be killed, but consequences lingered. Joab had a hold over the king that helped lead one day to civil war.

Forgiveness can, and perhaps should, take place in an instant. But restoration can take years of someone demonstrating to the other person that they can be trusted with the power, authority and position they once had. I don't doubt that Swaggart received God's forgiveness for his scandal back in 1987, or that Haggard could receive forgiveness for his escapades and scandal, but I think in both cases their advisers/supervisors were right to say "It's time for you to step down from this ministry."

All that said, I think there is a power in real forgiveness (as opposed to just "letting go," which is often a means of avoidance) since christocentric forgiveness involves restoring a relationship that has been sundered. But that's also a forgiveness that can't be done in a vacuum, by yourself. It requires talking to the person who needs to be forgiven, and explaining why what they did was so fucking painful, so they can actually appreciate for themselves what they have done.

Of course, that's really easy to say, but it's much harder to accomplish. I've had some really good conversations with Natasha in the past where I was able to explain just how badly she had hurt me and why I didn't want it to stay there ... and I've had conversations with pastors, former co-congregants, friends and even a mother who just could not understand what I was on about, no matter how I explained it.

In the former scenario, it's wonderful; you have salvaged a relationship that otherwise might have been dealt a fatal blow. In the latter, you at least have made the effort, taken the lead toward reconciliation, and can have a clean conscience that you have extended a true olive branch to someone else.

What I can say is that I have found Christ to be in that effort of reconciliation. In reaching out to people who have wronged me, I have found forgiveness myself for resentment I hadn't realized I was harboring; I've found the mystic communion with Christ that comes when two people make peace; and I've also known his suffering, since he often has extended forgiveness to people like me who rebuff him because they just don't see why they need it.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.