There’s a theme running through this issue, but we didn’t plan it. We didn’t even notice, actually, until all the pieces were in place. Only then did we see it staring up at us from the pages: loss, everywhere you turn. From belts and sleeping bags (page 24) to unsung virtues (page 16) to Bible literacy (page 42) and interest in the Bible (page 4), to loved ones who have succumbed to death (page 22), this issue is full of loss.
But alongside all of that loss, this issue also proclaims the good news of things found. Sometimes these are the very items that had been lost—see Kevin Cawley’s essay, “What the World Needs Now”, for one such example. Sometimes new insights and identities emerge from the unrecoverable, irreparable loss of something else; Meg Eden’s poem, “Baptism”, and Jacqueline Bussie’s essay, “On Becoming Grief Outlaws” bear witness to that. Sometimes items are not so much found as simply dusted off and retooled, as in the case of the music of Banda El Recodo in Josh Langhoff’s column or in the recent film version of August Wilson’s Fences, reviewed by Charles Andrews. Some things seem to be found at the precise time when they’re needed most, as in David Heddendorf’s essay, “Finding the Book”.
As someone with remarkably poor navigational skills, I know that unless I follow detailed directions when I’m traveling somewhere new, chances are that I’ll become lost myself. For that reason, a few lines from Joel Kurz’s essay, “What We Carry, and Lose, Along the Way” rang especially true for me. In addition to the impressive list of losses he incurred during his pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, Kurz mentions the inevitable, if occasional, experience of losing one’s way on The Way. “One appreciates the keen vigilance of traveling companions and local residents who whistle and point with their hands when uncertainty is obvious,” he writes.
Recent headlines have chronicled obvious uncertainty in our country and in our world. Contributors to this issue—our traveling companions—whistle and point, helping lead us back to The Way. They each provide clues that can help us get on the right track and facing the proper direction: “The times give us boastful billionaires. The Bible gives us voices that ‘proclaim good news to the poor’” (page 7). “We should not let fear unbalance us, but the wise do not repudiate caution” (page 18). “The cross shows us that God has a story of grief just as you do, just as each of us does” (page 23). “This is a resurrection story” (page 55).
May the losses you sustain this Lent lead to much rejoicing in what’s later found.