Writing done well, I believe, is art. Most writing is not art anymore, and some that is art isn't necessarily good art. In a utilitarian world perhaps we can do without words that aspire to art, and art altogether for that matter, along perhaps with any words other than those necessary to explain how the video game must be plugged in, the DVD loaded, the internet accessed.
Perhaps we can get along without anything whose purpose is not clear, but I like unnecessary things, and so I try to fit my words together like a meandering brick path, or perhaps a forgotten forest chapel. Any wisdom I have offered is not my own, and anyone possessed of a Bible and the Church guidance necessary to understand it can glean all he needs without me. I have written all the same, first because to write, for me, is to hold on to sanity or soul or maybe both, second because somewhere along the way I developed the ridiculously self-serving notion that it is a "ministry," and third---in the pages of WORLD, anyway---because Marvin Olasky, who I admire probably more than he realizes, asked me to.
I have written, here and elsewhere, and told myself I am doing good in the world. I'm exercising my God-given talent. Finding my ministry. All that sort of stuff we tell ourselves because most of us want to believe that our place in the universe is much bigger than it actually is. I've always aspired to be something big in the big world, but as I look at my life I see that I have become very small in the little patch of world that is all, in the end, that matters to me.
Every artist imagines that his work edifies mankind, and I am no different. But God didn't give me mankind to care for, did He? Instead I received this enduring wife and these four little boys who need to find their way to manhood. They need me, and I have failed them too often, and now on top of it I find myself in the little dinghy that is my faith amidst a storm the likes of which I have never seen, and me with scarcely the courage to plead with the Lord to bid me onto the waves. Many things I thought I knew I don't know at all, perhaps most of all myself, and now that I look fully in the mirror I see a man who has been holding out on God, and by extension his wife, his children.
I told Marvin, and Mickey McLean, that the word "sabbatical" makes it sound far holier than it is, but I think the word is apt because what I'm seeking lies somewhere in the Sabbath. I don't know how long I'll need to be away, maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe for good. I feel like the Lord has me stretched out on a great wringer, which is something I've resisted for years and can resist no longer. While at times there's great peace in it, at other times the struggle leaves me with little left to offer. I think our readers deserve, I explained, someone healthier and wiser than I can be right now.
What's the first thing each of them replied with? That they would pray for me, for my family. It's no small thing to have men like that running the show.
So this is the part where I tell you goodbye. If I had anything left I would dredge up some word of wisdom for you. All I know to say is that each of us is given a scarce little scrap of time and, if we are lucky, a handful of people who love us no matter what. Love them back, with abandon.