Back in the Before Time, when people used to get on airplanes and go on vacation, my wife Jeanie and I liked to go to the Woodstock Inn, a lovely hotel found at the center of an absolutely charming little Vermont village.
We loved everything about that little town and that hotel. Some years we would go in the fall. If we picked the exact right weekend, the changing leaves would take our breath away. If we went in the winter, we enjoyed the frigid winds, packed snow, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and drinks by the fireplace.
I will here publicly admit for the very first time that the thing I loved most about going to this hotel was its high-end spa. (Judge me if you will.) What I loved most about that spa experience was not the massage – okay, this is a close call, but I stand by it – but instead the high-walled outdoor lounge with its heated pool.
You come out of the spa, wrap up in a thick downy-soft robe, and go outside. Maybe it’s 20 degrees and sunny, with the sun’s faint heat barely felt. But that’s okay because you can jump immediately into the heated pool. The part of your body outside the water feels the brisk cold. The part in the water feels the liquid warmth. Every nerve ending tingles happily as massaged skin meets cold and heat and wind and water. Something about the contrasts encountering each other in your one single body creates an out-of-this-world experience.
Reading this book makes me feel a little bit like being in that pool in Woodstock.
How? It feels like self-care, and God himself knows that I need some self-care as I write these words – and probably I am not the only one. Ken Whitt offers care to weary souls in this book. It is not just his words but the spirit that manifests through the words. Ken says that love is at the heart of reality and love is what he gently breathes on us here.
But maybe it is the contrast between the soothing love that he offers and the jangling dangers that he resists that makes this book think of Woodstock Inn. This is a book about finding hope in and for our children and grandchildren but also about naming the dangers that deeply threaten them.
So maybe that is why this book makes me feel like the spa at Woodstock Inn. It is about the contrasts, as they interact with each other – dark skies, bright light; freezing cold, comforting warmth; desperate times, grounded hope. In the end, Ken persuades me that hope in a God of Just Love gets the last word.
Take care of yourself. Find new hope. Read this book.
David P. Gushee
October 11, 2020
David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. He is Past-President of both the American Academy of Religion and Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author and/or editor of 24 books, including Changing Our Mind.