Faces of Love: The Unlikely Joy of Peter Wiebe


Love: The Blessing and the Curse

Jesse 2010 - 2011 225To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis. (Isn’t that true? And so terrifying. To love anyone is to risk having your heart shredded.) 

It’s nice to see you, fellow Visitors. During the Sabbatical in a Teacup I mentioned to you that I had met some remarkable people in this oddly wonderful blogging community. I’d like to introduce you to one that I met a while ago, a gentleman named Peter Wiebe, who writes thresholdofheaven.com.

Peter lost his oldest son Jesse to a rare form of childhood leukemia on May 11, 2011.

Peter’s blog is a chronicle of thoughts and actions during his son’s journey to heaven. Peter is a dedicated Christian, and, like me, has had his faith sorely tried over the past stretch of time.

Valentine’s day is coming, it will be my third without my lover and best friend,Chris Lierheimer. Chris was a generous mark for all the Hallmark holidays, he just loved to give cards, candy, flowers, dinners, all the trappings.

I was often too distracted to make much of this sort of thing, which generally led to a lot of frantic night-before shopping and planning. I was just glad to have my loved ones around me, and to make sure he got his special grilled steak. (And, usually something else from my namesake Victoria’s Secret, since he’s been such a good boy.)

I’ve actually been gathering the strength to look at pictures this year.  The one in the previous entry is one of my favorites. My mom was a stunning woman her whole life, and this morning, before I went to work, I studied a series of pictures we had taken of Mom and Dad on their 60th wedding anniversary.

Bent and stooped, graying, they both had the goofy smiles of their youth, and their love for family and each other radiated from the picture.

When Peter posted this shot on the fourth, it took my breath away. Study it with me for a minute, will you? Jesse’s departure seems imminent. He can’t eat, thus the nasogastric tube. His body seems almost transparent. Frail, like that of a cocoon about to be shed.

Peter is vigorous, with good color and strong hands. Only in his eyes do you see the pain of a parent about to lose his firstborn son. Go to the blog now-thresholdofheaven.com- and read a remarkable story of redemption and love between this father and son.

I have found that people often avoid cancer blogs. No one likes to be reminded of their mortality, especially if one’s views of the afterlife are uncertain. Peter, like those of us who lay claim to the promises of Jesus Christ, looks forward to the day when he will see Jesse whole again.

But today is really all we have. Jesus doesn’t promise us tomorrow, only that we will be with him in Paradise. So what shall we do? Where shall we go? Shall we insulate our hearts, wrap them in airless containers to harden and fossilize? Or shall we be like Peter, and love extravagantly? Peter and his lovely wife poured their hearts into Jesse’s journey, and were broken for their faith.

But what else to do? When you love a child, a woman, or even an animal, it’s an extension of your own heart. The rewards are tremendous, and the risks, commensurate.

I have a series of pictures I would like you to see over the next few weeks, fellow Visitors. I call them the “Faces of Love”. They are from fellow travelers, and cover a different kind of landscape. One that I think you all will find just as beautiful and heartwrenching as any other landscape on the planet.

Much love,

Victoria

PS- Let me remind you to the introductions so far:

Everyone has a Story – birdmartin.wordpress.com.

Evan Sanders at thebettermanprojects.com

and finally Peter Wiebe at thresholdofheaven.com

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There Must be a Burning Bush Here Somewhere


In the midst of the most painful of faces, God shows up in the strangest of places.

Someone I trust once told me “Victoria, be careful, anger is never the end.” What he meant was that anger is easy, and often a really good mask for what’s really going on.

Shhh. It’s time to listen. I think God is speaking.

I have documented assurance that the EA battle is over, so as each day goes by, I find anger draining out of my body. Those of you who read the previous post know that my little Christian preschool was the subject of some very real religious persecution. Not fair, not right, not OK in any sense of the word. But what’s really the issue here? Religious persecution has existed for millennia, I’m actually in some pretty lofty company.

The Jewish yellow identification star.

Anger at God? Well, that’s pretty easy too. Chris didn’t do anything to deserve such suffering, and neither did I, or all these kids. But what’s really going on here? People get cancer and die. Families suffer, hundreds and hundred of you reading are feeling this ache with me right now.

Anger at friends who betray, deceive, when better paths are obvious? Everyone has experienced a betrayal, even Jesus. What’s really going on?

I am finding more and more that I just can’t keep anger up. I spent over a year being angry at the government, largely because they offended my overdeveloped sense of justice. It’s not supposed to be that way, in the land of the free.

I have spent two years being angry at God, because what God treats his faithful servants so brutally? I have found that the depth of what Christians call ‘sin’ is far more entrenched than I ever grasped. Remember the Lazarus story in John 11? The one about him being raised from the dead? Why do you suppose “Jesus wept” and the disciple John made such a point out of recording it?

I think now he wept for all of us. We were meant for better, and not to have lives that are ‘nasty, brutish and short’, as Thomas Hobbes put it.  Jesus wept because of the utter brokenness of our bodies and situations. Who knows what kink in Chris’s body gave him that horrible disease? But Jesus wept, and that alone makes me feel less solitary.

Anger at friends? Someone today told me that being associated with a ‘need’ for friends is a pretty good guarantee of disappointment. Do I ‘want’ new friends? Sure. Do I want to be social, interact with other members of the tribe? You bet. But do I ‘need’ new friends and situations? Not really. Not enough to be so wounded  when a woman chooses to end a friendship with me out of her own fearful need.

Looking, looking for what’s really going on.

In the end, I find I don’t have the energy to keep it up. Perhaps that’s the burning bush here, what God is speaking to me. I wasn’t made for anger.

I like it, I like the feel of it, the taste of it, the rush of adrenaline I get when I am so clearly wronged. I like being the avenging angel, the wrathful goddess to set things right.  I cherish my anger, I go to bed with it, and polish it, and keep it on display for others to see. I’ve made it part of me, like a prosthetic arm.

I don’t think Jesus cares much for that.  I think it transforms people, and it’s transformed me. I don’t like that much. I am beginning to see that might be what he meant when he said ‘don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’

Remember when Jesus was healing on the Sabbath in a synagogue? (Luke 15) The leaders in the temple got pretty mad that he was ‘working’ on the Sabbath. The chapter says that Jesus was angry, but more in the context of grief. Sort of “You are my people! Why wouldn’t you be elated that I was healing on the Sabbath?”

Maybe that’s the kind of anger he wants me to have. Grieved that our government would act against the interests of the people. Grieved that a woman would abandon integrity, instead of abandoning selfishness.

Grieved that I, the owner of all this, would let anger have such a dwelling place in my heart. I think I’m done. I’d rather have peace.

Much love,

Victoria