Friday, April 12, 2019

Second Mountains

This week, I came across this article by David Brooks, which felt like a description of my life journey over the past 10-12 years:
But in the lives of the people I’m talking about — the ones I really admire — something happened that interrupted the linear existence they had imagined for themselves. Something happened that exposed the problem with living according to individualistic, meritocratic values.
Some of them achieved success and found it unsatisfying. They figured there must be more to life, some higher purpose. Others failed. They lost their job or endured some scandal. Suddenly they were falling, not climbing, and their whole identity was in peril. Yet another group of people got hit sideways by something that wasn’t part of the original plan. They had a cancer scare or suffered the loss of a child. These tragedies made the first-mountain victories seem, well, not so important.
Life had thrown them into the valley, as it throws most of us into the valley at one point or another. They were suffering and adrift.
Some people are broken by this kind of pain and grief. They seem to get smaller and more afraid, and never recover. They get angry, resentful and tribal.
But other people are broken open. The theologian Paul Tillich wrote that suffering upends the normal patterns of life and reminds you that you are not who you thought you were. The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew. Some people look into the hidden depths of themselves and they realize that success won’t fill those spaces. Only a spiritual life and unconditional love from family and friends will do. They realize how lucky they are. They are down in the valley, but their health is O.K.; they’re not financially destroyed; they’re about to be dragged on an adventure that will leave them transformed.
They realize that while our educational system generally prepares us for climbing this or that mountain, your life is actually defined by how you make use of your moment of greatest adversity...
When people are broken open in this way, they are more sensitive to the pains and joys of the world. They realize: Oh, that first mountain wasn’t my mountain. I am ready for a larger journey.
He concludes with this:
On the first mountain we shoot for happiness, but on the second mountain we are rewarded with joy. What’s the difference? Happiness involves a victory for the self. It happens as we move toward our goals. You get a promotion. You have a delicious meal.
Joy involves the transcendence of self. When you’re on the second mountain, you realize we aim too low. We compete to get near a little sunlamp, but if we lived differently, we could feel the glow of real sunshine. On the second mountain you see that happiness is good, but joy is better.
It reminds me of a quote from CS Lewis:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
It's also similar to something I wrote on this blog 10+ years ago:
I have to believe that the past two and a half years have been God's way of showing me that that's not what my life is supposed to be about.
You know what? Saying "God has a Plan" is just too glib, too simplistic. These two and a half years have been SO hard. I had been worried about a financial crisis, but I wound up in a crisis of faith.
...
And three months ago, I wound up with a job that is a hundred times better than anything I could ever have imagined. I'm only earning about a third of the salary that I was making before, but I'm not wasting my life feeling tired, and anxious, and stressed out all the time.
I'd love to say that the story ends here. "And we lived happily ever after." But that would be glib and simplistic too.
I still have hopes and dreams that may go unfulfilled. I still struggle with thoughts like, "God, if you love me, why won't you give me the one last thing that I so desperately want?" I still have bouts of self-pity and depression. And it's still really hard for me to accept that I'm not the One in control of the Plan for my life.
It's good to look back at these words and recognize that they're increasingly true.  I still love my job-- It really is a perfect fit for my skills and interests.  And that "one last thing that I so desperately want?"  Well, as it turns out, I've got two of them now.  ;)  Not to mention wonderful friends and a deep sense of community...

My second mountain is better than anything I imagined when I was struggling on the first one.

We Are Star Dust

For spring break, we made a trip to NYC over a long weekend.  We went to the American Natural History Museum on Friday, and one thing that really captured my attention was this display:


Every atom of oxygen in our lungs, of carbon in our muscles, of calcium in our bones, of iron in our blood - was created inside a star before Earth was born.
Hydrogen and helium, the lightest elements were produced in the Big Bang.
Almost all of the other, heavier, elements were produced inside stars.
Stars forge heavy elements by fusion in their cores. In a star of intermediate mass, these elements can mix into the star’s atmosphere and be spread into space through stellar winds.
During the supernova explosion of a massive star is the only time when elements heavier than iron are fused. The supernova expels this material across interstellar space.
The enriched material ejected by stellar winds and supernova explosions becomes parts of vast interstellar clouds. The Sun formed within such a cloud, where some of the heavy elements condensed to form Earth.
“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars."
- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I believe the story of Creation is the story of the Big Bang, and the formation of the stars and planets, and the evolution of every form of life on Earth.  To me, there is no contradiction between these ideas.  God spoke, and the universe was created out of nothing; God brought order out of chaos.

So the idea of God using stars and supernovas as a sort of forge or refinery to create elemental building materials is beautiful and intriguing to me.

And then, we went to church and heard this song:

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light
And as you speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship
So will I
I can see your heart in everything you’ve made
Every burning star a signal fire of grace
If creation sings your praises
So will I
God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once you have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of your voice
And as you speak
A hundred billion creatures catch your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what you said
If it all reveals your nature
So will I
I can see your heart in everything you say
Every painted sky a canvas of your grace
If creation still obeys you
So will I
If the stars were made to worship
So will I
If the mountains bow in reverence
So will I
If the oceans roar your greatness
So will I
For if everything exists to lift you high
So will I
If the wind goes where you send it
So will I
If the rocks cry out in silence
So will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill you created
The Light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die
And as you speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where you lost your life so I could find it here
If you left the grave behind you
So will I
I can see your heart in everything you’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called Love
If you gladly chose surrender
So will I
I can see your heart eight billion different ways
Every precious one a child you died to save
If you gave your life to love them
So will I
Like you would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

(The starlit effect during the bridge to this song was amazing-- I think it's worth watching the video to just to see it, although it was so much more amazing to experience it in person.)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Slow Miracles

This blog post is long overdue. It is a summary of the most important message that I've ever heard in church-- I sobbed through this service at Crossroads in 2014, and I've watched the video several times since then. I've talked to friends about it, and I've shared the video link with people. It's been on my mind a lot in the past month, but it became more obvious that I needed to write about it this week, as I heard the news that Kathy Beechem passed away.

I happened to cross paths with Kathy at Woman Camp last year, and I stopped to tell her how much this message meant to me. Actually, I'm pretty sure that all I managed to say was something about Slow Miracles and how it broke something in me in the best possible way, and then I completely choked up. But Kathy understood what I was trying to say, and we hugged, and I am so glad that I had that opportunity.


Chuck Mingo

Some of the most meaningful change that can happen in your life comes from slow miracles fueled by persistent prayer.

This world is even more broken than you think it is.

Romans 8:22 – For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

When Adam and Eve chose not to trust God, the world got broken at a fundamental level.

God is more faithful than the world is broken.

Revelation 21:5 – He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Slow miracles increase my faith in both these things.


Kathy Beechem

In the prime of their lives, Kathy's husband Pete was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “And boy, I learned how to pray... I prayed desperately, I prayed fervently, I prayed sincerely. Every way Jesus said to pray, I prayed. And not just me…” but their entire community at Crossroads and former coworkers and customers.

But Pete died in 2008. “And suddenly I am a widow, and it’s a really dark place.”
“And I told God how disappointed I was in him that he didn’t save Pete. I believed with my whole heart that he could save him, and that he would. And he didn’t.”
“God showed me the depth of his love—And he showed me that nothing, NOTHING can separate you from me. NOTHING. I can redeem the ugliest, hardest, the most broken situations, and turn them into something beautiful. And I, slowly, as I heal, become transformed. I change in a million ways. I mean a million ways. From this accomplished corporate exec, to who I am today. He leads me to meaningful work, here. I start beginning to think I might be able to see a future. And then, I start having fruit. I mean I see the transformation in me start to happen in the people that I serve with, and the people that I work with, and in my friends, and in the women that God’s led to me that I can build into. I start seeing amazing transformation. And then God shows me something. He shows me that, every time I see that transformation, when things happen in the physical world that are beautiful and good, they start first in the spiritual world. And he shows me the power of prayer, and how by praying, great things can happen. And he kind of gives me a little glimpse and he says, You know, all those years I was pursuing you and Pete. Well, you know, your grandmother had been praying for decades for you—she never gave up on you, which is amazing—and my mother and my sister and all the folks who believed in me were praying for me. And I thought, I want everyone in my world, everyone who’s in my sphere of influence to experience the same transformation I’ve experienced. And so I pray for each one of them, intently.”

Chuck Mingo
"This world is even more broken than you think it is. Again, creation groans… There is brokenness in this world that runs very deep... One of the things that frustrates me is when people use Christian-y language to try to butter over difficult situations, and sometimes people use Bible verses in the wrong way. Here’s one that can easily be misused when people are struggling:
Romans 8:28 says 'And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.'
"That verse is absolutely true. But let me tell you, that verse doesn’t say: If you follow Jesus no bad things are going to happen to you. And that’s how that verse is often used. No! It says all things work together for good. What that means is: All things happen to Christians. Good things and bad things happen to Christians. Why? Because this world is broken. And everybody’s impacted by the brokenness of this world. But what this also says is: If anything in this broken world is working out for good, it’s because there’s a loving God. Anything.  ANYTIME death isn’t the outcome, ANYTIME there’s healing, ANYTIME the marriage gets restored, it only happens because there’s a God who is working in that situation. And, even the bad things, God doesn’t cause them, but he works them for the good of those who love him. That’s what that verse says.  So here’s the thing: The world is more broken than you think. But that verse is a reminder that God is more faithful than the world is broken.
God doesn’t promise you better life circumstances, but he does promise you a better life.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Colorblindness & Depression

On a recent road trip up to Michigan, I was listening to a Planet Money podcast (#847) about the (accidental) invention of the Enchroma glasses for people with colorblindness.  One of the podcast reporters (Kenny Malone) is colorblind, and the other one (Sarah Gonzalez) had bought him a pair of the glasses to try out at the end of the show.  Sarah was really excited, but Kenny was skeptical that seeing color would be worth the $350 that the glasses cost.

The inventor of the glasses, Don McPherson, said it was tough to convince people to buy them initially:  “It was difficult, absolutely… People saying ‘I don’t need those because I’ve lived my whole life without them.’”  After seeing filtered images that illustrate what the world looks like for someone who is colorblind, I can kind of understand why they might be apathetic about the idea.  If everything in the world is a shade of mustardy yellow or a dull blue, how could you possibly imagine a reality that is radically different from the one you’ve always known?

https://www.boredpanda.com/different-types-color-blindness-photos/

It reminded me of a phrase in the Bible:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”
At that time, mirrors were made from polished bronze or copper, so Paul is essentially saying that what we experience here on Earth is like colorblindness, compared to what we'll experience in Heaven someday.

And when you see videos of people trying on the glasses and being completely overwhelmed-- shaken, speechless, sobbing-- it really makes me wonder what God has in store for us.
“I remember when I first put the glasses on, being… stunned.  I expected colors to look different.  What I didn’t expect was how much deeper and richer and brighter all the colors were.
“I could lose those glasses tomorrow, and I would still be thankful for having gotten to see what the world actually looks like.  The world is so much more beautiful than I ever thought it was.”
The reason why this analogy struck me so deeply is because our dear friends lost their 14 year old son to suicide two weeks ago, and I am so heartbroken for them.

Depression is emotional colorblindness.  People commonly describe it using the same terms-- like living in a fog, at the bottom of a well, or in a world without color.  We don't see the world as it really is, and the tiny isolated part that we do see is muted and bleak.
"Depression is a malfunction in the instrument we use to determine reality.  The brain experiences a chemical imbalance and wraps a narrative around it."
Depression is a terrible, evil thing because it blinds us from knowing how much we are loved.  It lies to us and tells us that we are unworthy of love:  "I'm so broken.  If people knew what I'm really like..."  The thought is too horrible to finish, but it churns relentlessly in our brains in the middle of the night.

And yet... the rest of the verse continues:
“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Paul is saying that we are fully known and fully loved by God, and we will encounter this Love face to face someday.  It gives me to hope to think that Pierce's blindness has been lifted, and he can see now how fully he was loved, by his family and friends here on Earth, and by his Father in Heaven.

Michael Gerson expressed this idea beautifully in his sermon at the Washington National Cathedral:
"Faith, thankfully, does not preclude doubt. It consists of staking your life on the rumor of grace.

"This experience of pulling back the curtain of materiality, and briefly seeing the landscape of a broader world, comes in many forms. It can be religious and nonreligious, Christian and non-Christian. We sometimes search for a hidden door when the city has a hundred open gates. But there is this difference for a Christian believer: At the end of all our striving and longing we find, not a force, but a face. All language about God is metaphorical. But the metaphor became flesh and dwelt among us."

"...Fate may do what it wants. But this much is settled: In our right minds, we know that love is at the heart of all things.

"Many, understandably, pray for a strength they do not possess. But God’s promise is somewhat different: That even when strength fails, there is perseverance. And even when perseverance fails, there is hope. And even when hope fails, there is love. And love never fails."

Love never ends.
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know – in part – and we prophesy – in part – but when the Perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three.
But the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Jehovah Shalom



Peace is a promise you keep

You will stay true
even when the lies come
Your word remains truth
even when my thoughts don’t line up
I will stand tall
on each promise you’ve made

Let the rest fade away

There’s a Peace far beyond all understanding
May it ever set my heart at ease
Dare anxiety come—I’ll remember that
Peace is a promise you keep
Peace is a promise you keep

You will stay true
even in the Chaos
Your word remains truth
even when my mind wreaks havoc
I will be still
for I’ve known all along
My Jehovah Shalom


There's a Peace far beyond all understanding
May it ever set my heart at ease
What anxiety fails to remember is
Peace is a promise you keep
Peace is a promise you keep

You are Peace to the restless soul
You are Peace when my thoughts wage war
You are Peace to the anxious heart
That’s who you are, that’s who you are
You are Peace when my fear takes hold
You are Peace when I feel enclosed
You are Peace when I lose control
That’s who you are, that’s who you are
That’s who you’ll always be

I’ve found a Peace far beyond all understanding
Let it flow when my mind's under siege
All anxiety bows in the presence
Of Jesus the keeper of Peace
Peace is a promise he keeps

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: Despair and Faith

This is a beautiful post, which struck me deeply:
What Good Friday teaches us about cynicism
“For believers, the complete story of Good Friday and Easter legitimizes both despair and faith. Nearly every life features less-than-good Fridays. We grow tired of our own company and travel a descending path of depression. We experience lonely pain, unearned suffering or stinging injustice. We are rejected or betrayed by a friend. And then there are the unspeakable things — the death of a child, the diagnosis of an aggressive cancer, the steady advance of a disease that will take our minds and dignity. We look into the abyss of self-murder. And given the example of Christ, we are permitted to feel God-forsaken.“And yet . . . eventually . . . or so we trust . . . or so we try to trust: God is forever on the side of those who suffer. God is forever on the side of life. God is forever on the side of hope.”

Having experienced Depression, I do recognize the deep sense of despair in Jesus’ words: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Depression isn’t sadness, it is a state of complete hopelessness. Darkness keeps descending, and there is no reason to believe that dawn will ever come again.

But I have also experienced the faith that can follow despair. Faith means different things to me on different days-- sometimes it is awe at the wonders of the Universe; sometimes it is a simple sense of comfort in a community; sometimes it the crazy, counter-intuitive way that Love can triumph over fear.

And to be perfectly honest, sometimes my faith is just a simple link on an unbroken chain of 2,000 years of believers, stretching all the way back to those “cowardly friends [who] became bold missionaries, most dying torturous deaths (according to tradition) for the sake of a figure they had once betrayed in their sleep.”

I don’t personally know for sure what happened 2,000+ years ago in Jerusalem. But I find it compelling that that the people who WERE there on Easter Sunday were willing to die for a Truth that seemed totally inconceivable to them on Good Friday. Their failings and denials during Jesus' trial and execution seem relatable, but their courage and audacity afterward are something altogether different and inspiring.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hebrews 11:6


I'm working on it...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Philippians 2:1-4


I've been meeting with a small group of women for about a year now, and I am just so grateful for the encouragement, comfort, sharing, tenderness, and compassion that I've witnessed and experienced by being part of this group.  So much love...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Missionary

Rage Against the Minivan: Why I Think it’s Time to Retire the Word ‘Missionary’:
"No vocation is more spiritual than another. And every Christian is called to share the gospel. But the very existence of the word missionary as it is used today seems to imply otherwise. If missionaries are God’s Special Forces, then evangelism is a calling for some, for the super-spiritual. The rest of us just aren’t called to that.

"...But God’s mission has never been about counting the number of spiritual conversations you’ve had in a week or valuing street evangelism over changing diapers and formatting spreadsheets. God’s mission has never been about seeing yourself as a spiritual superhero in an action story. God’s mission, as St. John of the Cross said, is to put love where love is not. It’s about relational flourishing.

"We all share this vocation, but we live into it in different ways. Maybe your way is through cross-cultural evangelism. Maybe it’s to be a first-grade teacher. Maybe it’s to be a linguist and a Bible translator. Maybe it’s to be a stay-at-home dad. Maybe it’s to be a doctor in the suburbs, the inner city, or an African village. I don’t know, but what I do know is that all of those vocations are valuable, and in all of those vocations, you can put love where love is not."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nationalism vs Patriotism

I read this article on Nationalism vs Patriotism awhile ago, and it has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Jonah Goldberg argues that the key difference between them is the distinction between simply loving our country (tribalism) vs loving the values and ideals that it represents:
"This is at the same time both entirely right and fundamentally misleading. It leaves out what the flag represents. It glides over the fact that the national anthem sanctifies the “land of the free.” Our shrines are to patriots who upheld very specific American ideals. Our statues of soldiers commemorate heroes who died for something very different from what other warriors have fought and died for millennia. Every one of them — immigrants included — took an oath to defend not just some soil but our Constitution and by extension the ideals of the Founding. Walk around any European hamlet or capital and you will find statues of men who fell in battle to protect their tribe from another tribe. That doesn’t necessarily diminish the nobility of their deaths or the glory of their valor, but it is quite simply a very different thing they were fighting for."
My husband and I were having a discussion over lunch about hypocrisy within the church, and I think that it comes down to a similar distinction-- It is dangerous to love being part of a church community (tribalism again) more than you love the values that The Church is supposed to advance in this world.

I think that this quote from the article can be applied in either case*:
"Left-wingers who fancy themselves ironically detached from patriotism and particularism and as avatars of a more sophisticated cosmopolitanism no doubt roll their eyes at such things, considering it so much schmaltz. Some might even snark that such patriotic piety is hypocritical given this or that crime — real or alleged — that America has committed. But hypocrisy is a charge every civilization opens itself to when it aims for an ideal higher and better than loyalty to tribe."
*To be clear, I do NOT believe that American ideals and Church values are identical. I just try to live within the overlap of their Venn diagram.

The United States and the Church are both made up of flawed individuals, and so we inevitably fail to live up to "American exceptionalism" or "being a good Christian." And I think it's completely OK to be critical of those failings, as long as we don't become so jaded that we succumb to the notion that those values and ideals matter less than our tribal loyalty.



Jonah Goldberg wrote a follow-up to his original article, where he rebuts some of the criticism that he received from one of his colleagues:
When Rich says, “Jonah seems to imply that other countries can’t have true patriotism because they don’t have the Declaration and our founding ideals . . . ” you should translate that as, “Rich seems to be inferring.” I have no problem conceding that patriotism exists in other countries. Americans didn’t invent the word, after all.

Let’s stipulate that patriotism means “love of country.” People all over the world love their countries. Even people who live under oppressive dictators and hate their governments will say that they love their country. Indeed, many of the greatest patriots swim against the nationalist tides in their homelands.

Let me try it a different way. I have always believed that American conservatism is inseparable from American patriotism. I said “inseparable from” not “identical to.”

Since everyone’s quoting Samuel Huntington these days, I’ll do it too. Huntington observed that conservatism is a “positional ideology.” By that he meant that there are many conservatisms because conservatives in different societies seek to conserve different things. A conservative in France in, say, 1788 seeks to conserve that rich bouillabaisse of altar and throne. A conservative in England seeks to conserve the monarchy, among other things.

...This is why I share Yuval Levin’s contention that, at its core, conservatism is gratitude.

"To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it." --Yuval Levin

A patriot in England, never mind Russia or Botswana, loves different things than a patriot in the United States. It’s something of a paradox: All patriotisms are equal in that they are all subjective, but not all patriotisms are equal when measured against certain ideals.

And that makes all the difference in the world. Lowry asserts that I think other countries can’t have patriotism because they don’t love the Founding and our principles of liberty. Not at all; rather, I think American patriotism is different because America — the object of our love — is different. As Hayek noted, America is the one place where you can be a lover of liberty and a conservative because in America conservatives seek to defend the liberal principles of the Founding.

In America there is nationalist sentiment, to be sure, but the “doctrines” of nationalism find no easy purchase here. Werner Sombart’s famous question, “Why is there no socialism in America?” has elicited many answers, but the most agreed-upon one is that America has no feudal past. America represented a sharp break with the ancient notion that polities — nations, empires, city-states, tribes, etc. — were no different than families with an unimpeachable pater familias at the helm. We celebrated and enshrined very different notions in our national DNA, which is why Alexis de Tocqueville could observe that the American was the Englishman left alone. What makes America exceptional, what makes American patriotism and conservatism different, is that the object of our love and gratitude is different. If Rich wants to define nationalism as love of country and nothing more, that’s his right. But he would be wrong.

So when Rich tries to insinuate that I don’t think William of Orange was a patriot, he’s wrong. But his patriotism was fundamentally, philosophically, and morally different than American patriotism. And, by the way, it most certainly was tribal, if one is allowed some leeway when using the term.
He also refers to American exceptionalism in another article, criticizing Trump's recent comments about the US being no different than Russia:
It’s the president’s job to help shape public rhetoric, because how we talk about our ideals determines whether we sustain or erode them. Or, as the late literary critic Wayne Booth put it, rhetoric is “the art of probing what men believe they ought to believe.” To listen to Trump, Americans should believe a number of dismaying things: our public institutions cannot be trusted; he alone can fix our problems; absent him, our best days are behind us; and, most worrisome, America’s ideals have been part of the problem, not the solution.

I don’t care if Trump thinks we’ve fallen short of ideals – of course we have, that’s why we call them ideals. What bothers me is that he often sounds like he has contempt for those ideals in the first place.
John McCain also rebuked Trump (indirectly) in his speech to the Munich Security Conference:
Make no mistake, my friends: These are dangerous times, but you should not count America out, and we should not count each other out. We must be prudent, but we cannot wring our hands and wallow in self-doubt. We must appreciate the limits of our power, but we cannot allow ourselves to question the rightness and goodness of the West. We must understand and learn from our mistakes, but we cannot be paralyzed by fear. We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other. That is the definition of decadence. And that is how world orders really do decline and fall.

This is exactly what our adversaries want. This is their goal. They have no meaningful allies, so they seek to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other. They know that their power and influence are inferior to ours, so they seek to subvert us, and erode our resolve to resist, and terrorize us into passivity. They know they have little to offer the world beyond selfishness and fear, so they seek to undermine our confidence in ourselves and our belief in our own values.

We must take our own side in this fight. We must be vigilant. We must persevere. And through it all, we must never, never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our own values—that we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, hope against despair … and that even though we will inevitably take losses and suffer setbacks, through it all, so long as people of goodwill and courage refuse to lose faith in the West, it will endure.