This is my first blog post in more than six weeks. After I published a post every day during the month of October, I hit the wall, so to speak, and have found it difficult to generate the energy and enthusiasm required to sustain this endeavor.
I’ve been here before. Call it writer’s block or just apathy spawned by a sense of the futility that comes from trying to do something that so many others are doing, with most of them doing it better than me. In the past, one pervasive thought has provoked me to throw off my self-pity and get back to writing. I’m happy to say it has worked again, and that is what I’m sharing in this post.
Over a period of fourteen years (1994-2008), as a teacher in a small Mennonite Bible college, I had the great privilege of sharing in the education and spiritual/social formation of more than 800 different college-age young people. Thanks to Facebook, I stay in touch with many of them (roughly 200 are friends), and I hear from some of them fairly often.
Nearly all these young people (some of whom are almost as old now as I was when I started teaching) came from Christian homes and churches that were both theologically and politically conservative. Most of them, I would imagine, still identify with that community, although more than a few have followed a path similar to my own. A few, for reasons I can fully appreciate, have given up on the church—and, indeed, the Christian faith—altogether. I may not share their convictions in that regard, but I applaud their courage and, in many cases, envy their equanimity.
Some of them, from across the ideological spectrum, send me notes of encouragement from time to time. I especially appreciate the ones that include some variation of “you made me think,” or “you challenged me to use my mind.” Just a few days ago, commenting on the direction my thinking and writing have taken in the past few years, one of them wrote, “I think you may be scaring a lot of people, but you are inspiring me.” That made me smile.
Almost every day I need to find a reason to keep thinking and writing when I would really rather fade away into anonymous oblivion. Whatever form it takes, that reason is always some version of this: For the sake of the generations behind me, I need to do what I can to help make this world better than the one I grew up in. One member of that future generation is an eight-year-old little boy who, every time I see him, comes running across the driveway or the living room or the restaurant lobby, throws his arms around my neck, and whispers, “I love you, Papi.” I do it for him and his generation.
I also do it for the scores of my former students whom I love almost as much as I love my grandson. I do it because I know they are watching—and reading—and I need to do all I can to encourage them to continue to be women and men of character and conviction and compassion. We won’t always agree on how we should live life, but we share a mutual desire to do it with fervor, with consistency, and with authenticity.
My generation is heading for the home stretch while theirs is barely making the first turn. To them I say, “I am not your teacher anymore, but I want to be your encourager. I hope I can be a good example. Let me know if I’m not, since the last thing I want to do is to get in your way. I may not stand in front of you anymore, but, as long as you continue to make me proud, as you have done for more than twenty years, I’ll always have your back.”
Here’s what others are saying about my autobiographical novel, The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey.
“In Eric Kouns’ debut novel, a man looks at the progression of his religious faith as he tells the story of his life. Kouns has created a character called Arthur Lough, whom he identifies as his ‘alter ego,’ as a way to examine his own doubts and struggles. His reflections are consistently compelling. This is a personal novel that presents an engaging examination of doubt, change, and faith.” –Kirkus Reviews
“This is an absorbing memoir… the tender story of a life tormented by disappointment and depression, yet sustained by the unshakable hope for the kingdom of God.” –From the back cover blurb by David Swartz, Assistant Professor of History at Asbury University and author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.