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Walking Through Twilight: A Wife's Illness--A Philosopher's Lament Paperback – November 21, 2017
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"This is a hard book to read like watching the news and learning about war, poverty, and famine. We would rather look away, ignore, and pretend. God doesn't pretend; he knows, he enters in, and he loves us. And God calls us to participate in his love and presence. So for those with family or friends walking through the confusion and challenges of dementia, this book is a real gift. Groothuis takes us from admissions of moments of rage to the sweet, tender mercy of Sunny the golden doodle, from painful, honest reflections about the eeriness of the disease to signs of hope that only God can provide. He helps us begin to understand what is beyond our grasp. Many who try to make sense of their own journeys will find here an authentic voice to help along the way." (Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies, Covenant College, author of Embodied Hope)
"I read the book in one sitting because it is riveting. Groothuis brings to life not only the day-to-day sorrows and joys but also the deeper anxieties and consolations that underlie the everyday, and matches these evocative descriptions with reflections that invite all of us to join him on this journey of suffering and faith." (Eleonore Stump, honorary professor at Wuhan University, patron of the Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford)
"To be honest, I've never read a book like this. It overflows with deep reflection on the suffering of life and the apparent absence of God at the very times we need him most. But the specialness of this book lies in Groothuis's raw, unfiltered, and bewildering expression of emotion pain, agony, confusion regarding the journey of his dear wife, Becky, and its impact on Doug's own pilgrimage. There are no cheap Christian slogans, no slapping of a Bible verse as a Band-Aid on a near-mortal wound, no simplistic happily-ever-after. But there is hope. Hope built on deep reflection about Christianity, suffering, and the meaning of life. To me, this is the best book my dear friend has ever written. Its healing powers will penetrate your soul as you slowly read through its pages." (J. P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University)
"Poignant. Profound. Powerful. This very personal journey through a wife's dementia will astound you with its eloquence and insights. The path through twilight is painful, but thank God! it's not without ultimate hope. This is a memoir that will mark you forever." (Lee Strobel, professor of Christian thought, Houston Baptist University, author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith)
"Douglas Groothuis's Walking Through Twilight is an extraordinarily moving memoir of lament. In inviting the reader into the experience of his wife's progressive dementia, he combines superb writing and the incisive thinking of a first-rate philosopher, which he is. But far beyond this, the book is filled with liberating honesty and the particular beauty of unadorned truth. Hearing God in the thunder and lightning is easy, but hearing him in what sounds mostly like silence takes a particularly keen and delicate ear, one this author possesses in abundance." (Eric Metaxas, radio host of the Eric Metaxas Show, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)
"Would I write as Doug Groothuis does here? Could I even begin to? I was profoundly humbled by this memoir. Philosophers are all about clear thinking, but the classroom is beggared by the anguish described here with such searing honesty, such poetic insight, such intense clarity, and such unconquerable hope." (Os Guinness, author of Impossible People)
About the Author
Douglas Groothuis (PhD, University of Oregon) is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado, where he heads the Apologetics and Ethics masters degree program. His articles have been published in professional journals such as Religious Studies, Philosophia Christi, Themelios, Christian Scholar's Review, Inquiry, and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has written numerous books, including Philosophy in Seven Sentences and Truth Decay.
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It is stirring, while at the same time intelligent and logical. This makes for a literary work of deep existential and philosophical depth. It is impassioned without devolving into emotional anarchy; it is thoughtful without becoming cold and abstract.
I believe it was Miguel de Unamuno who said a philosophy must be lived. Douglas Groothuis has not speculated on a theology of lament in the academy--he has endured true pain and has been forced to make sense of it. He has written an account of it for our benefit.
As with every book I have read by Douglas Groothuis, it is exceptionally well written. In Walking Through Twilight he acknowledges that he takes great joy in finding the right word, and laments that his wife Becky can no longer help him find the right words. However, even without Becky's help, his love for the English language and and the craft of writing is apparent. On thing I love about his style is introducing words not used by the average American, such as prevarication, but in a way that is unpretentious and even natural. He also writes in such a way that the meanings of such words can be easily discerned via context clues. Even if the word has to be looked up, the reader has learned a new word, and the author does not introduce so many of these words that looking them up is a chore.
This is really just the dose of reality that American evangelicals need, as opposed to more popular works by Joel Osteen. This book is for those willing to learn to "smelt meaning out of suffering" from a master. The greatest benefit will be to those who have lost, or who are losing, loved ones to dementia, but everyone should read this book.
After following this lamenting journey through twilight, it becomes clear that this statement, given towards the end of the book, is far more than spiritualized sentiment or theological necessity. Rather, it is an appropriate description of this journey that has taken its author into the valley where the shadow of death evermore creeps in, but which finds comfort and hope in the promise that the Shepherd still walks beside. The purpose of this memoir is to walk through the twilight of life, the season of life that sometimes does not give us enough time to absorb it, and sometimes lasts longer than we feel we can endure. For Douglas and Becky, it is the latter experience that defines their twilight, and for His own purposes God has allowed them to linger in this season. It is because they will not be the only ones who must face the harsh realities of twilight that come in this world that this book serves as a beacon of hope for those who struggle to make it through another day.
In a age where appearance is everything and there is seldom grace for the journey, this book’s gift is the real ups and downs of life. Finding pause in our hyperactive lives, the reader is introduced to the necessity of lament, the humanness of frustration, the inability of even our best systems to bring about peace, the horrendous effects of sickness, and the enduring faithfulness of the love of God. When everything in life has been stripped to its final thread, there is hope in that thread being knit by God. And this book is a blessing to those who suffer in this life, or walk alongside those who suffer.
An even more poignant read during this season of Thanksgiving and Advent, I express my gratitude to its author and his wife for their faithfulness and willingness in sharing this journey.
(Thanksgiving Day, 2017)
Walking Through Twilight – a memoir by Douglas Groothuis is not an easy book to read.
The dis-ease of reading it is not due to a Philosopher’s arcane or unique vocabulary, its length, nor the opacity which often attends attempts to describe or explain deep subjects. It is the uncomfortability of someone letting you touch their wounds. While they willingly (even if reluctantly) invite you to see just how raw and cruel the damage done to them has been, they nevertheless let you draw close enough to peer into their pain. And they do so to make suffering less ominous, less fear inducing and less God-doubting. Nothing short of the glory of the resurrection will truly render it less mysterious.
This is the gift of Walking Through Twilight.
Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary. His and his wife Becky’s twilight, is their journey together with their God and friends as Becky’s particular brand of dementia (primary progressive aphasia) takes its mental, psychological, physical and spiritual toll.
And it is brutal.
Page after page captured me as I listened to my brother in Christ lament well. Lamenting the degradation of his brilliant wife’s ability to access her words, wit, wisdom and skill. Lamenting the loss of the life they knew and enjoyed so much together – as it gave way to a life neither of them would ever have wanted or suspected. Grieving out loud without absolute despair, even when no hope in the natural remains, but only the promises of God’s Word. And he taught me well not to use that word only as minimalistic, but as an indicator of the singular hope we have in Christ.
Mind you, while this is a heavy book, it is far from depressing. It is filled with the author’s failures. And it is filled with countless road-signs pointing back to Calvary, as well as to the Blessed Hope to come.
The book serves as a living introduction to real-time suffering – something our current society (and many Christians) believe it is our birth-right to be free of. It reminds us powerfully of the reality of living in a fallen world. A world in which all of nature, including ourselves, will groan together for the relief which will only come when Jesus does.
Besides the running narrative of how Groothuis himself seeks the solace of Christ and His Word and promises, there is a short appendix of practical instruction for “comforters”. Those short suggestions are worth the price of the book alone.
But do not miss my meaning. The primary focus of this book is not as a “how to.” It is a book on “being”. What it means to be in the midst of the confusion and unexpected minefield of scattered demands, difficulties and unending complications of irreversible suffering. Most especially, to be in all of this, as a Christian.
No, Walking Through Twilight is not an easy book to read, but it is richly rewarding. It will encourage, strengthen, enlighten and inform everyone in their own suffering, or in ministering to others in theirs.
I cannot recommend it more highly as my own go-to in thinking about suffering in my own life, and in ministering to others in theirs.