Yesterday was a surreal day to come home to Southern California.
When Corey and I landed at LAX, the skies hung low, gray and threatening. "It's a little early for June gloom," I thought to myself.
We disembarked, stretched our legs, gathered a rental car, ate some fish tacos. Then I got on a train bound for Oceanside. My brother, who came to live with Corey and me when we lived in San Diego, still lives in North County, as the locals call it. And while Corey had official Orphan Summit business last night, I did not. So I redeemed the time and made a run to see Michael and my niece and nephew for a few hours.
I had no idea what I was doing on the train. I boarded the wrong car and didn't know where I was supposed to sit. I laughed at myself and ended up moving around at each stop, settling on a seat on the upper deck so I could have a better view.
And what a view it was. Once we got beyond San Juan Capistrano, we traveled surfside. The sun came out. (Or maybe we entered an area where the sun was already shining.) The water sparkled aquamarine and blue and crashed white and sand-flecked. Surfers littered the swells and children on the beach waved to the train as we passed by. (It felt so wrong to hear the train whistle from inside the beast.) Piers and boardwalks roared by and flocks of seagulls and mounds of bougainvillea and tiny (gorgeous) million dollar homes. I sat next to the window and turned my whole body to the ocean and took pictures like a tourist and drank it in like a person dying of thirst.
By the time I go off the train in Oceanside, I had fallen in love with San Diego all over again.
Michael met me at the curb, and we laughed and hugged and I said hi to my four-year-old nephew and smiled at my two-year-old niece who was a sweaty mound, napping in her carseat.
Then Michael said, "Did you hear the news about Junior Seau?" And my heart sank.
When Corey and I moved to San Diego in 1994, Junior was already an hero. A local boy turned pro football player, he led the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl that year. Even after he retired from the NFL, he was an icon. He started his own restaurant, he was active with area charities. My brother said he often saw Junior walking around Oceanside, sometimes running mini "training camps" for kids who would gather outside his beachside home.
Michael drove me by that same house yesterday afternoon. It was just a few hundred yards from the train station. We could see the legions of live trucks set up on the beach. News choppers buzzed overhead. The splashing surf and bright sunlight was a sharp contrast to the somber faces of the people milling on the sidewalk.
What makes a person who "has it all" commit suicide? It's a question that will surely haunt Junior's family and friends. From where I sit, suicide is the ultimate howl of hopelessness. It's the darkness of the soul exposed.
I understand. Apart from Jesus, I am wretched too. There are a lot of amusements in this life. I can do many things to numb the heartache. But ultimately, only Jesus makes me whole, lifts my head, gives me hope.
I'm at Orphan Summit this week. And honestly? It can be discouraging. There are 163 million orphans in our world today. There are many amazing organizations standing in the gap, who work tirelessly to hand out food, clothes, hugs.
But I know they would join me in this chorus: We cannot do this without Jesus. Without Him as our hope, without the conviction that we act in love because we ourselves have been adopted, we burn out. We grow cynical and bitter, angry at the darkness and frustrated at our inability to break its chains.
Jesus is our only hope, not Obi-Wai Kenobi. He is the only answer to the orphan crisis, the only balm to our personal heartbreak, the only anchor that can withstand the tsunami of life in a broken world.
I wish Junior Seau has known that.