We’ve lost a great writer. On August 5, Walter Wangerin Jr died, leaving behind an abiding legacy of writing and faith – and a slew of great books. His writing was vivid and gripping; words were a finely tuned instrument in his hands, and he played so many, so well.

I’ve used his book on marriage to help prepare couples for saying “I do.” His Ragman has essays full of pastoral wisdom. Through Wangerin’s words, Jesus and Paul come to life in new ways. And his honest memoir about facing cancer prepared him for death – as well as any of us looking over his shoulder.

Philip Yancey writes movingly of Wangerin’s faith – and his impact. And he includes a story Wangerin told him in a letter Wangerin wrote from Cameroon, where he witnessed two black birds on the haunch of a donkey – pecking away at an open wound. A few days later, Wangerin came across that same donkey – and this time there were 5 birds with blood-red beaks, continuing to jab away. Wangerin pitied the donkey, and despised the birds – until he later learned that the birds were oxpeckers, whose beaks were naturally crimson-colored. And their pecking – far from harming the donkey – was saving it. They were cleansing the wound of the maggots infested there.

Sometimes things are not what they seem. And sometimes even things that are what they seem have a different ending that can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Thanks, Walt, for painting that picture so well. Rest in His gracious peace.


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