The Winds of Homecoming: Transforming Loss and Loneliness into Solitude
Reviewed by Marty Grundy
September 1, 2022
By Christopher Goodchild. Christian Alternative Books, 2021. 168 pages. $16.95/paperback; $7.99/eBook.
Christopher Goodchild is on the autism spectrum, which contributed to his horrendous childhood and youth. This book is not about these givens but explores what Goodchild has managed to do with them. The aching loneliness, insecurity, and fear fed by years of ridicule and disparagement for being “different” and unwanted have slowly been transmuted. He has tackled the difficult work of facing those inner demons of loss and loneliness: learning to acknowledge, welcome, and befriend them. By facing these broken, jagged shards of ourselves and grieving the losses, we can begin to know our own deeper, authentic self that is held in love and God’s grace. He discovers and invites us to see that much of the spiritual life is about letting go—letting go of the illusions about ourselves, others, and the world. Our “true identity is that of God and [our] challenge is to affirm this deeper reality within the drama of being human.”
The book is written in the second person. Goodchild addresses himself—or rather his larger more spiritually mature self counsels his smaller frightened self—and thus us. Occasionally what he addresses is far from my own experience, but frequently I can take what he says and acknowledge its truth and helpfulness—for me. He does not serve platitudes but gems mined from his own living and deep reflection. He never preaches; he walks with us, and in his vulnerability helps us as he helps himself. It is a book to read slowly, to savor, to put down and allow the message to take root. Already I find myself returning to it: to reread and ponder anew.
Goodchild is a Friend with a deep interest in Buddhist psychology, Eastern philosophy, and the Christian contemplative tradition. He is also an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, a teacher of the Alexander Technique, and a facilitator of Contemplative Spirituality courses. All of these have aided his own growth as he uses them to help others.
This slim book consists of 50 short essays, meditations almost, about a page and a half each. Goodchild writes lyrically; it is a pleasure to savor his language. One of his favorite words is “tenderly.” He quotes the Bible and other authors freely: especially Rainer Maria Rilke but also Isaac Penington, Rumi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Cynthia Bourgeault, William Blake, Thomas Merton, and many more. The book includes bibliographical information on the many references.
He concludes with the following:
Befriending loss and loneliness has enabled me to integrate the light and dark elements within myself, enabling me to cross that abyss which separated me from my own personal suffering and the suffering of the world.
A deeper faith has grown in me through the purifying fire of grief. A faith that cannot so much be questioned but lived. And at the centre of this faith is love.
May each of us grow into such wisdom, tenderness, and love.
Marty Grundy is a member of Wellesley (Mass.) Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting.