As a columnist of a daily newspaper, I had great liberty to choose my topics. About once a month I’d try to write something positive.
My editor hated that.
Not that he was a curmudgeon. He was a good-natured, upbeat guy. But he was plain spoken when it came to my so-called “feel good” columns.
“They stink,” he told, more than once. “You are at your best when you are complaining.”
I’d rip apart the city council or the latest civic injustice or mock some new plan to do something at taxpayer cost that would end up not doing anything, and my columns would take flight.
I once so infuriated a city councilor he wrote a letter to the editor claiming that I had “the moral authority of Bullwinkle writing on the freeway underpass.”
I’m not sure what any of that meant, but I loved it enough that I still remember it.
I wrote a series of articles on downtown improvements that so riled up the folks a rival city councilor turned my ideas into a town hall just so that people would show up and argue. They did. A packed house full of angst.
A judge in my divorce proceedings stuck it to me and told my attorney, “Advise your client he should watch what he writes,” as if that had anything to do with my divorce.
At one point the police kept harassing me with minor infractions so much that I was in danger of having my license revoked.
It was great. Muckraking they used to call it. I was a mucker and a raker.
But as soon as I wrote about something wonderful happening, my writing would hit the snooze button.
I tend to be an upbeat guy. I like to laugh. I love to have fun. But I’ve realized I tend to lose my mojo when there is nothing to lament. My Jewish friend said I’m Jewish. I took that as a bit of compliment. Jews are the best at dancing and laughing and still have a long line at the complaint department. Throughout the Bible, everyone tears robes, dumps ashes on their head in one scene and then whoop it up in the next. The Whiplash seems to piss off Yahweh. I’m not sure it’s the best approach to a spiritual life, but I think it’s so interwoven into their DNA they can’t help it.
Neither, it seems, can I.
The last couple of week I just can’t rile up any good ole fashioned ire. Rather than come to God in my prayers with a laundry list of neglect, I look around me, and I see only… blessing.
It freaks me out.
I tell God this, but I qualify: “look, don’t change! I’m not saying that. I’ve had enough torn robes to last a lifetime. But just give me a moment to get used to it, OK? I’m freaked out here!”
My spiritual director asked me about this. “Any idea why you are anxious with so much good in your life?”
“Because I’m a fucking masochist,” I moaned.
“And what would your friend, your brother Jesus, say if told him that?” he asked.
“Uh… knock if off?”
“Perhaps,” he said with a smile.
We sorted out some of my anxiety. My need for torn robes turns what looks to be God’s feet walking in front of me leading the way toward her blessings into the other shoe about to land and smash my brains.
It’s not the healthiest view of life, or God, or my place in all of that.
I have often written that I could use a time when the wind of God’s spirit fills my sails with joy. I suspect that is what is happening in my life (even now it scares me silly to say it for fear the wind is a hurricane).
Allowing my life to be good may be the biggest spiritual challenge I’ve faced. I have to learn to trust this, that there is no “other shoe,” and that I am capable of living into this time of blessing well.
Years ago God impressed a verse in my head as a type of prophecy: “By God’s tender mercy, the morning light of heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guide us to the path of peace.”
In those darkest times, I longed for that morning light of heaven. I see it on the horizon in my life and blink into the glare. I feel afraid, but oh so hopeful. It’s heady stuff. Hard. Wonderful. Scary. How will I greet this dawn?
The same way I endured times of terrible hardship. By faith. One day at a time. With a song of thanksgiving on my heart. I learned gratitude at the time of my greatest despair. It’s now time to put that lesson to work.
“Good news, bad news? We shall see,” the sage says.
Agreed. We shall see. Thank you, Yahweh. Thank you.