I know, I know. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. My bad. It’s been a busy last few months. Funerals, vacations, back to school, outside obligations; it’s been hard to set aside some time to write anything of substance, although it looks like I’ll be doing some film-related writing that I’m very excited about in the near future. But yeah, it’s been dry here.
But it’s not for lack of material.
The truth is, for someone who writes about issues of faith and culture, I feel like I’m drowning in potential content. Do I write about the latest outrage committed by our president, or about the hypocrisy of evangelical leaders who still support him? Do I devote some time to writing about Brett Kavanaugh’s scandals, or do I write more broadly about the victimization of women, white male privilege and a Christian culture whose toxic history on the topic of gender has helped prime us for this culture? Do I write about the spiritual issues chipping away at our society, or do I direct my gaze inward, at the flaws I keep discovering in myself? Do I tear open my heart and reveal my struggles or do I boast about God’s blessings?
I’m paralyzed with options and overwhelmed by the drama of the world. Weighed down by the malaise many of us feel in American culture, it’s hard to turn on the computer and write something in response. Will my post be made irrelevant by new scandals and chaos the moment it posts? Will my words only add to the noise? Am I entering the correct fray, or does my contribution misdirect people from more pressing issues?
Wars of words
I believe in the power of words. It’s why I studied journalism and pursued a career as a writer. I believe that people who are skilled with words and passionate about making a change can use their talent to make a difference. I don’t believe that words automatically change a situation, but I believe they are tools that can make persuasive arguments and begin to shift attitudes. In the times we live in, we need writers who can look at our society and provide words of hope, admonishment or encouragement.
But there’s a lot going on in this world, and there are more avenues to release your words and more people whose voices are being thrown into the void. Who deserves to be heard? Who is just spouting hot air and who has something valid to say? Do I have a unique insight from Scripture worth sharing, or am I just another middle-aged white man in a sea of them? Aren’t you tired of hearing from people like me?
Our globally connected community means we have access to more stories about tragedies, disagreements and abuses of power than ever before. And as my outrage continues to rise, it’s only natural for me to want to grab my pen and wade into the fray, fighting for what I believe is right and undoing the damage. And yet there are so many battles being fought, so many arenas in which we can wade, that it exhausts me. I’m weary of wielding the pen. Can’t I just take a nap?
Burying my head or protecting my brain?
I was sitting here a few weeks ago, page open and fingers on the keyboard, trying to decide with outrage du jour was I was going to weigh in on. My mind felt blank, my shoulders heavy. I didn’t want to write the word “Trump,” didn’t want to have to wade into the fracas once again. And then, I heard a small voice.
You don’t have to fight every battle.
I don’t have to wade into every fight. I don’t have to offer my opinion on every outrage or speak out for every cause. I don’t have to have a word at the ready for every single situation, nor am I obligated to pick up my pen and charge into battle the instant the atmosphere grows heated. Sometimes I can just turn off the computer and shut out the world.
For a time.
I am well aware that it’s my privilege that offers me this opportunity. I am a straight, white, Christian cis-male. I am not being oppressed or persecuted, and my rights aren’t being stripped away. I have the luxury of being able to be apolitical, and I cannot take that lightly. I can’t shut everything out forever and there are times when silence is more damning than any of my words could ever be. Because I have an outlet and a voice, there are times I believe I’m required to speak up, shout truth and protect others through my words.
But to think it’s my job to wade into every situation and offer commentary on every tragedy, outrage or controversy…that’s foolhardy.
Christians are people who practice Sabbath. We believe that once a week, at least, we are to stop our toil and work and rest in God. We’re not great at this, but it’s a practice we must strive to cherish. It’s important to step away from work. It’s important to rest, fellowship and give thanks just for the pleasures of being. It’s restorative and energizing; it fuels us to go forth and do good work. Like my pastor is fond of saying, sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.
I believe there’s a time to Sabbath from my outrage, advocacy or words. Sometimes it’s best to turn off the news and turn on the video games with my son. Sometimes the best thing I can to is walk away from the computer and walk around my neighborhood. Sometimes I need to stop writing screeds and start telling jokes.
These moments are important. They reconnect me with the people I believe need love and defense. They remind me that I’m part of a bigger world, just a part of the fabric. They remind me how small I am and how tiny my frustrations and fears are. The news gives us what seem to be big problems, but they shrink away in light of joyful fellowship and celebration. Without Sabbath, we don’t connect with others, appreciate the joy of living or simply stop and be. Sabbath reminds us what we work and play for. Sometimes you’re not burying your head in the sand; you’re protecting your brain.
It’s necessary. Because there will come a time again to get mad and to weigh in. But until then, it’s time to rest, celebrate and live among others. Because that’s the only way you learn to love them enough to want to defend them.