In the interest of sanity (mine) I am starting a gratitude journal. I’ve done this in years past, but I need it now more than ever. This time, though, I’m not going to choose some pretty blank volume that I’ve bought on impulse and whose blank pages serve as a constant rebuke. I’ve got a blog I’ve not been using. I’m going public with this, hoping my friends and followers will hold me accountable. Please! Rattle my cage if you don’t see something I’ve written filled with joy coming up on your screen, let’s say, well….at least three times a week. I know JOURnal means daily. I don’t want to set myself an impossible standard. I promise they’ll be short. Not like this one. Brace yourself.
The truth is I’ve found it really hard to write anything since the final days of the campaign and then the cold water shock of the result. Everything seemed to draw my attention back to the Elephant in the news. I’ve felt like the energy has been sucked out of me. Oh, I’ve signed petitions and occasionally marched in the streets, but basically I’ve read the lamentations of others and nodded in agreement. There has been no lack of opportunity to indulge this recent tendency of mine.
It has to stop. None of it has made me feel effective.
Now, I know these gratitude journals work. I’ve used them before in the face of frivolous lawsuits, federal red tape, unjust circumstances of all stripes. WHY they’ve worked I never analyzed, until several years ago, I found this in Eugene Peterson’s translation of a section of the Sermon on the Mount. Here’s the way he puts Jesus’ words:
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.”
The “energies of prayer,” may be just what I need. It is no secret to those who know me, that before and after the election, the enemy I’ve had in my head has been Donald Trump and those who surround and support him. I’ve found a lot to be angry about. Honk if you agree. I’m not quite ready to say I’m capable of “loving” that enemy. But perhaps I can learn to love the opportunity that enemy presents. Here’s how I’ve evolved to this point.
I caught myself the other day laughing gleefully, rejoicing in another example of STUPIDITY by the current administration. I think it was an article about no one having thought to make hotel reservations for the U.S. delegation to the G20 Summit, and how 45 and his wife were sleeping in the guest house of the Hamburg city government instead of at The Four Seasons, and others in the delegation were finding accommodations wherever they could — like in the U.S. Consulate. True or not, I thought it was hilarious. Then I caught my breath mid-haha.
The problem with being raised with an intimate acquaintance of the Bible, is that relevant verses keep surfacing to bite you in the butt when you get off track. What came to mind in the middle of my laughter was that litany of things in First Corinthians, Chapter 13. (Not “Corinthians One,” as our illustrious leader….Oh, God, please help me. I can’t resist! Do you see why I need to do this?!) Anyway, there in that chapter is a list of things that LOVE (also referred to as “charity,” “affection” in various translations) doesn’t do. There are sixteen, more or less. Down there in the middle is one about not rejoicing when things go bad for others.
Now don’t get me wrong. I hope things go bad, REALLY bad, for those who have connived, lied, and worked against the interests of democracy, or are standing by like cowards, making excuses while others do it. I’m not about covering up wrong doing and “moving on.” What I’m concerned about is what this constant barrage of bad news is doing to me, on a personal, individual level. Since when have I become the kind of person to be constantly looking for the next example of idiocy and taking pleasure in it? Yech!
“The abiding consciousness of wrongdoing, tends to destroy the ability to do right.”
I love the English language. It’s one of the few idioms where a writer can write abstractly without pointing a finger at YOU or at ME, or even at HIM or THEM. Mary Baker Eddy, when she wrote that statement I’ve put in quotations above, didn’t say WHOSE abiding consciousness. It could pertain to any individual, any culture, any mental or moral atmosphere. I know it pertains to me. It’s probably played a part in this stagnation I’ve been experiencing.
Well, this is me, “responding with the energies of prayer.” Anne Lamott says there are three kinds: Help! Help! Help! is the first. Please! Please! Please! is the second. I’m moving right into the third: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
First entry in this prayer-filled gratitude journal:
I’m grateful for having set up this blog, and grateful for God giving you the patience to read this far. More to come.