This column had about 15 false starts this week. And when I say “false start,” I’m really talking about the internal process, what I was going to write about. Oh, I know I was going to write about the elections and post election, but what that was like, the ultimate punchline for the story, that I didn’t have worked out in my head, where these columns are often narrated before they’re typed.
But I had some bad feelings, to be honest, and that led to an internal rewrite dialogue about 15 times or so.
A couple things in play here: One, and just to be clear, a national election is a big event in journalism-world. Sure, it’s a big event everywhere, but in the journo space everyone’s looking for the latest information and everyone wants to be the reporter with the latest information. No seriously, even out here in the Arkansas wilderness you can get side gigs calling in reports to national organizations. And they call you looking for help. Busy, lots of coffee.
The second thing: Let’s say, just you and me talking here, I write editorials. And let’s say, while we’re talking, that these editorials at times have taken a stand on a candidate or policy outside the conventional wisdom of where they were published. And let’s say in so doing they inflamed some passions.
And say what you will about inflamed passions, but these times we’re in, where hearts are worn on sleeves and angry is the new happy, inflamed means “on fire big time.” Lots of heat out there for the catching.
Finally, let’s say journalist me is what a national news organization would label as an “Evangelical Christian.” And let’s take these three points, the journalist thing, the editorial/inflamed passion thing and the (they call me) evangelical thing and say some people from a distance were, um, less than complimentary, even questioning my, shall we say, authenticity.
And the election’s dragging out as ballots are being counted and angry and busy and not enough sleep...
by Friday night I was worn out. And honestly, one more charge about my authenticity would just be more than I could take. I don’t know what I would do, but I sure couldn’t take it.
That column, going to bed that night, that was about number four of 15 and was not going to be a fun read.
Woke up the next morning to a text from a long-time friend. He knew all this was going on, and is also someone who would be labeled evangelical and whose politics are on the whole opposite of mine. It was a nice encouraging text, really pleasant to read. I still have friends, felt better.
Took it easy. I was playing guitar at church the next day and rehearsed some songs and got all that together. Columns, roughly seven and eight written in my head and they were not quite as bitter as those grouped around number four.
Still, going to church Sunday morning and wondering. I mean, people in the distance questioning my authenticity and yeah, sure, church held my friends, but this is a very very inflamed time were were in. And oh man we were getting back on two services plus Sunday School so I’d be there for a while and just, with everything else, really didn’t need any conflict, finger pointing, anything like that. Just didn’t need it.
Column, say, 10 and 11 written on the internal typewriter on the way there. They were pensive as much as anything.
It went fine. Heck, it went great, better than great. All this, what is ultimately nonsense in the world, the noise, the heat, and there we just came together, worshiped, studied the bible, enjoyed sharing the experience with each other and just, it was what church is supposed to be, it was embracing, it was comforting.
Between services 13 and 14 in my mind. They were nice, calm.
All that noise going on in the rest of the world, and just able to rest in my faith. Man, after the week I was just coming off of, I needed that.
And while the noise continues at the fringes of my awareness, things are better. Central desk isn’t calling me for reports, outcomes are more-or-less decided and my faith, the experience of my faith, remains intact. I share it with friends as they share theirs with me and we found, find, comfort in it.
15 and the punchline: Life is good; life goes on. Friends matter; faith matters.