This post was written in response to the WordPress.com Weekly Writing Challenge.
Well, at least it’s killing my joy.
I guess I’ve kind of known this for a while but it took a 40 day fast to expose the damage. As a junkie – political news junkie, just to clarify – I needed time away from the drugs (i.e., political news websites and cable news) to remember what life was like without them.
When our church observed a time of fasting and prayer to coincide with the Impact Connecticut 40 Days of Worship, I felt God prompting me to give up political news. I was so relieved – He didn’t say chocolate or television or baseball! Just political news. I actually wondered if I heard Him correctly, but time and again I heard the same answer: give up political news.
So with Syria in crisis and the budget battle looming, I logged off of my favorite poli-news sites, cold turkey. However, after a few days, I realized that political news is everywhere: on local television, on cable television, in magazines, on the radio, on the web, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t even turn on the Disney channel without Michelle Obama lecturing me about exercise. (If I wanted to be exercising, would I be watching Disney channel?) Maybe that’s not exactly political news, but I can’t see her or hear her without thinking about politics so she was off limits. Period.
Ultimately, I found that to keep my fast, I needed to avoid news and politics in every shape and form. So for most of September and half of October, that’s exactly what I did. Now I can spot (and scroll past) a political meme on Facebook without reading a single word of the post!
One night while channel surfing, I stumbled upon a tease for the nightly news: “Will the government reach a deal before midnight to avoid shutdown? Find out at 11.” My jaw almost hit the floor. What?! Shutdown?! Tonight?! That’s how out of touch I was.
Except for that one brief moment of shock and curiosity, I felt only relief – I didn’t have to go there. Didn’t have to listen to all the spin and arguments and back-biting. Didn’t have to let their mess ruin my day. And why should I? After all, in 40 days not much has changed. The Middle East is still a flipping mess. U.S. immigration will continue to be a disaster for the unforeseeable future. And politicians in Congress and the White House continue to fight over how to spend (or not spend) our money.
Seems that life goes on whether Nichole is getting all hot and bothered or not.
How liberating it is to know that the world still spins when we are sleeping – or watching I Love Lucy reruns instead of the morning news.
A little perspective is always good. But God used this fast to do so much more than give me perspective.
Years of watching and listening to the vitriol, contention, angst and even well-intentioned debate that permeates our news cycles, had invaded my heart like a bitter poison. As the fast wore on, I felt the poison seeping out of me, washing away. It was like an acrimony detox without the withdrawals. I relaxed. I relinquished my defensive position and felt the heavy armor melting away.
As my heart began to soften, I realized that my addiction, as addictions generally do, increased my misery rather than alleviated it; and the steady diet of hostility had made me…well…pissy. And pissy people don’t listen well. They don’t take in new information well. And even if they’re right, pissy people aren’t very gracious.
But God is. Gracious, I mean. Always. And He convicted me in the gentlest of ways. In love, He showed me myself. His mercy brought me to genuine tears of sorrow. Sorrow for the bad attitude I had been harboring and most of all, sorrow for the way I had allowed that attitude to keep me from loving others well.
Sure, I have plenty of family and friends with whom I differ politically and I love them. Always, always, I have known that we can agree to disagree, but still, somehow, there was a small part of my heart that I wouldn’t give to them…or let them enter. I was on guard.
Why? Because I hate being misunderstood. More than almost anything else in the world, I hate being misunderstood. Which means that if you think I’m a bigot or a woman-hater or a Bible thumper or a racist, I will be overcome with an almost irrepressible urge to defend, explain and validate myself. Sure, in part, that’s because I’m prideful and want your approval, but at the deepest level, I want to be understood because I want to be known.
Isn’t that what we all desire…to be known…to be truly, completely and thoroughly known?
But if I’m so busy trying to make sure you understand me, how will I ever really get to know you?
So I am laying down my idol of being understood by others. After all, God is the only One who truly knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. To search for understanding in anyone else is idolatry, plain and simple.
It’s not so much that God has changed my values or my principles or my opinion of how government and society should operate. I can’t even say I plan to vote differently. But He has changed my heart as only He can, because He knows me. He knows when I sit and when I rise, He perceives my thoughts from afar, He discerns my going out and my lying down, He is familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue He knows it completely. He hems me in behind and before. He has laid his hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139)