Whenever it is my turn to write a reflection for The Gazette, it always takes awhile to decide what to write about. Being a person of words, and given the opportunity to use them, something inside me draws back, not wanting to write anything.
Of course, there is also something in me that wants to write something profound and meaningful, something someone might find helpful if they happened to chance upon it. Given that this is the age of media when almost everyone has a chance to say something, and there are many voices, that is a tall challenge.
There is the temptation to write something relevant about a contemporary issue, a gospel message sent into difficult times. There are many things from which to choose; the ongoing struggle with racism in American culture and the associated issue of policing, or the increasing polarization in cultural discourse.
Or I could write about the looming ecological catastrophe caused by industrialization and the difficulties that result from disagreements over its nature and extent, its causes and solutions. Or perhaps the topic of what happened on Jan. 6, conspiracy theories, the lack of trust in experts (any experts).
Of course, one would write about anything to do with the pandemic; mask-wearing and physical distancing, vaccinations, hesitancy, and all the various restrictions. And all of these are a part of the larger context of globalization, immigration, economic realities such at debt, unemployment, or the widening gulf between the rich and poor.
Surely there must be a singular Christian or at least religious set of answers creating a moral voice that can speak to all these concerns in a way that would provide necessary and convincing guidance that could give moral and spiritual power to achievable solutions. But, of course, there is not. Christians themselves often disagree. In fact, the issue of the decline of religion in general and Christianity in particular is added to the list of concerns to write about. In addition there are many items of personal faith that would make worthy topics.
More devotional approaches come to mind. I would like to write about the times I have spent recently on night walks looking at the sky, the constancy of its patterns, and the realization that there is much more out there than can be seen, even with telescope. Or maybe about my recent trip to Niagara Falls with all their noisy commotion on the northern end of the island they call “Goat,” while on the southern end, at the place where the water decides whether to go over Horseshoe Falls or American Falls, there is a stillness, a kind of temporary peace.
I could write about the joy of listening to the sound of children playing as I walk around my neighborhood, watching old movies, the completion of simple projects, or the warmth of the sun after a long winter. Any of these would to easily eat up the 650 words I have been given. I am overwhelmed by all the choices. Perhaps readers might also be a little overwhelmed by all that is presently going on.
I feel like there should be a point to this, something that preaches a little, but not in a preachy way. I have no such point, so I will let the words of the 131st psalm do the work. It is a sermon, a confession, and a prayer, and it offers the best advice I’ve heard:
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a child quieted at its mother’s breast;
like a child that is quieted is my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and for evermore.”
Dr. Mark Allison is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Delaware.