Dan Clendenin says that “one of the most dangerous spiritual places we can live is in the deluded notion that we are a fully sighted person.”
There’s something to that.
The Westboro Baptist “Church” is famous for protesting the funerals of American soldiers and making hateful statements about all kinds of people. I’ve often wondered what drives those people to such extremes? Probably a lot of complicated factors. But at least one has to be the deep-rooted belief that they see the world rightly. Because folks don’t treat others as worthless unless they actually believe they are.
It’s easy to get into trouble when we think we’ve got it all figured out. We may not spout hate speech but we have our plans and ambitions. Why consult God in prayer? We know who to vote for. Why listen to another perspective? We know what’s right and wrong. Why bother reading scripture?
We know. We know. We know.
But you know what I’ve been learning? The healthiest people don’t just admit they don’t know, they celebrate it. The wise readily admit, “I. Don’t. Know.”
A newspaper once asked, “What’s Wrong with the World?” G.K. Chesterton wrote back, “Dear Sirs: I am.”
If we hope to see by the light, we must first acknowledge we’re in the dark. The first step in any recovery is admitting there’s a problem.
Jesus said he didn’t come for the healthy but the sick. A healthy person doesn’t need a doctor. A sick person does.
The righteous can keep on being righteous. But sinners? We need help.
May today be the day we ask for it.
Five years ago I emailed a writer named Ben Fountain. I had recently finished my first manuscript and I was looking for any every kind of advice I could get about the publishing world. Fortunately for me, I was able to get Mr. Fountain’s email from another writer who said he was open to me reaching out to him. At the time, Mr. Fountain had published a collection of short stories, entitled BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVARA. The collection is nothing short of astounding. And that’s not just my opinion. The book was awarded the ridiculously prestigious Pen/Hemingway award. Anyway, Mr. Fountain responded to my email with haste and carried on a substantive dialogue in the following weeks that served then and now as a guiding light. I say all this because I recently read his first novel, BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK, and it too is marvelous. And again, it’s not just me saying it. This book was named a finalist in the National Book Award contest — which is basically the biggest deal in writing. If that doesn’t mean much to you, you’ve probably heard of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The screenwriter for that movie is now adapting Mr. Fountain’s novel for the silver screen. He’s that big of a deal. A few months ago I emailed Mr. Fountain again to tell him some good news in my own writing life, and he responded immediately. The man is just as gracious now as he was back then, which is pretty cool considering that many critics believe his book is the most important war book this country has published since CATCH-22. But here’s the reason I’m telling this story. Five years ago, Mr. Fountain gave me the best advice I’ve ever received when it came to writing. He said, “Write the next thing.” No matter what else you do, he wrote, make sure to go on and write the next thing. Writing, just like life, is a winding road. We never know how long things will take or what they will actually look like when they arrive. All we can do is work hard and hope for the best. Write the next thing. I have held on to that wisdom with a ferocious grip over the past few years, and I would encourage you to do the same. No matter how many rejections you receive. No matter how frustrated or blocked you might get. No matter how many times you feel inadequate. Shove it down deep and write the next thing. Because you never know, the next thing, might just be the best thing.