Writer’s block

Christ offers words of wisdom when we’re at a loss over the current state of affairs

By George Valadie

I have no words. And I’m really, really sad about it.

If you write for this publication — or any publication — and your goal is to say something that you hope will be meaningful to someone, something you hope might enlighten, or inspire, or bring a smile, something that asks readers to pause or ponder … if your goal is any of those things, then words are kind of a big deal.

And I have none. I’m out.

Don’t get me wrong. When I saw the news about recently deceased George Floyd and how he died, my words flowed. When his death reminded me of others like it, I had plenty to say.

When I watched the destruction of businesses, words came out easy. All the spitting and screaming, raging and rioting, they rolled off my tongue freely.

Throw out a topic and I can respond. Privilege? Race? Life? Police? Prejudice? Equality? The flag? Freedom? The kids in my school? The kids in my family? My grandfather, who was raised in a manner I was not?

But that’s me talking to myself.

Here’s the thing though: naïve as I might be, I’ve always had another goal with my writing. I seek to combine words in ways that leave readers with the tiniest bit of peace of mind amid the tumult of their days. Give me five minutes of your day and I at least promise an effort that settles the heart.

If you’re willing to share a few moments of your time with me, I owe you that much. Life is hard enough. I have no desire to raise your blood pressure. Other writers might have that goal. Some do it for a living, getting paid to raise your pulse, and the higher the better.

Me, I’m just writing for fun, hoping to offer a little perspective, or maybe a different one.

But I’ve come to realize I’m out of words. Pretty much done. At least on this topic.

I don’t think I have any that won’t spark someone to hate — me for sure; likely others, too. And that’s just not something I want to be a part of.

And yes, even silence provokes an attack.

My sadness is deeper — I’m not even sure words that bring about peace and unity actually exist anymore. The emphasis is on anymore. But they used to.

Or we used to.

At least none exist spoken by someone not named Jesus.

And even He knew what the impact of his Father’s message would be.

“For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

And it’s not the fault of our words nor the way they get combined. It’s us. We’re the problem.

Go public with a real stand on anything other than Coke vs. Pepsi and you’re going to get scourged.

And maybe even then someone somewhere will launch that first missile, which begets a second that begets a third that …

Yes, some will agree with you, clicking their likes and smiling emojis and adding their “you preach it, brother!” But those with differing opinions — and there will be those for sure — aren’t likely to drape their sentiments in a polite “I think I may have to disagree with you, good sir.”

No, they’ll come gift-wrapped in disgust — vile at the worst, sarcastic at the least. They’re often mean, occasionally threatening; responses that question your sincerity, your intelligence, your lineage, your humanity.

I’ve been reading the many — and I do mean many — statements that have been offered on the topic. Churches and schools, businesses and bishops, governments and newspapers, parishes and people — all have felt compelled to weigh in.

I’ve agreed with some, not so much with others.

But whether or not they’ve chosen to allow a reply, they’re likely to get one. Then its “let the games begin” as we choose up sides and go to war. A war that often turns ugly — really, really ugly.

For me it began to feel irreparable each time prayer has been encouraged as a solution, or THE solution. Seriously, how does prayer get attacked? Oh, but it does.

“Tired of wasting time.”

“Disingenuous.”

“Out of touch.”

“Tone deaf.”

Similar responses offered by all creeds and colors.

In God We Trust — except for this.

Some believe God is the only solution to the problem. Some believe He caused it when His creations didn’t turn out all looking the same. Most lie in the middle, knowing we need Him, losing sight of the fact He needs us, too.

After all, who else will do His work here?

One fact I’ve come to appreciate more than any other through all of this chaos — human beings, all of us, are flawed. Smart at times, really stupid at others. Heaven-bound on occasion, hurtful more than we should be. Sometimes more than we mean to be.

We’ve done incredible things to one another; we’ve said worse. Listening is rare. Hearing even more so.

I don’t just think you’re wrong, I hate you for what you believe. The divide has no middle ground.

And when was the last time anyone convinced you to change your mind?

It occurs to me we used to be better at forgiveness, too. We had a great role model for that: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Maybe those are the words I’ve been searching for.

Dear God — Please heal the hurting — they seem to be everywhere. Amen.

 

George Valadie is president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga.

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