“…an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.”
It’s one of my favorite lines from President Bush’s 2001 inaugural address, borrowed from a letter that Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed. It’s also one of the ways I’ve begun to explain how, four weeks after my Walk to Emmaus, I’ve been released from my addiction to politics–and why this blog exists.
“Hi, my name is Art, and I’m a partisan Rottweiler.”
By declaring a watershed in a lifelong battle, I don’t mean to make light of the struggles of those fighting substance abuse problems of a more conventional nature. We each have our consuming compulsions (in religion-speak: idols). What to one person is completely innocuous can be utterly corrosive for someone else.
I recently finished Eric Clapton’s excellent biography and if it slams home one point above all others it is that we all have addictions and they all require the intervention of a higher power. (Clapton’s recovery began, he writes, only when he sank to his knees, alone in his room in a Minnesota rehab facility, asking for God’s help. His testimony about what happened after that is, well… amazing… adding ex-post-facto depth to his 1970s hit “In the Presence of the Lord”.)
Running was my own personal ‘jones’ for a time. A long time, actually. Still is, some might argue. Yeah, I still do it, but not with the same kind of monomania I used to. A blog post devoted to all of the ways in which it was–at times–destructive would fill a short book… and possibly will someday. Granted, such judgments are relative; they may seem quite strange to outside observers. Ryan Hall’s shift from running as god to running for God is one such example. Outwardly, he remains a world-class distance runner. Inwardly, it is an entirely different pursuit. I know others who have undergone similar awakenings who still compete at a very high level. What’s subtle and interesting and slightly recursive is that what changes inwardly eventually shows up on the outside as well–just in different ways from what we might expect, i.e., not necessarily in a cessation of the activity, but in the way it and the person doing it engages with others.
Which brings me back to politics. It’s not that I’ve shed or significantly changed my political beliefs with the advent of this blog. It’s just that, with what I can only describe as a near-instant change in outlook in answer to prayer, I feel released from being driven by them. Why? Because they interfere with the prime directive, if you will: relationship–both the horizontal kind (with other people who don’t share them and/or find my expressions of them irritating) and the vertical kind (If I’m obsessing about politics I am, almost by definition, not trusting that God has other missions for me and that He’s got it all well in hand.)
Now here’s where it gets delicate, though it’s not intended that way. It’s an open secret that I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton. “Join the club”, some might say. I’m not sure what the others might say; most of them are kind enough to say nothing. So I was reading this headline on Drudge today. (Must… keep… Drudge… to a… minimum… must… close… window… aargh!) and he had a link about a Clinton press conference today during which a bunch of flags fell over:
After a very Presidential-esque news conference – Clinton turned around to leave the reporters and their peppering questions. A staffer swooped open a curtain, and chaos ensued. Four large American flags came crashing in front of Senator Clinton as she headed for the door. In a controlled panic, the staffers and the Senator attempted to catch the flags before they fell to the ground.
Reading this, I couldn’t help thinking of two things: 1) another gathering I attended last June in which a similar thing happened and 2) how sometimes it’s the small, unexpected, even completely accidental things that interfere with the best laid schemes of men (and women), particularly those in the public spotlight. And on Veteran’s Day, no less.
The list of such things is long and non-partisan: Gerald Ford tripping on the golf course, Jimmy Carter weak-kneed during a road race, George HW Bush barfing at a Japanese state banquet, his son routinely mincing his lines, Johnson showing off an abdominal surgery scar in the shape of Vietnam, Ed Muskie breaking into tears at a press conference. That kind of thing. Uncontrollable. Not particularly someone’s fault or intent but incredibly powerful in highlighting what’s really going on.
Such occurrences introduce a wild-card into public perceptions, often underscoring what many may already been thinking but couldn’t quite put into words–or didn’t want to. It makes me imagine that God does indeed have a sense of humor. He works very well in the gaps.