DECEMBER 1st. We have survived weeks of the impeachment inquiry, a dismal string of Redskins games, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday. Just ahead: More politics, CyberMonday and, in just three and a half weeks, Christmas.
My plan for this month? Focus on cinnamon, candles, carols, and children. Most of all children.
People ask me what I think of the impeachment hearings. My response: I don’t like bullies. I don’t like it when President Trump calls out opponents on Twitter using brutally dismissive language. It’s beneath the office of the president.
But I also don’t like the fact that Democrats, driven by hatred and hell-bent on removing Trump since the day he was elected, have used every trick, including polluting the objectivity of the FBI, to accomplish that goal. They are bullies, too.
Our politics are a mess. Why? Because I am.
In saying that I’m paraphrasing a story (which may be apocryphal) about British author G. K. Chesterton. Around 1908, the London Times asked him, along with other authors and thinkers, to write an article answering the question, “What is wrong with the world?”
Chesterton’s answer was succinct: “I am. Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton.”
Chesterton was echoing Paul, who, in a letter to his young associate Timothy, wrote: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
Really, you might ask? Worse than Herod? Nero?
Paul’s point is simply this: Inside each of us lies a dark potential to hate, to kill, to abuse, to act only in our own self-interest, to steal, to envy, to destroy, all in varying degrees of intensity. Without restraint, or when we act as a mob, all hell can break loose.
And so I, a generally mild-mannered widow who has been thinking about politics since I was a kid, can seethe with hatred toward those who would arrogantly and self-righteously tear down a president they don’t like, or the blind guides who believe destroying a baby in the womb is a right, or even those liberal social media warriors who poke me, hoping for a response.
Too many of us have gone down that road. Spend five minutes on Twitter and you’ll see it. Together, unrestrained, we can do great harm, to our culture, our country, and to our own souls.
We are body, mind, and spirit, and December is a good month for feeding the latter. Long dark, cold nights beg us to light candles or a fire, to cook soups and stews, to bake bread and ginger crinkles, to read a good book, to be still and contemplate bigger realities than what’s going on in Washington. Handel’s Messiah and C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” are already moving my thoughts in that direction.
Several years ago, Ann Voskamp published a book called “One Thousand Gifts.” In it, she documents her own struggle to overcome depression and anxiety, the fallout of a childhood trauma. Searching for the answers to some big questions—including the “why?” behind the death of her young sister—she discovered some help in the Greek word eucharisteo.
She writes, “The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’ Jesus took the bread, saw it as grace, and gave thanks. … Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the word charis, grace. But it also holds its derivative, chara, meaning ‘joy.’”
Voskamp made the connection between recognizing a grace (gift) of God, giving thanks, and finding joy. And so she began making a list of simple gifts:
“1. Morning shadows across the old floors.
2. Jam piled high on the toast.”
Well into her gratitude journey, she began to internalize the love of God spilled out over her every single day in these gifts, and the “why” became less important than the “Who.”
I read Voskamp’s book when it first came out. Now I am reading it again, two years after my husband’s death, seven months after my mother’s, with ugly politics (from both sides) filling the news and adding to the darkness. In a fancy little notebook, I’m making my own list:
1. A beautiful drive down the Colonial Parkway.
2. Time with three of my five grandchildren.
3. A gorgeous walk through the woods with my dog …
Progressives may accuse me of simply trying to avoid acknowledging the sins of the Republican president. I am not. I’ve written before about my problems with Trump. I am just refusing to join the cacophony. I can’t control how the politicians in Washington behave; I can keep from being equally obnoxious to those with whom I disagree. I can feed, rather than poison, my soul.
You don’t have to practice Christianity to benefit from being grateful. According to Psychology Today, gratitude improves both your physical and psychological health. It enhances your ability to empathize and reduces aggression, improves your sleep, raises your self-esteem, and improves your ability to handle stress.
So during this dark month, I will light some candles, make some cookies, put on the soup, and pick up a good book, especially the Good Book. And I will be grateful, for food, for family, a warm house, and children.
Most of all children.