I have concluded I must be a masochist (one who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious) since I continue to open my news feed each morning.
Why else would I let the actions and words of another person assault me day after day?
Why else would I want to read about the latest acts of cruelty, the plans for the poor to pay yet again to support gains they will never share, the dismantling of institutions, the demeaning of good people’s reputations, the abuses of power, the lies and the raw greed?
Each day my list of resentments grows longer. Each day my anger grows hotter. Each day I take some comfort in knowing that, even on my worst day, I am nothing like him.
And that is when God interrupted me with a one word response, “Really?”
Being in the presence of the Judge reminded me that I am not the Judge, but if I were, I would find the defendant guilty of pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth (The list was a lot longer, but I thought it best to lead with the most popular seven.)
“Really, Joy?” God asked again.
“I’d think of all people, I stopped— realizing my mistake. I mean being God and all, I would think You would be pretty angry with him too! In fact, aren’t You even a little put out with the way he tries to manipulate Your name for his benefit?”
“We’re not talking about him Joy.“
“I thought we were.”
“No, I’m talking to you about you.“
“Oh.“ This was not the way I expected this conversation to go.
“You used to end each day and begin each morning talking with me about the times we were acting in collaboration and the times…”
“And the times I went rogue,” I said before God could finish the indictment.
“But don’t You care that he shames people and puts them in danger?”
“Don’t You care that he makes light of all that You and I hold dear?”
“Surely, You agree with me that he is beyond redemption.”
My voice had risen to a peak. At this point I didn’t have to look to see that God’s arms were folded and one eyebrow was raised. I suspect it was a look Moses had come to know well.
“Are You saying You don’t want me to be up on current events?”
“No, I’m saying to take pleasure in someone else’s failings is a failure itself.”
“But I don’t take…” I stopped again. “Well, maybe a little.”
“I have an idea.”
“Oh I get it, if I’m listening to You I will have a similar idea.”
“That’s usually how it works.”
“You want me to stop judging him.”
“Start praying for him?”
“Yes, but first…”
“Oh… well first You want to hear from me about…?”
I look but God is playing the strong silent type.
“…about the times I screw up?”
So You can forgive me—because that’s what You do?
“Hey! do You forgive him too? Never mind, I know we’re talking about me right now.”
“And you want me to pray for courage and wisdom and all the things I will need to be a witness that recognizes truth and fights for justice?”
“You want me to be Your agent in doing good things that bring healing. And you want me to always work within the community, the Body, to accomplish these things. (Pause) I think we’ve had this conversation before.”
“It’s a learning curve.”
So when I read the news tomorrow morning there will be no more gloating, no snide remarks, no bad jokes, no…”
“Instead there will be a holy resolve.”
“And no little sorrow and … probably some tears.”
“Always a good choice.”
So tomorrow morning before I read the news I will do a personal inventory with You”
“And then I will thank You for fresh starts and I will pray for grace to forgive, courage to act and a tender listening heart to be more aware.”
“And things will change.”
“Things always change.”
“I mean, change for the good?”
“That’s the plan.”
– Joy Sylvester-Johnson