On a recent podcast, political strategist Paul Begala was commenting on the strident forms of conflict expressed in the political sphere, especially on social media. He admitted that he was deeply involved on Twitter, with thousands of followers. Almost as an aside, he said:
For Lent last year, I was going to give up drinking or swearing, but my wife suggested instead, to put a positive thought into the world each day for Lent. So, every day in Lent, I put out a tweet that was positive. One day it was expressing appreciation for someone’s kind deed. Another day it was affirming the gracious acts I saw all around me. Every day, I ended the tweet with “Let’s not forget, people are good.”
Any political tweet Begala posts will get immediate likes or dislikes of 3000 or more. But the Lenten tweets? No likes, no comments, no re-posts. None at all.
When all is said and done, what is more important – being loving or being right?
The most recent episode of Ted Lasso offered that wise and penetrating question. The challenges of our moment – in the world, in our politics, in our faith communities, in our families – are so intense that it is difficult to remember the goodness of each day. It seems increasingly that our cultural context is pre-wired for strife and conflict. If we are to reverse this trend, it seems to me that the church and those in it are a good place to start.
However, this is not yet another item to add to our already stuffed list of things we need to do. This “assignment” is a gift of grace because it can put us back in touch with the author of all grace, kindness, and love.
Maya Angelou was fond of saying several things with a similar theme:
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.
Sometimes all you need in love is to make each other happy, to make each other laugh. So long as you can still do that ten years down the line then I think you’re gold. Never let laughter slip from your relationship.
Determine to live life with flair and laughter.
Frederick Buechner has written about his “conversion” when he was a young, successful author in New York City:
…I started going to church regularly, and what was farcical about it was not that I went but my reason for going, which was simply that on the same block where I lived there happened to be a church with a preacher I had heard of and that I had nothing all that much better to do with my lonely Sundays. The preacher was a man named George Buttrick, and Sunday after Sunday I went, and sermon after sermon I heard.
And then there came one sermon with one particular phrase in it that does not even appear in a transcript of his words that somebody sent me more than twenty-five years later so I can only assume that he must have dreamed it up at the last minute and ad-libbed it—and on just such foolish, tenuous, holy threads as that, I suppose, hang the destinies of us all. Jesus Christ refused the crown that Satan offered him in the wilderness, Buttrick said, but he is king nonetheless because again and again he is crowned in the heart of the people who believe in him. And that inward coronation takes place, Buttrick said, “among confession, and tears, and great laughter.”
It was the phrase great laughter that did it, did whatever it was that I believe must have been hiddenly in the doing all the years of my journey up till then. It was not so much that a door opened as that I suddenly found that a door had been open all along which I had only just then stumbled upon.
Somewhere among Paul Begala’s kind tweets, Ted Lasso’s insightful question, Maya Angelou’s words of wisdom, and Frederick Buechner’s conversion experience, there is a foolish, tenuous, holy thread waiting for us to grasp today. We might even call it an open door.
Be loving more than you need to be right. The world may never “get it right,” but acts of love will live on. Don’t worry if you get no response at first. Kindness, grace, and gentleness take time to take root. Just ask Jesus as he looked out at the crowd on the Sermon on the Mount.
And laugh. Not the manufactured laughter of cynicism, but the laughter whose root is God. This laughter gives us oxygen and life. Ministry is joy. It should lead us into fields of great laughter. Even and especially in days like these.