I watch the news on television every day, more than once a day. In the past several months of election rancor, I often watched or listened all day. In that period of all-day news, I sometimes neglected the more weighty matters gripping our nation and gripping the churches, mosques and synagogues of our nation.
I inched closer to repenting of that when I recalled the words of Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel: ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.”
As police crossed the line of humanity, as protesters cried out for justice in more fervent voice, as divisive politics built walls between neighbors and family members, as a pandemic continued its ravaging spread, I wondered how “justice, mercy and faith” could be eluding me.
Isn’t it about where we choose to focus our attention? Isn’t it difficult to refocus our attention when our president persists in divisive rhetoric designed to grab our attention and hold it captive?
Perhaps it’s time for this president’s airtime to be over. Perhaps it would be better for us if we could declare, “Enough! No available airtime!” Haven’t we heard enough of his rants and tweets, his incendiary speech? Haven’t we heard enough of his indiscriminate name-calling? Haven’t we heard more than enough of his disrespectful, hate-filled, divisive rhetoric?
I, for one, will no longer give the president airtime. Why? Because often my responses to hearing him are anger, disgust, self-righteousness and even hate. And those emotions darken my soul. Those emotions do not belong in my soul at all, because they have a way of displacing love, compassion, gentleness, peace, hope, light and grace — all the good emotions God plants in the soul through Spirit breath.
I think of the beloved hymn with words by Edwin Hatch and music by B.B. McKinney:
Holy Spirit, breathe on me until my heart is clean.
Let sunshine fill my inmost parts with not a cloud between.
Breathe on me, breathe on me, Holy Spirit, breathe on me;
Take thou my heart, cleanse every part,
Holy Spirit breathe on me.
In these days of harmful politics, racial injustice, coronavirus fear and isolation, I need a Spirit-cleansing of my heart and soul. God has been ready to begin the cleansing for a while now. God has heard my repentant prayers admitting anger and hatred. God has waited patiently for me to embrace the stillness that can begin to heal my soul. Stillness longing for healing. Stillness whispering words of repentance. Stillness yearning for calm. Stillness seeking peace. Stillness waiting in solitude for the presence of the Healer of the Soul.
I hope we can go there — to that place of solitude where one can breathe slower, sigh deeper, listen attentively to the whisper of God and the breath of the Spirit. I hope we can go to solitude’s “luminous warmth” as in John O’Donohue’s poem in which he describes the soul as the divine space:
There is a lantern in the soul, which makes your solitude luminous.
Solitude need not remain lonely. It can awaken to its luminous warmth.
The soul redeems and transfigures everything because the soul is the divine space.
When you inhabit your solitude fully and experience its outer extremes of isolation and abandonment, you will find that, at its heart, there is neither loneliness nor emptiness but intimacy and shelter.
Right now, in the midst of the disheartening mood of the year 2020 and as we approach the season of Advent, I pray we will enter the solitude we desperately need so that we can experience our souls as the divine space our souls should be.
Politicians, continue your rancor in loud and powerful voice! I will not hear you from my place of solitude, from my soul’s divine space. And as for you, Mr. President, I have no further airtime for you. I refuse to sit in front of my television for another minute, anticipating — hoping — that you will finally say or do something appropriate, beneficial, worthwhile, productive, compassionate or kind.
Instead, I will change the channel to more soul-healing television. In fact, I will try to leave the television altogether and go to a better place, higher ground where peace and silence and reverence and awe can begin the holy work of healing my soul.
I am taking a sacred pause from my life that has been so anxious and worried and isolated. I will wait there in that sacred space where my “soul redeems and transfigures everything.” May it be so for each of us.
Kathy Manis Findley is an ordained Baptist minister with Greek Orthodox roots. Now retired in Macon, Ga., she spent her 38-year ministry serving as a pastor, hospital chaplain, trauma counselor and missionary to Uganda. She is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is certified in victimology, trauma intervention and child forensic interviewing. She is the author of two serious books, Voices of our Sisters and The Survivor’s Voice: Healing the Invisible Wounds of Violence and Abuse, and just for fun, one Kindle novel.