“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” - Psalm 119:105
A while back I mentioned that I was working on a play for the grove drama team about the words of Psalm 119. At the time, I lamented that it wasn’t going well. I had a lot of loose ideas floating around in my head. And I was afraid that since I no longer have hair, those ideas would seep out through the bald spots on top if I didn’t get them down on paper. The problem was not in the typing, but in linking the ideas and expressing them, with meaning, in a fashion that is interesting. Or mildly interesting, anyway. I’m not a professional writer or anything. We’ll leave compelling and intricate plotlines to Arthur Miller and E.L. Doctorrow. Right now, I’m interested in the basics.
An interesting thing happened over the weekend, though. Saturday night, after church, I got a call from Chad and Christy saying that a small group of people had gathered at their place for drinks and conversation. Chad (junior) decided against joining the festivities due to the pain from his exploding ear syndrome, which is not as debilitating as my exploding eyeball syndrome, but immensely more painful.
Having spent the majority of the week at home, doing nothing, for hours on end, I couldn’t handle another night of boredom. So, despite the fact that my vision comprises a kaleidoscope of images dancing in intricate patterns across the visual cortex of my brain, and despite the fact that said lack of discernable information is exacerbated by both the darkness and rain that existed in droves at the point in time, I decided to drive there anyway.
Because I’m cool like that.
Luckily, I didn’t kill anybody, although there was one point where I found myself driving on the wrong side of a concrete median, trying to determine if the flashing lights headed towards me were those of a street sign or oncoming traffic. I think it would have been better if I closed my eyes and tried to drive from memory.
At any rate, I made it over to Chad and Christy’s whereupon I met Abbie, Katie, Ben, and Nathan engaged in both the consumption of fine liqueurs and in-depth philosophical conversation. The topics included such riveting subjects as Chad’s vehement hatred of sports, our collective reminiscence college days (I had more memories since I was in school for 8 years), and the definitions of truth and justice inherent Socratic philosophical dialogs. Euthyphro my ass!
We also made fart jokes. Because there were three guys in the room, and if I have learned one thing in life it’s that a gathering of men will always include at least a modicum of crude humor; regardless of age, education, or standing in the community.
The evening waned and most people went off to sleep. Ben, Nathan, and I stayed up until 4 in the morning talking about ideological differences between denominations in the Christian church, and how many Christian churches have let go their adherence to their roots in Jewish kashrut law. This was, I believe, an extension of our earlier discussion of overall Truth in the Socratic sense.
At any rate, Nathan and Ben passed out around four. We were downstairs, looking up stuff on the internet, when I heard Nathan start sawing logs from the couch and Ben wheezing from the office chair behind me.
“Ben,” I said. “They have couches upstairs. Why don’t you go sleep up there?”
“The t-shirts have different color paints,” he said earnestly, still caught in the haziness of new sleep.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“The t-shirts….have….different…color…paints!” he said, as if speaking to a child or a person of low intelligence, and then turned the chair away.
“Alright man,” I said, and went upstairs to sleep on the couch.
But I couldn’t fall asleep. I laid on the couch in the living room, thinking about the Psalm 119 play I’ve been working on and how to make it interesting, meaningful, and relevant. I also wanted to see if I could work in a fart joke or two (not really). I had what I feel were a couple of good characters, but the setting and the story arch – the idea that binded the characters and their stories – felt forced and contrived. It seemed only loosely related to the verses that described it. There was also no ending. It was pointless and stupid. Like reality television, it kept going when everybody involved wanted it to just die.
So I said a prayer there on the couch. I asked God to help me figure it out. “You don’t have to write it for me,” I said. “I enjoy this whole ‘discover it as I go’ style I have going. Just give me a nudge. Or let me know if it sucks. That’s fine if it does. I am forever in need of kindling”
Sometime later, I fell asleep.
Nathan left shortly after seven. I know this because the couch on which I was sleeping is located next to the door and you can’t hardly leave the house without making some kind of noise. I know this also because, despite the fact that he was now awake and moving, it sounded like he was still sawing logs. I suppose it could have been Abbie or Katie, but this figure had facial hair. Unless I am mistaken, neither Abbie nor Katie has a goatee and large mutton chops. If they do, then I might as well give up and register for status as a proud member of the visually impaired because I’ve never seen it.
I woke up and I had an idea. It was an idea about the play. It solved a few of the questions I’d labored over for a week or so and it lead to other, easier questions which, in turn, lead to plot points I had not considered. And I got an ending that I think is experimental but interesting. Now, rather than having a play that is overly complicated and uselss, I have something with which I can work. And I have an ending about which I am excited (and I’m not going to tell you what it is, so don’t ask).
Of course, I attribute this to the prayer I said as I fell asleep.
In Christian circles, people often talk about the good things in their life as a gift from God. For some people, this is a difficult concept. For a person who spends 10 years in school and immense hours of training to become a skilled physician or lawyer or craftsman or parent or whatever, saying that this was a gift from God and not largely through their own hard work, is a difficult thing.
For me, writing is definitely a gift from God. I don’t want to brag, but it has always come easily to me. One day, when I was a kid, I read a story my sister had written and I thought, “I can do that.” And I did. And the words just came to me.
Rest assured, I have worked hard at it. I write several pages of something every day, whether it is a blog entry or a short story or a play or a loose conglomerations of words that have no real meaning. Rest assured also that I do not consider myself to be a genius or even “real good.” There are literally thousands of people out there who write better than I do; who have a better sense of humor, a more in depth understanding of scripture and how it pertains to life, or who ask better questions with more open honesty.
But I’m not bad. And what insights and epiphanies and interesting turns of phrase I do come across while I waste time pounding out words on my computer are undoubtedly through no work of my own. They just happen. I reach into the ether and pull out something shiny and new. When things are really good, it feels like I’m transcribing for someone else. The great joy I get while writing, even things as pointless as this blog entry, has to be a gift. What else could it be?
And when I have insights like the one I had this past weekend, it is very easy to believe without a hint of doubt in the existence of God and his love.