I’ve been working on a commissioned article for LifeWay’s Deacon Magazine, about serving in city government. It hasn’t been easy. For some reason, I’ve always resisted writing about my government days. And even when I tried, it’s been a struggle. The piece for Lifeway, for instance, went through at least two dozen iterations before I simply had to send it in to meet deadline. Yet, I can write about running a marathon or dancing with Cyndi or playing with my granddaughter in an instant. Why is writing about government so hard?
I don’t know.
Serving on the Midland City Council dominated my thoughts and my time for twelve years so you’d think I would have plenty to write about. Reading through some of my old journals preparing for the magazine piece stirred up a few painful memories that were so fresh I had to put it all down and go walk around the park to clear my head.
But in fact, the painful moments in government were rare. During the years I served we did some great things that made life better for thousands of people. We rebuilt neighborhoods, created parks, and countless other projects only government is willing to do, and I’ll always be ready to brag about those projects.
So, again, why has writing about government and politics been so hard for me?
I suppose I’ve been wary about using my writer’s insights to tell government stories. I was afraid it might cheapen my other writing, my spiritual writing. Even as a teacher I have been overly-cautious, according to some, about mentioning politics or encouraging a particular political message. I remember something my former pastor, Dr. James Denison, once said, “When pastors combine preaching with politics, politics eventually takes over every time.” I have been so concerned about that happening to me I’ve intentionally avoided any political discussion or writing unless I see a joke.
And I never wanted to limit my readers to people who agreed with my politics. I think the evangelical church has alienated too many people from the Gospel of Jesus by aligning itself so closely with one wing of one political party. The harder we preach a political viewpoint the more people we scare away from Jesus. Shame on us.
So, hoping to avoid scaring people away, I’ve avoided political writing. I need all the readers I can get; I don’t want to frighten any away.
I think another reason I’ve avoided writing about government and politics is that it’s hard to tell stories without putting myself on the moral high ground and painting my opponents as evil. Almost all of the people I met while in government were honest and sincere, and even when we disagreed over difficult decisions I could trust them to be true to what they believed. I’ll admit I knew a couple of council members who cared only for their own interests and fame, but they were the exceptions, not the rule.
I suppose another reason I avoided writing about government was, well, it’s hard to tell the story accurately. Success in handling community issues often hinges on the subtlest of points, and writing about nuanced decisions sounds flaky. And it is boring.
But maybe the real reason I never wrote much about government or politics was that it wasn’t the biggest story I had to tell. Political arguments, which results from almost all political writing, tends to drown out all reasonable discussion and creative thinking, and I didn’t want to spend my time fighting. I’d rather write about something else. I’d rather find a spiritual insight in a long run, or a cycling crash, or a family wedding.
So how about you? What stories are hard for you to tell?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32