A memory came back to me today from my childhood years of watching Charlie Brown specials on a black and white television. I still grow nostalgic when I hear the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas played. Charles Schulz’s wry, sometimes melancholy humor tickled my childhood funny bone. His insight shone through in his scripts. There is one particular thread of Shulz’s wit that came through in his suspension of reality that stands out in my memory, and for whatever reason, LORD, you bring it back to me often.
Today was a day for that. In the Peanut’s cartoon strip and in the television specials, the only hint at adults in a scene were their legs and feet. The only sounds (captioned or audio) that came from the anonymous “they” was “whah, whah, whah.” I believe what Charles Shulz was trying to convey was the dialogue between Charlie and his friends was the only relevant thing. I loved that–power to the short stuff!
Today I am particularly tired of the the “whah, whah, whah” of the culture. The yammer is rife with fearful and cynical thinking, and as much as I try to close my ears to it, there is always someone who comes along who thinks it relevant. It’s these times you bring that detail of the cartoon back to me. Those anonymous legs and feet stomp off the cartoon strip and into my space threatening to crowd out joy and contentment.
When St. Paul’s received this word from you, his world was very much like mine today. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) I think of the certain death that awaited the martyrs of the Faith because they refused to conform to the world’s way of thinking, it encourages me to fight the good fight by refusal to get caught up in the world’s mindset. But……it is a wearisome fight.
There’s a more insidious infiltration from the world that challenges my resolve to not be conformed to its modus operandi. It’s the “empty talk” you warn against in Sacred Scripture, and you do that a lot! So it must really bother you. It’s the human bent to fill the air with mindless chatter! The kind of prattling that quite often leads to gossip, malice, mocking, and criticism of others. You are very clear to tell me that, that isn’t the relevant thing in my life, so much so that I’d better avoid it all together! This battlefront is always moving the boundaries–stealthily placing snares in my relationships. I can easily tune out the culture’s voice on nearly everything, but empty talk with a friend or family member requires more resolve, me thinks. The courage to stand against a face I know requires so much more of me. The courage to silence my own empty talk seems altogether impossible. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!
I wonder what would happen in my corner of the world if my conversation with you was the only relevant thing? What if the stretch and strength of my love for you compelled me to concentrate all my thoughts into valuable and refreshing dialogues with those around me? I’d be freed from the stifling self-absorption that drives so many to plot and scheme one-upmanship in relationships. I would be free from the insecurities that too often motivate my tongue to be a double-bladed sword that tears into the heart of another. What if I resolved to look at every moment and allowed you to captivate my thoughts? What if I bent all my energy to speaking words of worth? What if I staked everything on the truth that you will renew my mind and that my choice would prove what is your will–the good and acceptable and perfect?
LORD, take control of my tongue. Take every thought of mine captive before it reaches my tongue, please. Show me where I use my words as weapons rather than as an instrument of healing and refreshment. Show me where I allow myself to become consumed by the world. Reveal to me your ways to keep myself conformed only to you. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) Amen.