We need to recognize, and adjust in appropriate ways, to the fact that we humans maintain a perverse fascination with disaster.
I’ll leave it to psychologists to explain why precisely, but this habit is easily illustrated: from slowing down to view the scene of a wreck on the highway to the media’s 24/7 coverage of hurricane news.
We rarely recall the car trips made without incident or the sunny days that predominate in The Bahamas’ and North Carolina’s Outer Banks’ weather patterns.
For whatever reasons, disaster stories and images are more mediagenic. Our eyes and ears turn to them with the same kind of compulsion as the tongue’s obsession with a broken tooth.
In this sense, we are all recovering calamity addicts.
Admitting as much is the first step to the renewing of our “right minds” (see Romans 12:1-2).
The second step is to pay attention to – and champion – the accounts of where life is being fomented and fostered, even in small, incremental ways.
To be right-minded is to look for and lift up the stories of health and healing, wherever love’s ascendance routs misery’s tenure.
Doing so does not diminish or deny the scourge of harm and the litany of curses that surround us. These, too, must be named and lamented and – whenever possible, inasmuch as possible – addressed.
Searching out the good does not mean ignoring the bad. It simply means we recognize that sowers of discord are attended by multitudes while practitioners of neighborliness draw meager attention.
Choose to be with the meager. Abandon the spectators’ gallery and mix it up on history’s stage.
Submit to heaven’s commissioning as an agent (rather than a consumer) of blessing. Counter the chorus of reproach with anthems of encouragement, for courage is contagious.
Abandon fashion’s runway. Look for hope’s uprising out on the blue highways, beyond the spotlight’s reach, in places that GPS doesn’t map and opinion-pollers ignore.
The power to bless is the most commonly overlooked asset we possess –probably because the openings to do so are so common and ordinary, lacking the theatrics by which we so often assess the Spirit’s presence in the world.
Such power is uncommon, though, because to give blessing implies being immersed in blessing – a frightful thing because it demands relinquishing claims to self-authorship.
The fewer cravings you have for privilege and acclaim, the greater capacity you wield to restore the abandoned and entitle the shunned.
The power to bless is fed from springs bubbling from below, from beyond our reach or control, from a well of assurance that cannot be managed, that will not be bartered, that shall not be hoarded.
The power to bless is the source of creation itself. It marks the capacity of bringing life where none exists; it brings solace amid grief’s domain, encouragement where fear lurks, healing where wounds fester, dignity where shame rules.
Do not let the messengers of misery and the counselors of despair dictate the boundaries of your attention or the borders of your expectation. Resist the merchants of fear and the brokers of gloom.
Curate the stories of the pioneers of faith, the tillers of hope and the envoys of mercy.
Be a sacramental operative, a conduit of grace in a sullied world.
Let your mind be righted. Tell stories that transcend the prevailing myths of scarcity and despondence.
Offer blessing without thought of recompense, much as split cedar offers its scent, the passing blackbird its melody, the daylily its momentary brilliance.
Ken Sehested is curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action. He was the founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.