What makes sin, sin, or so it seems to this filthy Calvinist, is that even when I see right there before my eyes, even when it's up-close-and-personal in 24 megapixel-vividness, even when I know by tragic experience what it offers and how it'll best me, even when all of that is true, it still dances into my life looking so dang comely that I just can't turn away. Oh, I sidestep a ton of sin, but some of 'em get me even when I see 'em comin' a week away. Seriously.
I sat in a panel of old folks on Saturday at the Calvin College Festival or Faith and Writing and heard a skein of silver-haired writers, my friends, tell an audience far larger than I thought it would be how getting old offers this blessing at least: that we just don't care as much as we used to, that some of the spit 'n vinegar is gone, but then so is competitiveness, the dire need to succeed, to publish, to get reviewed, to get noticed, to have one's work out there in the upper case. What dies, they said--and I'm amen-ing all the way through--is a certain edge of competitiveness that settles down, finally, with the years, into something like C'est la vie.
I know it. I feel it. I'm old. I'm free.
But never totally, and I bring it up now, having just read, once again, some reference to Johnny Wooden's first rule of life--not to worry about being better than anybody else; instead, to strive to be the best we can possibly be. Yes. Amen. For sure. I know. I know. I know.
It's not that I haven't heard that before. It's not that I haven't said it before. It's hardly headline material. But it just doesn't go into the heart of darkness.
Dang it anyway.
When I go to the semi-annual Festival or Faith and Writing, I know I shouldn't feel jealousy. I sure as heck shouldn't be coveting my neighbors ox or his ass or his book awards or splendiferous reviews. But I do, dang it. You know, Romans 7: "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."
Still, a day after returning, a day after leaving that personal den of iniquity, I'm thankful for having been there. It's also, oddly enough, a virtual paradise for three days, a place where swelling crowds of people, all of whom love to read, come together to talk books and writing and faith. It's not heaven, at least not for me; but it elbows its way up close, that's for sure, if I can stay away from seductions or else at least feel forgiven.
I left--as I always do--inspired and brimming with new ideas. Not only that, I was, once again, pampered by people I don't even know who stop me as they walk out of restrooms or through crowded hallways to tell me that this or that thing that I wrote has been unforgettable. It happens.
Yes, I coveted. I always do. Yes, the green-eyed monster rages in my sinful heart.
But still I know the joy of redemption, too; and I know it was good for me to be there; once again, a blessing, not only to me but to the thousands who attend each year, one of the biggest literary conferences on the continent, if the not the biggest--and all over the place, believers too. This morning's thanks are for a inspirational weekend on the campus at Calvin College. Once again.
Now if I could just rid myself of sin. I'm still working on that one.