A conservative friend of mine was surprised the other day by something I said to him: we were talking about the upcoming holidays (Passover for me, Easter for him), and I mentioned in passing that I have a Bible next to my bed, right on my nightstand. Evidently, he had accepted the myth (and it is a myth) that all liberals hate religion and never read the Bible; so he was puzzled to hear that I actually had a copy nearby, and that I even like to read it.
I have two favorite verses, and if you know me, you may have heard me quote one of them (yes, as a former deejay, I often love to quote the lyrics to rock songs; but sometimes, it's nice to quote some Scripture too). One verse I like comes from the prophet Micah, chapter 6, verse 8. There are many translations but it basically says "For what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly; to love mercy; and to walk humbly with your God." For me, that means that what matters most to God are the qualities of justice, mercy and humility. By doing justly, that means living an ethical life and not wronging others; by loving mercy, that means being willing to forgive and to show compassion, even when someone has wronged us; and walking humbly means not thinking we are so much more pious and righteous than others-- there is a tendency in all of us to judge others, and sometimes it's good to remember that we've all got faults, and nobody's perfect. Being humble also means remembering there's always someone greater than us, and maybe if we're willing, we can learn something from that person.
My other favorite verse, which is especially useful in times like these, comes from Psalm 118, verse 24: "This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." What this means to me is that whether you are religious or not, every day, try to find something to be grateful for. Every day, try to find something to be happy about. It's not always easy. But it's a reminder that no matter how miserable your day might be, no matter what went wrong or who gave you a hard time or what unfair thing occurred, you are instructed to find a reason to rejoice, to find something to be glad about.
In my case, I am glad I am still cancer-free, I am glad I am employed, I am glad my husband and I have celebrated our 30th anniversary, and of course, I am glad I am part of the world-wide community of Rush fans... just to name a few things. If you've ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you may have heard about having an "attitude of gratitude." With all the things I wish were different in my life, I never forget that there's always someone who has things worse than I do, and there's always something (or someone) worth appreciating. For example, I appreciate those of you who read my blog, and I hope this little detour into religion hasn't been boring. There's plenty of time to discuss politics, or sports, or rock and roll. But there's never enough time to express gratitude-- we all take far too much for granted, it seems to me.
And I know it's hard to rejoice or be glad about a world with so much anger and so many harsh words; and I'm never happy about the tendency to automatically blame people from "the other side" for everything that's wrong in society. But as I said, we all have our faults, and we all could do with a lesson in humility every now and then, as well as a lesson in not judging others. I'm as guilty of judging as anyone, and it's a hard habit to break. But it's not impossible. In fact, that's why I find reading the Bible a worthwhile pursuit-- it has plenty of practical advice, plus it reminds me of the qualities worth striving for, even when attaining them seems almost impossible. And yes, there's a verse about that too-- see Deuteronomy 30, chapter 11: "Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too difficult for you, nor is it beyond your reach." Learning to be less judgmental and more appreciative? God says it can be done; and we are the ones who should do it, humbly, a day at a time.