I was reluctant to write today. My resolve for being a witness through these pages waned. As I did my morning reading, I was unsure about what I represented as the sacred in my world. And then when I picked up my computer, I remembered something that made sense for today, this Election Day in the United States.
Earlier this fall, I read The Return of Ansel Gibbs, one of the few books by Frederick Buechner I hadn’t read. It was published in 1957 and like all Buechner’s writing, in my experience, the story affirms literary philosopher Mikkail Bakhtin’s thinking that the novel is never finished. The dialogue is not bound to the original contextual meanings but is always being rewritten, so to speak, in our reading and in conversation with our own times.
In the novel, Ansel Gibbs is being appointed to a cabinet position by the President of the United States, subject to congressional approval, of course. At this critical juncture, near the end of the tale, Ansel Gibbs’ lifelong friend and Anglican priest, Dr. Kuykendall remembered a moment when he addressed young seminarians. With trembling hands on a heavy leather Bible, he said,
If you tell me Christian commitment is a thing that has happened to you once and for all like some kind of spiritual plastic surgery, I say go to, go to, you’re either pulling the wool over your own eyes or trying to pull it over mine. Every morning you should wake up in your beds and ask yourself: ‘Can I believe it all again today?’ No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day. If your answer’s always Yes, then you probably don’t know what believing means. At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe even more so. The No is what proves you’re a man in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and … great laughter. Not a beatific smile, but the laughter of wonderful incredulity.The Return of Ansel Gibbs, p. 303
I read that maybe there is no such thing as time. Maybe, we only have this moment, with its own story.