Eating the Mail: The Daily Intake of Negative

11 Sep


I know to quickly investigate whenever I hear a certain sound in my family room: a mad shuffling of padded feet and hyped-up puppy energy that exceeds moderate enthusiasm about food being poured or a toy being fought over. My 11 month old Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, have a unique way of expressing their angst or frustration after a morning in their crates when I have to leave the house.

They eat the mail.

You may ask why I am dumb enough to leave it where they can get to it. That’s a legitimate question. Really, I would ask it too.

But to answer it, I first have to paint a little picture that so many people who have children or work with kids will understand.

You walk into the house for the first time in hours, carrying bags of groceries, laptop bag, mail in your mouth, sunglasses maybe on your head or hanging from your collar, having just fought your way through the madness of three poorly timed traffic lights at your town’s main intersection after parking-driving on highways at 5:30 PM in your very densely populated part of the country. And as soon as you walk in, you hear this from the other room from the kid working on a project with no supervision whatsoever since you were just in traffic, remember?: “Mom! So glad you’re home! The glue gun is stuck to the couch, for some reason, and I think there may be a black mark where it was sitting.”

Okay, so that’s not the exact scenario. I am taking some creative license to protect the (not-so-) innocent, but it was close enough.

What do you do in that moment? You drop the mail currently in your teeth. With any luck, you drop it on the end table and not the floor, but you’re only human…

So back to me, and not the hypothetical you…After dealing with hot glue gun fun, I heard the crinkle and jittery excitement of two dogs getting away with something, completely delighted with themselves—until I walked in. Then, Samson did the guilty shake-wag, demure Delilah pranced cockily past me but away from the paper, and he dove in one last time to get another mouthful of the energy bill, the medical insurance’s twelfth notice about seeking annual information that hasn’t changed, and the political mail of people I don’t know and don’t care to read their slander-marketing (in most cases, not all).

So, you know what, Samson and Delilah? Go ahead: Eat the mail! Nothing in there really feels like a loss to me. If the bright, photo-quality flyer from the local fitness company appeals to you, chew away. Do I look like I’m ever headed there, third latte of the day in hand, elliptical machine used as a coat rack?

But really, there is a lesson in this silly tale, besides the fact my unruly Shih Tzus could use some training classes.

We eat the mail every day.

We take in the negative reports from nonstop news feeds. We suck in gossip. We assume the worst without fact-finding first. We take what the media feeds us and swallow it whole because we get so much information at once, we don’t have time to sort it, like partly chewed morsels of sludge. Not that it’s not important to inform ourselves. But we honestly feed on a lot of negative every day. You can’t check out of a pharmacy without the latest celebrity mishap, fifth marriage, 15th botox treatment, recent infidelity.

If we aren’t careful about what we take in, it can make us pretty skeptical, nervous, disillusioned, and even bitter. We can start to believe that no marriages work, everyone cheats, all politicians lie, suicide and pills are the only answer, hope doesn’t exist.

It’s a luxury for us to sit at the table, or desk, and feast on this stuff. If we lived in a war-torn country, we’d have plenty of reality to more than match the nonstop ticker going across the screen of a world news channel. How do we stay in touch with events around us without getting sucked under into complete hopelessness?

The world we live in now tells us within 30 seconds of news going on around the world with live streams of current events. I’m not sure we were meant to know all of this at once. It’s almost like building the Tower of Babel again and seeing out all around us, giving us a sense of all that’s going on but we’re really not in control of it (but often think that we are).

Technology is an awesome thing, and certainly we’ve made advances in being more prepared and informed. It is extremely helpful to know a current crisis in the Middle East where we can send aid, pray, promote causes, rally volunteers. That’s the hope to spread into the dark. But the intake can be too much at times. It needs balance.

When the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, I had several friends engulfed in unrelated personal circumstances or depression, and reading the updates on that was just too overwhelming. I encouraged them to get a quick dose of news, only if they felt they had to, and stay off the news feeds. It’s not about making us comfortable and not having to think about awful events going on around us. It’s more about not letting darkness move into our heads and start hanging up pictures.

My husband can watch it and stress on the level of world political events, while I sit and tremor that there is always another murder victim, human trafficking story, Christian martyr, scary virus, genocide, school shooting.

But for every act of evil, good still rallies. People rise up to fight against it.

What do you think? How do you find balance?

For me, I have to look up. This world just doesn’t make sense to me without looking up and understanding it in the context of man wanting to be God so long ago in the Garden of Eden. We are still trying to be God and take control, and it has erupted all over in the form of violence, war, and atrocious acts of abuse and enslavement, because, unlike God, we are not all good. We do not handle power well. We don’t have the big picture. So, I watch moderate amounts of the news. I’m not afraid to discuss current events. But I also measure each piece against my faith that God is at the helm and “has the knowledge of the Holy One,” and that I lack all-seeing understanding and wisdom, no matter how much this modern culture, with its endless live streams, thinks that we can see all things from the top of our imagined tower.

Proverbs 30:1-16

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.
This man’s utterance to Ithiel:

“I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.
Surely I am only a brute, not a man;
I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
Surely you know!

“Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

“Do not slander a servant to their master,
or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.

“There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers;
those who are pure in their own eyes
and yet are not cleansed of their filth;
those whose eyes are ever so haughty,
whose glances are so disdainful;
those whose teeth are swords
and whose jaws are set with knives
to devour the poor from the earth
and the needy from among mankind.

“The leech has two daughters.
‘Give! Give!’ they cry.

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’


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