As I look out my study window I see open pasture dotted by post oak trees and four grazing black cows. Recent rains have spread a neon green carpet over the ground before me. This view is cradled around me by oak and cedar forests. Bare branches of the still-wintry oaks lace a pattern across the misty landscape with splashes of dark green and rust.
My artist's eyes could hardly find more delight than in the juxtaposition of those complementary colors. I've always appreciated the green that the cedars gift the gray months, but this year I feel differently. They remind me of the growing scarcity of water: Those rusty colored trees--so vivid against the green--are dying because of last years drought. That knowledge dampens the visual joy. And now that I know how needy the cedars are for water--how they are sucking up the ponds and underground lakes--I experience them as competitors for life.
The older I get the more I see how several "goods" can find themselves in competition. My eyes feast on the color. Thank you, God, it is beautiful. But it is also a good thing to steward our resources wisely. The trees must be thinned out and precious water saved.
I say this because the tendency in public conversation is to cast one thing as "good" and everything else that might be in conflict of that as "bad." Why can't we simply acknowledge and celebrate the basic goodness of creation and then go about the business of acting wisely and honorably by placing one good before the other as need be? Why must we blast everything down in order to prevail in our own judgments? Could we simply set aside (with mourning) one good if we need to lift up another? Do we have to blast down or demonize our way through all decisions? Isn't this basic goodness of all at the very heart of the meaning of sacrifice?
Readers in liturgical churches last Sunday saw Jesus heal the leper. A good thing. But Jesus told him not to tell others what he had done and the man went and told everyone. Was that a bad thing that he disobeyed Jesus? Or was it a good thing that he was so filled with joy that he could not contain himself? The richness of Scripture challenges the simple inclinations of public debate.