An excerpt from Clear Winter Nights:
Chris liked the thought of his granddad being the wise old sage of Lewisville, but he immediately sensed the spiritual distance between them. Yep, the old faithful pastor with his scoundrel of a son and doubting-Thomas grandson. If the people in town knew the family dynamics, it didn’t stop them from revering Gil.
“Your grandfather is a reader,” Ron said. He turned back to Gil. “I tell you, being an avid reader—that’s what’s kept your mind so sharp.”
“Thanks, Ron…I think,” Gil said. “I wonder if I ought to be offended.”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s a compliment with a putdown.” Gil chuckled. “You compliment my sharp mind as if you’re surprised. So there you go, reminding me of my age. You think my mind ought to be gone by now!”
“See what I mean? Sharp mind.” Ron turned toward Chris and grinned. “You can hardly have a conversation with this guy! Really, Gil, maybe we take ourselves too seriously. We ought to have something other than a deep conversation every now and then.”
“Au contraire,” Gil said. The French words came out with a Southern accent. “Deep conversations are the only ones worth having. The world is so full of meaningless drivel that there’s no need to add to it.”
“Not to most people. What’s the saying again? ‘Politics and religion are not for polite company.’ ”
“Nonsense!” Gil was grumbling now. “If you ban politics and religion from polite conversation, you might as well go on and warn people they’re going to be bored stiff.”
“Do you have something against politeness?” Ron was needling Gil, and Chris was getting a kick out of watching the two interact.
“Of course not. I just worry that nowadays freedom of speech means freedom from speech. Like the freedom to talk about everything means we don’t talk about anything…of substance, that is. Don’t talk about death. Too morbid. Don’t talk about sex. Too indelicate. Don’t talk about politics. Too controversial. Don’t talk about religion. Too off-putting. If you ask me, ‘polite conversation’ is a good way to shut down interesting conversation altogether.”
“Exactly why I like coming over here,” Ron said. “You’ve never been one to talk about the weather.”
CHRIS SMILED AT THE TWO of them going on about ideas. During the pause that ensued, he thought of Dr. Coleman. He decided to insert something into the conversation.
“I agree. The best conversations are about significant things. There’s not enough thinking going on in our day.”
The older heads in the room turned toward Chris, decked out in his wrinkled T-shirt and jeans as he straddled the piano bench. The odd expressions on their faces reminded Chris of the vast difference in his age.
“Of course, not everything can be deep,” he stammered. “We ought to be balanced.”
“Balance is overrated,” Gil said. Chris realized his grandpa was going to act like Chris had been a part of the conversation from the beginning, which meant he wouldn’t go easy on him. Even so, he was surprised to hear his grandpa contradict the first contribution he’d made to the conversation.
“So balance is a problem?” Ron said.
“Not a problem, just overrated. I, for one, think you ought to be more focused on passion than balance. If all your passion and energy goes toward being balanced, you never run fast enough to make it past the finish line. But I say, if you just run, just pursue something—anything—balance will take care of itself.”
“You’re changing the subject, Gil. No one here is talking about running. We’re talking about being balanced in conversation topics. You must admit the boy has a point.”
Chris couldn’t tell whether Ron’s remark was a putdown or an affirmation. He was on record agreeing with Chris but was also calling him a “boy.”
“And what was his point again?” Gil asked. Chris was wondering himself.
Ron answered for him. “When it comes to discussion topics and matters of theology, one ought to be balanced. Lots of bad things have happened in the name of passion.”
“Lots of good things haven’t happened in the name of balance,” Gil said. “Tell a guy who’s in love he ought to be more ‘levelheaded’ and ‘balanced.’ Tell that to someone who feels deep down in their bones they’re going to change the world. Seek ye first the kingdom, not balance.”