The Theology of Radio

Embracing the Given Good

I used to hate the radio. Frustrated with constant commercials and an inability to ever find exactly what I was looking for, it seemed outdated—a thing of the past that our modern era of immediate satisfaction and constant customization should have replaced. For years, I have had the pleasure of avoiding the radio at all costs. My car allowed me to plug-in my phone and choose whatever my heart desired. My music and podcasts were at my beck and call, I was the King, the God of my creations.

A few months ago, that all changed as the adapter I was using broke. Suddenly, my only choices were to drive in silence or to return to the radio.

I begrudgingly ceded my authority to The Radio. No longer the Master of My Fate.

I struggled for a few weeks with feeling frustrated that I couldn’t listen to what I wanted as I drove. Every time I started the car I was reminded of what I couldn’t do. My expectations were frustrated. The expected good that I had come to enjoy had been taken from me.

Yet. I eventually began to realize I had gained something.

I was driving home from work and flipped the radio away from NPR where I usually kept it to avoid the pain of commercials and switching between stations to hear as little of them as possible. I settled on a classic rock station and a familiar bass and drum beat that I couldn’t quite place played over the radio.

I was drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, memories of listening to Arrow 107.1 in Idaho Falls as I drove around stirring and mingling with my view of I-15 as I returned to Provo. Suddenly, a saxophone joined in with a riff I’ve heard countless times, before Daryl’s voice begins crooning and then I was all in, the lyrics flooding back as if I’d memorized them the day before, “she’ll only come out at night…”

I totally lost myself in the song and the song after that and the song after that, until I was pulling onto our road and that unparalleled listing of historical figures and events graced my ears, so I park and rock out with Billy until the song finishes, fading out to calls of fire burning and the world turning.  

I had rediscovered the joy of radio, the bliss of the Given Good.

Often I find myself distracted by what I expect to happen. I read the scriptures expecting to feel or respond a certain way, I apply for jobs expecting to quickly receive offers left and right, I apply to PhD programs and expect to be accepted and given generous stipends and aid packages. I expect justice and equality in how my fellow humans are treated.

Sometimes these expectations, through no fault of their own and perhaps in spite of the righteousness of them, block me from accessing the good that I am given. I miss what has been given because I am so focused on what I expect.

The radio teaches me to do otherwise.

I can embrace the Given Good. H was born two weeks early. That was not expected. Cec and I were a little flustered that everything we had planned for was for naught and that we lost out on the way we were hoping to spend the remainder of our holiday.

However, we tried to let go of what we had expected—a baby arriving in early January, when we had fully prepared our home and I had crossed a few more films off my theatrical watch list (If Beale Street Could Talk, Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, etc.)—and embrace what was given. My brother was going to be able to meet H much sooner than anticipated (he lives across the country currently and it probably would have been six months or more until he met her otherwise). Tax benefits. Near-perfect timing for me to maximize time off work between holidays and my paternity leave. Cec spending two fewer weeks pregnant. Convenient timing for a baby blessing in the next little bit.

Expectations are valuable and helpful even. We need the Expected Good to drive us and to motivate, to help us recognize when things aren’t right and could be improved, to help us find where to better the world. Yet I’ve found that I need to temper that desire. I cannot focus so much on what I expect to happen that I lose sight of what is happening and the Good that has been Given.

The Given Good may not be definitively better than the Expected Good, but it has been Given. And who’s to say that it isn’t better? I cannot know what is not, nor how I would respond to what may have been, but I can strive to embrace what I have been given and to find the good in it. To see the opportunity that is in front of me rather than noticing the absence of what I thought was awaiting.

Perhaps this is all another iteration of the serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference

That to me is The Theology of Radio. That is grace. That is embracing the Given Good.