A few weeks ago, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes to do a joint interview on the occasion of Clinton's departure from the president's cabinet. The two leaders shared how close they'd become and what a great working relationship they'd had over the last four years, and Steve Kroft asked the inevitable question about whether Clinton would run for president in 2016.
"Steve, I gotta tell you," the President said. "You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you're talking about elections four years from now."
Kroft isn't alone, of course. People in both parties have been speculating since before this election about who the candidates will be in 2016, hoping "their guy" has a chance but knowing many primary candidates will come and go before it's all settled. It's four years away, and the excitement of the 2012 race is only recently behind us, but some people have already turned their focus to the next election. For some, it's because they dislike the current administration and are eager for a change, but for many, it's just the fun of speculation, the eagerness of political junkies to get a fix of campaign fervor.
Why is this?
I say it's the same reason we call the wedding at the end of a fairy tale a "happy ending." I think of the little fairy at the end of Sleeping Beauty, sobbing over the dancing prince and princess because she "just loves a happy ending." In that case, they're not even married yet, and have only known each other a few (waking) minutes! But we are nonetheless obsessed with the chase, the adventure, the romance, and are ready to pop in the next DVD without giving any thought to what happens after the royal couple dances off into the clouds.
In short, we are all drama queens and kings. We feed on the conflict and thrill and are bored by what follows. The presidential race is more fun to observe than the actual term in office. The romantic pursuit and engagement are more exciting than Mr. and Mrs. Charming picking out curtains for the castle windows.
But this love of drama and action doesn't stop with our politics and entertainment. We do it in our personal lives as well, and in our faith.
The romance of dating and the thrill of starting out a new life together set a false standard that day-to-day married life doesn't match. Nailing an interview and getting the job offer is a lot more energizing than the daily grind of meetings and reports. And the awe-inspiring joy of experiencing God for the first time or taking a bold step of committing one's life to Christ can fuel a spiritual high that leads to a frustrating low.
Reality is full of hard work, without a lot of star-spangled confetti, signing bonuses, or dancing on clouds. Marriage and family life is less rice on your tuxedo and more legos in your shoes. Talking through a conflict over family finances, staying late to finish a big presentation, and practicing spiritual disciplines even when you don't feel the warm glow of God's presence—that's life, and there is value and joy to be found even in the seemingly-humdrum day-to-day.
We live in a noisy culture in which only the extreme rises above the din. Someone said recently that we've lost the ability to simply disagree—we have to be outraged. We can't enjoy the merely good, we have to make it bigger, better, louder, faster. No wonder we measure life by the highs and the lows of celebration and conflict. But most of life isn't high or low, and it is damaging to our souls to chase after and focus on those extremes.
We need to step back, see the big picture, and cherish the role the "ordinary" times play in the great story of our lives.