I stumbled across him one morning in 1980, the lazy summer before I headed off to college. Dave Letterman was fresh and funny - his style struck me. When he moved to late night in ’82 I moved with him. Stupid Pet Tricks, Viewer Mail, dropping stuck off the roof of the studio skyscraper and other antics left me in stitches. When he “lost out” to Jay to replace Johnny I was shocked but moved with him to CBS. I was there when he returned after 9/11 and for his open heart surgery. I grew up, he changed, his “shtick” wore thin. One scandal led to another and then another. His language seemed to grow more course and his humor grew, it seemed to me, dark.
Jimmy Callaway wrote a piece called: “Why David Letterman Probably Likes David Letterman Less Than You Do.” It began with a story about one night in 1992 when Terri Garr was one of his guests:
During one of the commercials “…Dave scribbled a note on a piece of paper and pushed it across the desk to her. I hate myself,’ it read. Garr assured Dave that that was silly, that he was a very talented man and a famous celebrity. Dave took the note back from her and scribbled some more before giving it back. ‘I hate myself,’ it read.”
At some point his cracks went from being cute to cutting. He went from being edgy to just being on the edge. He went from being funny to being mean. I’m not sure what made it happen - was it the life he was living (multiple affairs, a long-term live-in girl friend who became the mom of his child who he continued to cheat on, guests, writers, staff members who he was unduly cruel too? Was it his own pain that grew into bitterness over not being selected to follow The great one (aka Carson) - life didn’t turn out like he expected. It appears he allowed bitterness to take root and lived his own hurt out in front of others.
Why all this talk about Letterman and bitterness. Because preachers often allow that to happen. We have a hurt here, a slight there. You’re overlooked to speak on a program. Someone criticizes your preaching, says your boring or not making enough of an impact. You are second or third for the big job you hoped you’d get. Money becomes an issue and Sundays come too quickly. There isn’t enough time to get it all done and your level of frustration rises.
How do I know? I’ve been there. Then in about a two week period I got a signed note from someone in the church saying that at one time I was good but I should just quit preaching and an anonymous email (still not sure how that happened) saying that I was mean. And, sadly, I agreed. I had allowed something rotten to crawl up in my heart and take root. I repented before God and determined to do some vicious gardening and weed eating and cultivate better things in my heart, my spirit and my soul (Galatians 5:22-23). I’m thankful for the painful thing that was pointed out to me.
Watch it. Guard your soul. satan would delight in nothing more than using your own hurt for his honor. To use your pain for his promotion, to see your ministry become mean and little and about issues other than Christ and His Kingdom. For you to use God’s Words to push others away from the Lord instead of to Him. Yes, there is plenty to be against in this day - but that must not define us. There is much better to be FOR (1 Corinthians 2:2)!
God's going to great things through your ministry - don't let satan short-circuit that good.
I enjoyed Letterman but I certainly don’t want to become him. There's Someone else I want to become like much more - Romans 8:29.