Five Years ago

March 22, 2004

Morning — I wake up late this morning, not yet finding myself holding on to the monastic ideal of little sleep, finding instead a difference of opinion which may last. Jesus, it is said, woke up before light. He also, it is not clearly noted, went to sleep soon after dark. When electric light cannot artificially illuminate, bedtimes become earlier. So, late I went to sleep, and late I awoke, feeling a bit groggy, to be honest, but happy at what became one of my more social days in a while.

It is a warm day in the mountains, warmer most likely than in the valleys. Shorts and a t-shirt suffice. A wonderful wind blows, lifting my windsock up and out, rustling the fabric against the rail, swishing. I hear less birds this morning, though I admit my later start likely means I missed the morning concert. It is Spring, and it is beautiful.

There is another note of contrast I feel when reading the ancients. Laughter and levity was, for them, a sign of a weak soul, empty and not rightly focusing on Christ. One of my favorite scenes in Gibson’s The Passion, is Jesus building the table and laughing with Mary. His laughter and gentle teasing contrasted with the pain of the crucifixion. The key point, though, is that both are fully in keeping with his nature.

Romans tells us that the nature of God is evident from the environment, indeed so much so that even without knowledge of Christ, humanity is culpable for not knowing God. It’s right before them. Only those who do not look, who do not care, will not see among this evidence that included with God’s many traits is a sense of humor. Ravens tease dogs, animals play, dolphins laugh and make simple jokes. We can laugh at how some animals look, what they do, even though the natural world is also one of great seriousness and danger.

I say this because among the conversations I had yesterday one was with someone who is, I’m willing to admit, possibly funnier than I am. At least, I realized in my solitude my own wit has dulled, and being around those who can sharpen it once more is like bathing in an oasis after wandering through the desert. Unlike the monks, I think this is a fine aspect. Wit and humor, like any boon, can be turned to sin and worse. It can bite, and flay. However, it also is a way of looking at the world, of acknowledging that within even pain is a certain amount of absurdity. Not all is as it appears, and pointing out the fact strikes us oftentimes as humor.

I feel challenged by seeing my own waning gifts in this regard, though also excited about restoring it to what, I might say, was once quite the splendor. I have to quit the knock-knock jokes, and get myself back into witty shape.

God, I think, and assert, simply cannot be understood without having a certain measure of humor. The monks, I say humbly, were wrong in this regard, and lost a great aspect of the lives God had called them after. Nature, at times, was also lost by them, another trait which is not in their interest. A story is told of a woman hermit who lived by a river for twenty years, and never once looked at it, this being noted as a sign of her devotion to God. I see it as an act of rudeness to an artist. Who would walk through a great painter’s house and not comment on the works displayed?

The fullness of humanity, created in the image of God, contains within it both a desire for beauty and a love of humor and laughter. We laugh because the Spirit in us gives us this gift. In humor, laughter, and wit which is uplifting and without malice we exhibit an essence of the image of God.

For me, experiencing wit and laughter is much the same as looking at an amazing sunset or gazing at the intricacy of a flower in bloom. It is beauty, and draws in my soul, helping it to expand. Even with my own waning sense I delight, just as I delighting when I first came up to the mountains and began a process of relearning an intricate appreciation of nature. I want to surround myself with both, and in doing this would find life agreeable, most agreeable indeed, whatever else may result.

The secret of contentment is understanding, at all points, the fullness of the Divine. God has much which is unexplainable and confusing. With this, however, he also has much which is welcomed and wonderful. Beauty and truth and laughter are among these, and I want to be around those who display these aspects, and display them to others. For in seeing these in others, I see also God. When others see these in me, they see the goodness that God can work in restoring one who was fallen into an increasing likeness of himself. It is right to be watchful, and alert. It is also right to take joy and delight in this life that God has gifted us to live. A lovely lesson, a lovely day.

Today is one of reflection, and returning to those quiet tasks which God has certainly given me. I embrace them anew today, with God’s grace and pleasure.

Evening – A light wind blows, the stars are clear, it is peace outside. Not a single dog barks, there is no sound of traffic, the coyotes have gone elsewhere.

Words of community have, it is assumed, words of welcoming, of comfort, of connection. And I think this is right. But today was not filled with those kinds of words. Instead, I spoke words of distance, words which I’m not sure were right, but which felt right to say. All I can say to others is what is on my heart to say. If my instincts are wrong, than I fully admit my own lack of sense. I question, this evening, whether it was right or wrong.

In cases of clear sin obviously God asks us to be firm. The grey areas, though, are where things get tricky. Can we speak words which cause distance even hurt? Is it part of community to be honest rather than sensitive at times? (of course some would say this is not a forced distinction). Does God actually call us to go farther rather than come closer. It doesn’t seem so. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, the model of the Apostle Paul comes to mind. He distanced himself from the Church at Corinth, refusing to visit (even when he vowed to do so) because going there would cause more hurt until the situation was settled. He stayed away and had to explain why.

Jesus rebuked Peter for words which only the strictest person would say were sinful. There are stories of monks who refused to answer questions, even after months of pleading, for various reasons. I question myself, but I don’t feel convicted. Though I’m not sure whether or not I should. I said what I said, because I was responding to what I understood. So, I was honest… and hurtful… to one who seeks Christ no less, and maybe more, than I do. Did I say something that was needing to be heard? I don’t know. I know I did cause consternation in one who desperately needs words of peace. How can I say, ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace in the topics raised? I would bring up the topic of Balaam, but he didn’t end so well, so I won’t.

The rest of the day, apart from this, was spent nicely. A little writing, a little running. The warm day sprinkled by a nice easterly wind.

There is nothing more to life than embracing the call we have been given. Once started it has to be played out, like a bull which is bucking wildly. I’m throwing myself into the void, and am not adept at reaching out to those in the void around me. That is learned, that is also a reason why process has to be fulfilled. Antony didn’t see anyone for twenty years, because only then he was ready. Jesus told his mother, “My time has not come” because only when the time was ripe was he to engage others with the fullness of the message.

My story is incomplete. I do not yet know the work Christ will wrought in me. Until then my voice is fractured and faulty. I’ve been thrown off, and trampled, and gored even at times, but I persist in trying yet anew, hoping to win the prize, hearing at the end of the day, “well done.” If I can assist others I want so much to do so. I just can’t say more than I know, and different than what I hear, no matter how that infuriates and frustrates. My part is not to worry about that, but to continue on, readying myself again, persisting until the end.

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