The God of Darkness, Sadness and Sloth

I’m starting with the sloth rather than the dark.  We know a lot about darkness, don’t we, but not so much about sloths.  So here are some baby sloths being----just slothful.

I Praise God for sloths, and all other slow, creeping creatures. They are all my models this week.  I spent 3 workdays, the precious hours of school when I do all my writing----doing nothing. I am working on doing nothing (but this post) for today as well. And maybe even the weekend.
Because darkness comes. Because death comes in the night and then in the day. Because some people are unable to love. Because there are times when no matter what you do, you will be wrong, and there’s nothing good in you.  Human love will fail you again and again, and there we are in the dark, again, pretending all is light. Barbara Taylor Brown’s beautiful book Learning to Walk in the Dark speaks of this, of how we love the light and fear the dark. In truth, God often comes to us most visibly and powerfully in the dark. 
In these times, you cannot work. Or think. Or write. And it’s okay, because now your work is different. Now your work is to rest.  To stop performing, to collapse upon your bed, to cry however long and often you need, to look out the window at the ocean and the clouds, to call a friend, to sleep, to ask for prayer. And to be sad.      That’s your job. That’s what you’re here to do right now. And if you're on the forgiveness journey, forgiving a parent or someone who has harmed you---you must start here. Because all is not right with the world. And we needn’t pretend that it is.  The full armor of God doesn’t protect against sadness and betrayal----because these are not our true enemies. Our true enemies right now are Blind Faith and Busy Faith, the kind of faith that shuts its eyes in the dark, refusing to see the dark----and the kind of faith that chases madly after achievement and service, hoping we will be named worthy because of it.  
                                                ( Stop.  Yes, of course, read your Bible, but you’ve done nothing wrong, and your problem is not lack of faith or poor theology. Os Guiness in his book, God in the Dark, considers how God took care of Elijah when Elijah was depressed and overwhelmed:  “God's remedy for Elijah's depression was not a refresher course in theology but food and sleep... Before God spoke to him at all, Elijah was fed twice and given a good chance to sleep.  . . . This is always God's way. Having made us as human beings, He respects our humanness and treats us with integrity. That is, He treats us true to the truth of who we are. It is human beings and not God who have made spirituality impractical.”  We have indeed made spirituality impractical----and inhumane.  As you walk in human sadness and sloth---which you must do by faith for at least a little while---you will find rescue.  In his own sadness, Moses quieted his heart enough to write this bitter truth: “The length of our days is 70 years---     or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
But that truth, written from the dark, led to this final truth that ends the Psalm, words from God himself: “Because *she loves me,” says the Lord,      I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she     Acknowledges my name. She will call upon me, and I will answer        Her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life will I satisfy her   And show her my salvation.” 
(*Gender changed so women can KNOW and FEEL God speaking to US as well.)  He IS with us. In trouble, in the dark, in our mourning, “I will rescue her, I will protect her,” God says.   I am still sad. I am still walking in (faithful) sloth.  And I am rescued.  Dear friends in the dark, allow yourself to be sad, to be slow, to be rescued as well. 

Coast Guard Rescues and Who Will Save Us From the Kitchen Wars?

This last week the winds bellowed, then stilled.  The sun emerged ..  and with it the Coast Guard helo, the ship that saves men and women from death in the icy waters all year round. It was a training day, the aircraft hovering over a point just across the bay from my house. It’s a familiar sound, the chop-chop reverberating across the water, the shredded air and sound hitting the cliff my house sits on and shuddering up through the windows, the walls.

  That ship has come for me at least once when I was lost, alone, on the sea in a blizzard (another story.) And it has come for members of my family far more than once. (Have we thanked them enough?)

The chopper hangs in the air with rescue swimmers poised at the door to leap into the still-troubled seas. They’ll be at it all day. We know these women and men as heroes. When we are battened down under the worse gales, they are the ones who leave the safety of the hangar to fly into blinding storms, to leap out of a bucking chopper to plunge through night air into a furious sea---that someone might be pulled alive from a sinking boat.

Their lives and stories are good enough for the movies. For television. For an entire television series.

Living under such a sky, where heroes hang literally outside my kitchen windows, where storms swirl and howl my own insignificance, I should always think profound and spiritual thoughts. But I don’t. I also live under a roof, in rooms with their own climate patterns. Rooms filled with people happy and grumpy, ecstatic and brooding. Every rooms gathers its own particular dust and dissonance, but the kitchen seems to be the special site for “He does/She does” dramas. I write and display them here because I have confidence in the universality of kitchen conflict, and in the hope that you will not think less of me for such humanness.   Here are the sites of skirmishes: (And do cast your vote!)  

DISHWASHER: Silverware up or down?

HE:  Up,  [they get cleaner because of the water action].
SHE: DOWN (they stay cleaner because you insert and remove them without putting your dirty hands on the eating end)

PANS: Stacked or “placed”?

HE: Neatly stacked in the cupboards in ascending order, which brings symmetry and rightness to the world (but also means a complete re-stacking every time you use them.)

SHE: “Placed” randomly and creatively, so that every time the cupboard is opened----surprise! Saves minutes every day. Even when they all tumble out. Simply lift, replace, and shut the cupboard firmly.

KITCHEN COUNTERS: For food or for paper?

HE:  For containing and organizing mail, bills, tools, the everyday detritus of life, all of which should be lined up, visible, and immediately available at all times.
SHE: For food preparation and dining only, please!!

TABLE SETTINGS: Full silverware or just what’s needed?

HE: Always full silverware regalia, regardless of any circumstances, mitigating or otherwise.

SHE:  Decisions made on an ad hoc basis. Company? Full wares. Wonderful homemade dinner? Full wares. Eating and running? Leaving on a trip? Trying to get to church on time without leaving a mess behind? Only the necessities.  

GREEN SALAD: Sinkers or floaters?

HE: Sinkers. Everything except the lettuce is chopped into perfect tiny squares, regardless of texture, assuring that every bite is modulated and organized (and assuring their sinkage to the bottom of the salad bowl.)

SHE: Floaters. Every vegetable is cut according to its kind. The cucumbers----sliced thin and wafery. Carrots, peeled into orange wisps, etc. assuring floatage and every bite a representative sample of all ingredients.

Oh, who will rescue us from the kitchen of this mess?
It already has been done. Here, after decades of marriage, in this place where we have chopped and sauted and fed and prayed and served our family and many guests, we are at it still. The parrying continues, in the kitchen and in other rooms, but I look out my windows over my (sometimes cluttered) counters and see them there---the presence of those ready to drop from the sky to save the drowning.

So like another rescuer, who has hovered over my sorry life and plunged in, pulling the exhausted from thrashing seas---and returning me and all of us to Life.   Again and again.  And He will not stop, even when we see nothing but roof and sky over our heads.

How do you fill your dishwasher and set your table? Do you know that hovering presence, and have you been pulled from the waters?