risk delight

Stop Praising the Devil: The Case for Joy Even and Especially Now

"We must have 
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil."

                                                                 ---Jack Gilbert

It has been a few days since we awoke to bloody headlines, and maybe life has returned to normal. Which means still a little blood here and there, but your table is still set for dinner, your books are slowly getting read by your bed, and you're flinching less when you turn on the radio or check the Headline News.  You're thankful for news about budgets and immigration, the usual political conflagrations. No one is dying too badly today. You want to kiss Routine on both her pallid cheeks.

But maybe we can do more. Do you have room in your life right now for joy, even delight? I am guessing not. I am guessing that your house is like mine, the rooms visited with unwelcome guests named "Despond," "Overstressed," and "Hopeless" every time you hear the news or talk to your neighbor or ask for prayer requests or open your email.

Yes, God wants us to make room for the sad and unwanted. He wants our proud hearts broken and brought low. He wants us to weep with those who weep (more on that here), and pray for our sisters and brothers who are persecuted, imprisoned, going to death for their faith, OUR faith!! 

Yes, please carry them with you in prayer and tears through your days. But we have nothing to give our neighbors but sorrow if we cannot also "rejoice with those who rejoice"!  We think God is at work redeeming only among evil and persecution, but He is equally at work in the good, the lovely, the noble, the wayward son coming home, the party around the fattened calf.  

And is it possible that if we give our attention only to evil, we court and praise the devil?

It is possible. Here is rejoicing!  And I invite you to rejoice with me. 

I am rejoicing because morning came and the house stopped shaking under the wind and rain and ducks were happy in the ocean below my house.

I am rejoicing because this very day one of my sons, a son who has wandered down dead-end roads, has written to say that God has come near to him. That God's word has come alive to him. That he is full of joy.   

I am rejoicing today because 45 people have yoked themselves together in presenting a musical (Tarzan) and we're in the last week before opening night. We're exhausted, nervous, but there is such love among us all. 

I can give you two thousand other reasons to rejoice, but instead I'm going to give you a poem. One poem that will help us find our way again to delight. 
  (I don't care if you don't normally read poems. If you miss this one, you deserve to keep hosting your tragic unwelcome guests in all your spare rooms.) 

Are you ready? 

A Brief for the Defense 

by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

There will be music despite everything. We must risk delight.  Even in  our  temptation to despair, God provides a way of escape that we may be able to bear it, through

 a poem, 

His own powerful Word, 

you, me, one another, each gifts to the other,

 the sound of oars in the water,


 the clicking clack of the coming train that misses us

   for now,

   or howls and hoots us home

   not with tragedy 

but magnitude.

Will you risk delight with me this week?? Spread the word!