So the kidlets and I were in Target this morning, racing to get an errand done between church services and a meeting we wanted to attend.
Naturally, Else and Karl and I got to church a few minutes late for the beginning of said church meeting after the first Sunday service.
Naturally, I used the time between the end of that meeting and the beginning of the next service to try and be all places at all times and dash to Target to pick up a need.
Naturally, Karl looked suddenly really, really tough as we got him out of the van.
Unnaturally, I had luck when the aisle we were in was right next to the container aisle.
I had a split second to decide whether I would end up purchasing by default a bucket with pastel hearts or rainbow stripes.
I opted for the rainbow stripes.
And, in case one is ever desperate to get checked out quickly, simply holding a plastic box filled with slurpy uck beside a very ill looking child clears out a check-out lane like no other.
That bucket worked faster than Moses’ staff.
Poor, sweet Karl.
So naturally I couldn’t get back for the second meeting, naturally I couldn’t reach my mother who was on her way to church, naturally I couldn’t reach anyone at church, and naturally, as I’m calling my father while driving, poor sweet Else is holding our new purchase in front of K, all the while caressing and calming poor sweet Karl as he throws up again, and again, in the back of the van.
Mom is finally reached, and comes over to play with E-girl, and when Karl seems to be zonked enough for me to run to clean out the buckets, I flush the yuck, and naturally, the toilet continues to run.
So noticing this constant sound after I’d crawled back in bed with Karl, I roll my eyes at Mom and whisper a request to her to please jiggle the handle. I warn her that she might need to lift up the back to jostle those doo-hickies back into place.
So she did, loyal E-girl there to help her.
Suddenly I hear two surprised screams, and water, spraying water.
I took a look at Karl, did a quick cost-benefit analysis, and decided that I needed to quietly leap out of bed to see what the trouble was, for I was sure that there was trouble.
There stood Else, dripping wet, surprised and grinning. There stood Mom, dripping wet, surprised and grinning, but her arms were stuck under the tank cover. “I opened it,” she spluttered, “and this hose just popped off, sprayed me and everything in sight, and it only stops if I squeeze the tube, but I can’t get my arms out now because they are stuck under the cover. “So,” my mama said, both grinning and somewhat annoyed, “rather than standing there surprised and grinning, would you take the cover off your mother’s arms?”
And so, naturally, there we stood, mother-daughter-granddaughter, belly-laughing and wiping toilet water and tears off of our cheeks and not a clue about what to do to fix the matter, and fully aware that at any moment, poor sweet Karl could throw up again.
And in my sphere, all of these, every last bit of it, is natural.
Right before the Toilet Incident, Mom told me that she still remembers when she was a young girl and it dawned on her that a person could have a broken leg and scarlet fever at the same time.
“How is that fair?” she said she remembered thinking. And it raised for her some of her first disturbing questions about God.
I know that by no means have I gotten my Big One out of the way, and what’s up with that?
That said, conversely, our family’s neurosurgeon (yes, our family’s, because it’s actually funny that we discovered a couple years back that I have a benign brain tumor. Broken leg and Scarlett Fever, anyone?) is a top-drawer neurosurgeon, and a top-drawer classical guitarist, and he owns a Brazilian restaurant in town.
And what’s up with that?
One of the hardest, perhaps the hardest, pieces about belief in a creator God is the absurdity of it all.
Nothing, in the end, makes sense.
And while I have some ways of thinking through it, sometimes one can only observe the extremes and both laugh and rage against it.
I’ve decided that regardless of whether one believes in a creator God or doesn’t, it’s all still absurd.
The wounding piece is that if you do believe in a creator God, there tends to be some reason to believe that that God intends to be benevolent.
This conviction makes the brain injuries and brain tumors and vomit in Target and mamas who come to the rescue and spraying toilets which thank them for their trouble and sleeping boys who wake up only to throw up and little daughters who without asking bring baskets of Q-tips and toothpaste and soap and tissues and chips for Mama to snack on if she gets hungry while she stays at the bedside of the brother seem all the more insulting.
A betrayal, even.
The natural is, in light of a God whom we’d like to think is good, clearly unnatural.
My temptation is to wrap up it all up with an answer, but I have learned from my Jewish mentors that the question itself is holy.
As is the absurdity of throw-up in Target and loud laughter dripping with toilet water.
The grace lies within the absurdity. And how do we really know what benevolence or blessing is unless we embrace the potential for both within the absurdity?
So true. We read a book called Buddha at Bedtime. In it, a number of apparently really bad things or really good things befall a man and his family. People come and either offer condolences or sympathy by saying, “Oh, what a good thing occurred!” or “Oh, what a bad thing occurred!”
Every time, he replied, “Maybe.”
And each time, the converse of what had just happened followed. So because the “bad” happened, “good” ensued, and because the “good” ensured, “bad” followed.
Maybe “Maybe” is the best retort to absurdity?
Being raised by an abusive, pastor father, while at the same time hearing about a God that can be understood as a father figure is laughable. And not helpful. But somehow emerging “knowing” a loving God is absurd. I can only attribute this “knowlege” to it being written on my heart. And while I now laugh at the absurdities (that didn’t feel so laughable at the time), I spend my energy professing the God I “know”, aka Love. And what’s laughable is, having all been involved with work in service professions and non-profits at some points in our lives, my sisters profess this same God. Laughable. And absurd. Unless, the Love was naturally written on our hearts. Our experience, while not unique, naturally positions my sisters and me to be able to walk with, scream with and laugh with people who can see themselves in us. Is the Love and the Laughter and the Energy to walk with others one of the ways that the loving God I “know” shows God’s self? I hope so because I’d hate to think that all of that absurdity was for nothing. Now that would be laughable.
I have nothing to add to this but a humble “thank you.”
Reminds me that absurdity (or despair or disbelief or disappointment) can unexpectedly become sacred, can be transformed like the Magdalene’s grief at the tomb turned to joy on Easter morning. Elizabeth Goudge expresses what happens when the reversal comes and, comes sometimes absurdly, without the grace of seeing the resurrected or winning the lottery or having a husband at home to cope with plumbing and overburdened schedules. When it seems to come solely from the Holy Spirit alone – like laughter above a broken toilet.
This is a quote from her book The Scent of Water. The character in the scene suffers from an unspecified emotional disorder and fights through spells of depression. She is alone in the world, accept for a devoted servant, and frequently feels keenly the absence of human connection AND the grace of God. However, one Christmas she experiences one of those ineffable reversals that, from personal experience, I can account to nothing but the grace of God. . .
“. . .This change, this reversal, happened to me in the middle of the carol service on Christmas Eve. Jenny had not wanted to take me because she did not think I was fit to go, but I fought her like a naughty child. It was the first time we had had a snowy Christmas . . .and I was determined. . . So we went and I was almost crazy with eagerness to get inside, but when I got there I didn’t find what I was wanting. . . Framed by the arches of the crypt were little pictures, very bright and gay. . . but all so distant, like the scenes of microscopic busyness in the snowy background of a Dutch painting. . .Close to me there was nothing but the icy spaces of my loneliness and a misery that no one could understand. I sat shivering with the cold, sometimes stumbling to my feet or sinking to my knees in obedience to Jenny’s hand pulling or pushing me and far away I heard her sigh and knew that this misguided expedition was turning out just as she had feared it would.
. . . I did remember the forgiveness and love of God waiting at the heart of all experience, and the adorable radiance of being shining out from all created forms. . .but I only remembered. None of it was real, only something I remembered imagining. I had thought before that I knew what despair meant, but I hadn’t known.
. . .I found I was standing . . . looking over my should at William the Hunchback’s carving of himself. We were at the back of the church, where Jenny had carefully placed me in case I should disgrace her. . .He looked highly amused, and I turned my head away again quickly in anger and outrage, back to the emptiness.
A change had come over it!. The chill had become an indescribable freshness and the emptiness was filled with what I can only call vast spaces of liberty. They were waiting, blue and warm and already fainting irradiated with the growing sunlight. . . All I wanted was the thinning walls of my bodily life should let me go, cast me out like a captive lark set free. . . this is death and it seemed I sang already.
But it wasn’t. I was singing but. . .There was no emptiness any longer but people pressing upon me in so friendly and close a fashion that they seemed a part of me. I loved them and welcomed them back, although it was so short a time ago that I had welcomed the sun-warmed spaces of liberty. I know that in another dimension the two were not mutually exclusive but existed together.”
The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge
I wonder if we’re back to the “Wounded Healer” again, Anna? (“Maybe”, I hear you say.) Laughter in the face of all that is, in itself, healing; as is the way you share your story.
I’m glad to see that Elsegirl takes after her Mama and Grandmama.
Laughable indeed. And i think the only way anything can make a shred of sense in this world is by the expression of God (or Love, or “Magic”, as my 5yo dtr puts it) THROUGH our human selves (cuz we all have magic in us!) TO each other. We get glimmers of “magic” (laughter, connection, moments of joy) thru all the senselessness, suffering, and sadness. Makes it all worthwhile…or sometimes worthwhile…. or bearable…When I can allow myself to recognize it. Hard when you have a child suffering. And when he’s asking all these questions too. Sometimes all I can do is help him try to recognize the magic in himself. Cuz most of the time when he’s looking for answers…. I got nuthin. Anyway– not sure what the heck I just said– will read it thru later! Luv u Anna & Anonymous #1!!