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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life in miniature

Picture this:

I am kneeling before a large patio door in the lower level of my house, looking rapt at the beauty of falling snow in my backyard. Giant puffy flakes of snow drift slowly through the air, each one bright white against the deep green of pines in my backyard. Everything in my backyard is cloaked in purest white. It's gorgeous.

To make things better, my mind is rolling around a note I recently received from a lifelong friend and colleague in ministry. It's one of those messages that both affirms who I am and where I've come from, and challenges my thinking in significant ways. So I am playing with words, considering a reply, and I am remembering lots of good times from childhood that this note has pulled out of the recesses of my mind.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Now, pan out a little bit. I am kneeling not out of reverence but because I have a bowl of soapy water and a rag, and I am disassembling one of the dog kennels that sits downstairs by the patio door. Last night Abbie, my Chesapeake, who is getting old and incontinent, had an accident. And not just a liquid accident, but a more or less (actually more less than more) solid accident that coats the inside of her kennel, tracks across the floor, and out the door. I am on my knees because I'm cleaning up large volumes of dog doo. Slurry. Whatever. That's already more than you wanted to know.

It strikes me that this situation is a perfect picture of life, most of the time. We are surrounded by outrageous beauty, incredible mystery, and unbelievable garbage. Trouble is, most of the time we are willing to sacrifice the mystery and the beauty in order not to deal with the garbage. The pharmaceutical industry has honed this to a fine point, providing us little purple pills that lift up life's lows and reduce the highs to a manageable level so we can coast through life more or less calmly. Some of us are capable of muting the highs and lows all on our own; we hide our eyes from terrible suffering and at the same time we miss out on the pinnacles of life's joys.

I think I'd rather deal with all of it straight up.

P.S. There are certainly people who need to take medication for various mental conditions. I am not speaking against that. But my point is that too often we avoid the pain and at the same time exclude ourselves from the joy of life.

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