Sunday, March 30, 2014

I Was Just Teasing. Please Don't Be Offended.

I'm always teasing. It's my disposition, and sometimes my effort to show love. Sometimes it's just a bad habit. It's just sloth: fear of the seriousness of life.

Often when people are expressing their frustrations with the ordinary problems of the day (either in conversation or in a post online) it seems natural for me to find something of the humor that runs like a current through all these things. So I tease a little; I try, perhaps, to "make light" because I see some lightness that's really there.

I also know that there is always the temptation to be flippant or dismissive or cynical. There is the temptation to twist humor into a way of evading or denying the impact of another person's suffering on myself. This temptation is strongest with people I know the best, with those who are -- in the most immediate sense of the term -- my "neighbors," my brothers and sisters.

I'm so sorry for all the times I've done this to my loved ones: to Eileen first (who is always quick to tell me to cut it out, thank God) and to my children. I'm sorry when I let amusement (or analysis) become a pretext for a lack of attention. I'm sorry. My dear loved ones, Eileen, my children (especially my quiet daughters), sometimes you may feel put off, but don't be... I love you all so much.

I'm sorry, my friends. I know that the burdens of the day are real. A moment of suffering is beyond measuring, and worthy of offering with Jesus. Precisely that one moment holds a mystery of suffering that encompasses your personal pain and your own cry for God. I always want to respect you, and live in compassion, to join with you in the loneliness of pain.

Humor would seem rather awkward here, but that is because I am awkward. I want to be compassionate, but I am powerless to help you by my own power. I can't reach you, because suffering (in itself) is incommunicable. How easy it is for words to bend in the direction of a dark cynicism or even a veiled rejection. Sometimes even mutual laughter is just noise to distract us from the silence of a resignation to the cheapening of life, or even to despair.

I'm sorry, my friends. I am a fallen human being. I am afraid of suffering. It is so easy to forget, in the moment, and to see nothing but the limitations of everything.

Only in Jesus can we share our sufferings. Jesus bridges all the distances and overcomes the limits of all things. He rises from the dead. I must remember Him and dwell with Him more deeply in my heart. There I shall find the strength for compassion and the healing salve of good humor.

I'm sorry to you also, my friends on the Internet. Especially in a combox, it's so easy to crack a joke that comes off the wrong way because you can't see my face. Winking and smiling emoticons are a poor substitute for a human face that wants to say, "We are together in Jesus. I don't know how to help, but we are together. Your suffering is my suffering, in Him. I joke because I feel awkward, because it's beyond my understanding, but also perhaps because the Risen Jesus already hold all of us and He doesn't want us to be gloomy."

I tease all the time, and it comes naturally. Life can seem melancholy but there's a line of humor through it all that remains like a glimmer of the irrepressible glory of creation, and the surprising miracle of redemption and the undying hope that comes from it.

I see in humor a reflection of God's mercy, and the utter gratuity of everything. Existence is a gift, and we will never be its masters. But the recognition of this restores innocence and awakens joy, and I just want to rejoice in the irony and the beauty of how we all exist, and we are all together, and we are each so peculiar, so ...unique.

And how we are, each and all of us, so dear to God.