Monday, December 03, 2007
I have a window seat for the annual December monsoon season here in Seattle. High winds and mudslides are the order of the day. Part of my agenda will undoubtedly be dealing with a newly repaired and now leaking roof on our arts building and navigating underwater crosswalks while keeping my latte dry. It’s hard to be concerned about this mundane earthly stuff though when I’ve recently been so close to the other side of life. I’ve had the privilege of being in the presence of pure joy.
My community o’ faith is sharing life for the next few days with the African Children’s Choir. I can’t imagine any other group this side of the goal that could pierce the gloom like these young lives have been able to do. They’ve dealt with so much more in their lives than the wind, rain and mud that we’re mired in. Yet they sing and dance before their creator without comparison.
Watching them last night, I was overcome with a sense of envy that I’ve rarely experienced. For me, it could have been easy to pass it off as “rhythm envy”. My feet don’t move that fast unless I’m struggling to keep myself from falling up the stairs while trying to make it look planned. Being rhythmically challenged wasn’t on my mind last night. On further examination I had to honestly conclude that it was “enthusiasm envy”.
Being a pastoral artist and responsible for teaching from the book of books in my community, I do have some skills (besides nunchuck and computer hacking) that I routinely apply to my study. One of them is the study of Greek and the original languages of the Bible. In that study I easily can recall that the literal translation of the word “enthusiasm” is en-theos, meaning “in God”. I know that in my head. I have spoken the words and taught the concepts. I hadn’t really seen it truly expressed in living color though until last night. My wife, having had the privilege to pray with them last night, said that she felt that she should have removed her shoes, Moses like, feeling as if she were on holy ground as they offered their young lives “en- theos”.
These children have lived through war, poverty, disease, and the death of some or all of those closest to them and their response is to sing and dance before God like they’ve already made it home. The most that I have had to live through lately is writers strike induced reruns and idiot induced political campaigns. I’m not sure, even when those end, that I’ll be able to dance. Some things will just take heaven to accomplish.
Some of us live for what we can gain today, and tomorrow, and in retirement. If things are good and painless and, might I add, profitable then we choose to stay there and claim that life is as it should be. These lives of promise are taking in the niceties of what they experience through our culture, but always with a longing and a plan to go home. And it’s not to a home the way it should be, but with the hope of helping it become what it could be. For that I’m a bit envious.
What a wonderful thing it is to take life as it’s given, with joy from the One who created it and then to offer it back as a sacrifice and a chance to make it better. I see it occasionally. I take part in it occasionally, but I have much to learn when it comes to enthusiasm.