The laughter of God

Do you ever feel as though you’ve been working so hard and yet accomplishing so little?  Or perhaps with all you get done, you only find more angles from which to quest, judge, and quibble with the likes of your own insights?

Riverwalk with my family in Nanning, China.
River walk with my family in Nanning, China.  All photos by Kelly Bettner.

I felt these insecurities creeping up on me in China, threatening to rob me of any joy, satisfaction, or truth, so seductive were their persuasions.  But I’m realizing that these voices aren’t just seductive or corrosive, they’re actually instructive, because there’s truth in them:

If you’re aiming for perfection, accomplishment, and brilliance, it’s no secret that you’ll always be let down.

The problem is that when you start to realize, slowly and painfully, (as if this is the stuff of mind-blowing revelation!) that you’re not perfect, that you’ve got a lot to learn, that you’re not “there” yet, all you can see is how far you are from your outlandish goal rather than how far you’ve come.

I wonder how God feels when I throw up my hands because I’m tired and I’m disappointed and I’m doing it again, that is, picking goals that have no ends in sight and lingering on their pursuit, as if salvation’s down that path.  I know how I feel–frustrated, let down, and anxious.

Climbing the rice paddies in Guangxi, China.
Climbing the rice paddies in Guangxi, China.

But somehow, I can only hear God chuckling.

When we weave elaborate webs of disillusionment and get all tangled and worried and bewildered, doesn’t it make sense that God finds light-hearted gentle giggles for us?  That’s how I imagine my God–so close, yet so removed from my anxiety and neuroses that God refuses to validate them by feigning disappointment or invalidate them by mocking me, but simply lets me know with dancing eyes that, Erin, there is certainly more to life than this.

It doesn’t help that sometimes we even know “why” we do things, that we realize with all the suffering and the hard things that happen around us that we’re turning inward with an impulse to control the little we can and to retreat from what doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t help, because explanations, and sometimes therapy, are not all they’re cracked up to be.

Remembering to enjoy the view...
Remembering to enjoy the view…

Instead, I was reminded this week that the gift of faith is not that bad things pass us by, or that we’re freed from our old ways of thinking, but that God abides with us through it all.  If we just open our imperfect little arms and ears, we get to live in relationship with a God whose grace is simply more totalizing than death or anxiety or security.  And it’s in moments such as these where the gentle, rippling laughter of God is the sweetest music, and suddenly everything else is just piddly background noise.

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