I was speaking with a friend today who was expressing indignation at a particularly twisted bit of theology. It was one of those things one can only shake one's head, with mouth agape in wonderment, at such profound theological abuse.
I found that in reading it, I had no energy to be outraged. Yes, it was indeed an egregious smudge on the Kingdom of God, but I couldn't feel anything. It was there I realized that I have burnt out on outrage. To be honest, I think it has been a long time in the making.
I'm exhausted giving my energy to being chronically outraged because there is an endless supply of situations to be outraged about. More than that, with chronic outrage it doesn't make a way for us to do anything about the issue other than joining in on the choir of those who rant and rail at the darkness.
I think I am at the point where enough is enough. I am no longer content to "kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight." I'm not sure it works that way. I am in a space where darkness is overcome with light. Darkness is the absence of light, so to vanquish the darkness I am choosing to speak about what is loving, what is beautiful and that which is life-giving. Shining light that dispels the long shadows of despair and darkness. It is shining a light in such a way that it shows a way forward, a way into love that sustains in a way that outrage and hate can never do.
I confess to you that this is not easy to do, nor is it for the faint of heart because sometimes the darkness seems so unrelenting, ... so... dark. It is from this place that I must lean into the Light of the World, and hang on as the Light of the World hangs on to me. In a world full of ego, fear, bitterness, jealousy, and rage, the antidote is the light of perfect love with its healing, reconciling, merciful, rugged hope and stubborn gladness.
Jack Gilbert's poem "A Brief Defense" is speaking to me again today (I wrote about it here) and presents the idea of a stubborn gladness. Gladness is a deep experience, as the fruit of the Spirit - Joy, and has its source within us. Its source is that place in us that the apostle Paul describes as Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). The place that is the core of our authentic self.
Stubborn in that we obstinately refuse to capitulate to the "ruthless furnace of this world." Kicking and screaming, if necessary, contending for the stubborn gladness in the midst of all of life - the good, bad and ugly.
In his poem, Gilbert calls us to look for wonder and its gladness wherever we find it. In the sunrise, the stripes of a tiger, the laugh of a child, a song, a piece of art, a flower or forest. We reorient the way in which we see, or we look while rooting inward to that which will genuinely satisfy. We practice a new way of being, awareness, and living while resisting the pressure to succumb to this darkness.
We can cultivate stubborn life-giving gladness. Each time we choose to tenaciously seek things for which we can be grateful we orient our self to the Light allowing gladness to arise in us. Yes, sometimes this takes a lot of work. This is why we need some faithful, forgiving friends to encourage us, and for us to encourage them. Over time this precious gift finds roots deeper in our life, with roots that can sustain us with life-giving gladness in the midst of the desert season or life's crisis'.
Jack Gilbert's poem:
A Brief Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise, the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.