If I let myself, I could be sad all the time. Not depressed, mind you, but sad, because there is so much to be sad about. I am sad about ignorance, equating ISIS with Syrian refugees and governors who not only don’t know the difference but also don’t know the Constitution. I am sad about all those people who died from violence, in Paris and Beirut, in Kenya, transgender women of color killed just because, victims of domestic abuse, black boys. I’m sad about how many people I know are fighting cancer. I could be sad all the time. So much is falling apart and in tatters
I can’t imagine being part of a church that ignored the sadness of the world but I wonder sometimes how much I ignore the joy of the world. “God is good/all the time/all the time/God is good” chafes me a little, because I think of how it might sound to someone who just received a terrible diagnosis or who lost a beloved. In an ultimate sense, God is good. It’s what we hang our hats on, that something Good awaits us after all the bad. But we don’t live in the then, we live in the now, and the now can be pretty bleak. Off the top of my head, I can instantly name five people whose lives are in shambles for one reason or another. I could be sad all the time.
For many years I have loved Walter Wangerin’s story Ragman, in which Jesus takes what is broken in others and replaces it with what is whole in him. Near the end of the story, he is all broken, and then he dies, and then he comes back, with only a scar to show for his suffering. It is such a story.
These days I picture Jesus picking up the pieces of our lives, the shreds that are still left, with care and tenderness and with the skill of an artist, putting them back together; sort of. I imagine if he tried to put us back together as we had been we would all look like Frankenstein’s monster, everything where it should be but wrong. So instead I imagine he takes us in our brokenness and makes a mosaic out of the shattered parts of our lives.
Or I think about this world of ours that is torn to shreds by so much, by hunger and war, by famine, by drought and tsunamis, by greed, by fear, by apathy, ignorance. They are wood chippers, electric carvers gone mad, these forces. It’s like the map of the world has been put through the paper shredder, and Jesus stands there with the strips of what’s left and we hand him some old, yellowing Scotch tape, and beg him to fix it.
Then I think what would happen if he, being Jesus, didn’t take us up on our old tape but instead took all those strands of the shredded paper, the refuse of the world map, and wove them into something new, so that the boundaries went away, and age old enemies were woven next to each other, and what we had was no longer a map but something different, and new, and because it is woven, something stronger than what existed before.
Maybe the Prince of Peace will be the Prince of Pieces, our pieces, the flotsam and jetsam of our tragedy and sin, picked up and not discarded but reused, remade, into something different but still beautiful.
There is sadness in that, too; but maybe a little beauty or at least a little hope.