Sunday Thoughts

by

by Al Sturgeon

(published every Sunday in Desperate Houseflies)

WHERE THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER

First it was Ashley Smith, eluding violent death through encouragement provided by The Purpose-Driven Life. Then it was Terri Schiavo, unleashing debates of life and death everywhere. And just when the religious commentators stepped off the interview stage, Pope John Paul II died. All hovering around the Easter holiday. There’s plenty to write about, huh?

Well, it wasn’t that easy. With no disrespect intended to any of these stories, it didn’t come together for me until I had septic problems.

Let me begin by saying that no one in my neighborhood has ever been nominated for Septic System of the Year awards. That having been said, we’ve avoided the major problems many in our area have encountered. Well, we “had” avoided is more accurate now. I’ll spare you the stinky details, but let’s just say that my new heroes, Steve (Tibbit), and James (Scranton) went above and beyond any definition of friendship in helping my family with its problem. On different occasions, both rode in on their white horses (figuratively speaking) to save the day, and both left with horses a little less clean (the horse part still figurative, the clean part not).

So where do my sewage problems fit in with images of Ashley Smith and her captor, or the deaths of Terri Schiavo or John Paul II? Well, believe it or not, they all have something to say about life. One faced death. Another went to court. The other reflected on a long life. But as for me and my house, we remembered what life involves along the way.

Here’s the deal: it’s messy. It’s frustrating. It’s costly and demanding. It can most surely stink. And above all, it cries out for others to climb into the mess with you. To make you smile when you’d much rather cuss. To put your needs ahead of theirs. To care.

I do grow weary at times with debates over “life.” They often circle around it’s beginning and end with little discussion of what it looks like in the messy middle – when you know you’ve got it.

In Andrew Sullivan’s wonderful essay in Time magazine (March 28, 2005), he mentioned that his favorite detail of the Ashley Smith story was that she was abducted when she went out for cigarettes. No, Sullivan is not a sick guy. Instead, this simple fact makes it much more real. “One was a monster,” Sullivan wrote, “the other a woman unable to care for her 5-year-old, looking for cigarettes in the dark. And out of that came something, well, beautiful.” Sullivan went on to explain that the good news from Jesus was that God works among the messes, not just the famous and the beautiful.

He ended his essay with a favorite line of his from a Leonard Cohen song, “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

God works among the messes. That’s what I remembered about life this past week. Far away from the television cameras, when we have eyes to see we find him in the oddest of places, from the neatest people, and when we least expect it.

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