Skip to comments.Captain Yips: Making Room in Our Imaginations for God
Posted on 02/28/2006 12:22:07 PM PST by sionnsar
This meditation for Shrove Tuesday is the first entry in the Anglican Bloggers Lenten Collaboration series of daily devotionals that will be posted on Lent & Beyond throughout Lent. Todays entry is by guest blogger Captain Yips.
Ash Wednesday and Lent are upon us. Its Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and although our culture has mostly turned from the ascetic deprivations of Lent, weve kept the Tuesday blow-out. We wont fast on Wednesday, but well sure eat and drink on Tuesday.
Theres a meteorological Lent, too. Although were in a transitional period as daylight increases daily, Ash Wednesday is in my mind always a grey, austere day, a day of thin, watery light, damp chill, and a certain lack of vigor. A fragment of a poem I wrote long ago always bubbles up, though the rest is long forgotten:
We meet in small company in the grey morning,
to share our little meal of bread and wine.
Lent and the repentance that Lent calls for has for me always been connected with the long act of endurance that the end of Midwestern winter involves. Not so much the cold, but the plodding procession of one grey day after another that seems to complement the mood of A Penitential Office for Ash Wednesday and the penitential psalms. The weather and the mood are so closely matched, that its hard to imagine that for many, maybe even for most Christians, Lent comes in high summer. Does Lent that comes at summers height bring a sense of completion, summery languor, something like the heavy scent of late lilies?
For North American Anglicans awaiting Junes Episcopal General Convention, repentance is additionally in our minds. We await the conventions actions, wondering if Convention will make the least step toward something like repentance. The Windsor Report doesnt quite ask for repentance-it invites ECUSA
to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion. (134)
Most parents of teens know the difference between expressions of regret and repentance:
Teen (mumbling or shouting) Im sorry.
Parent (exasperated): I dont want you to be sorry. I want you to change.
Parent: You need a new attitude, mister/miss!
Continuing in this parent/child vein, Id like to look at the way that the inexhaustibly rich parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates the difference between regret and repentance, and also shows us that our imaginations are too small to contain what God wants for us.
This parable is the last in a sequence about finding whats lost. The direction of the series seems to be to oppose the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and to illuminate Gods desire to reclaim the lost.
But the lost son does something interesting before he decides to go home. Hes living in filth and degradation and starvation amongst the pigs, and hes thinking of eating their food. He realizes, Hey, I dont have to do this. My father will take care of me. He knows that his father will not beat him, punish him, humiliate him; he knows that his father will feed him, and that a nice little speech will be enough to secure a place among the hirelings. Thats all he aspires to now.
But when he gets home, his father runs out to meet his son and embraces him before the kid can get his set piece out of his mouth. When the son finally gets to make his speech, his father doesnt seem to listen, does he? Its sort of a Yes, yes, lets have a party! Youre back! Then the father does the unimaginable. He gives his son a sons place, not a hirelings, and he tells everyone that his dead son has come back to life.
When the son was living among the pigs, he was miserable enough for anyone, but his journey back to life only began when he realized that he could trust his father. His trust was a narrow thing, limited to filling his belly and living from one day to the next. He had no idea that his father would give him so much more.
In Interesting Times, Terry Pratchetts cowardly and entirely incompetent wizard Rincewind is marooned on a pretty nice tropical island. He has plenty to eat, the weather is clement, and he is, for Rincewind, unusually safe. The only lack is something, something so common at home in the great city of Ankh-Morpork, where everything is for sale, that he never thought about it. Now, he thought about it-or more correctly, them-all the time.
Then three amazingly beautiful women appear via war canoe, tall, blonde, athletic, and abundantly female. It seems that the men of their tribe have been exterminated by a short lived and highly specific plague. They want Rincewind to go back to with them to perpetuate the tribe. They promise him earthly and sensual pleasures such as those of which you may have dreamed . . .
Rincewind swallowed. There was a hungry, dreamy look in his eyes.
Can I have them mashed? he said.
As C. S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, We are far too easily pleased.
As we consider Lent, lets begin with the assumption that our imaginations are poor things, too stuffed with mashed potatoes to know all that God wants for us. Were more like children who can only see the repressive and unwanted parental discipline but not the independence, the emotional and intellectual maturity that is the goal. Were always down among the pigs, and every day begins with the realization that we can trust the Father. Were a long way from home down a dry and dusty road, but the greeting at the end is beyond our imagination. In Lent, we fast a little, give up a little, for the sake of making room in our imaginations for something greater.
About Captain Yips (in his own words): Im a recently retired bureaucrat living in the north suburbs of Chicago. Im father to a teenager (who could guess?). My wife teaches at Northwestern University. I belong to the Anglican Church of Christ the King, where I serve as webmaster.
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