Wake Up Laughing!
April 25, 2010
What I know of sprit is astir
in the world. The god I have always expected
to appear at the woods’ edge, beckoning,
I have always expected to be
a great relisher of the world, its good
grown immortal in his mind.
-from the very end of “The Satisfactions of the Mad Farmer”
By Wendell Berry
I read a delightful article in Tikkun while on vacation that got me to thinking for it described for me what my goal for living is – wake up laughing. To be in such a state one has to know a profound and lasting peace and grace deep within one’s soul. It won’t do to simply want it or to hope for it or to pretend it is so, for what happens in our sleep does not lie. To wake up laughing is to dream of joy. To dream of joy is to know joy deep in the places where we cannot go except to receive the gift of what is there. To know joy is like breathing. We do not think about each breath we take, we do not have to understand how we breathe to take each breath that is blessedly given us to breathe, it is simply there and so we live. When joy becomes like breathing we have arrived at the center of God’s heart where each breath is a communion with God. Too often our sleeping dreams are sad or frightening or simply lost. Mine are often fragmented, broken into pieces, and I am left uneasy, vaguely disturbed, a sense of being abandoned, alone, alienated. This is nobody’s fault it is simply a reflection of life unfinished, battered, broken, incomplete where more healing is needed, more journeying into Gods heart wanted. To wake up laughing is to be whole, to be finally truly integrated, to be oneself in harmony with our creator. What would it be like to wake up laughing? It would be the triumph of love over despair and fear, the truest form of being, being in love even when we sleep, even when we sleep when we know not what we do and what we do is what we know.
It doesn’t say here that Tabitha (in Greek: Dorcas) was laughing when she was raised from death but there is some evidence in this brief description that she was one who had been enlightened, who had lived a resurrected life even before she died, a true follower of Jesus, a spirit of grateful, generosity always giving, loving, caring for others. There are some interesting details in this short account that are worth mentioning:
She is named and described as a disciple and not just one name but her name in two languages which suggests to me that we are to know that this is not just any woman or any person or any disciple but a particular one who is well known for her good works and her charity. This too is significant because she is not a renown preacher or a powerful political leader or an eloquent writer or a prominent theologian, she is a woman who does all the good she can, a kind woman who acts tirelessly from her kindness to bless the world where she is. She is known all right but not for her fame or fortune or power but for her light.
She was surrounded by widows who were weeping and holding clothing she had made. (It has been conjectured that she regularly made clothing to give away reminiscent of the shawl ministry that the church does today.) This is a beautiful example of her work, the gift of life’s basic essentials for those who need them, a simple business but life-giving for those on the receiving end. Hers was a generous heart and a generous life that overflowed in blessing. No wonder they wept. It is said that she brought many disciples to the fold simply her goodness and her acts of love. (this by the way is the best evangelism there is: they will know we are Christians by our love and the love that gives itself away shines like a light and it is that light that people want, the real thing, and when they see it and when they feel it they will come. Out of a generous spirit and a generous life comes a generous outpouring of good will.
It is no wonder to me that she is the one who is raised from death that day. She is the perfect candidate to wake up laughing because her life is a whole, a life committed to do good, to serve, to make life better for all, a heart full of love and joy, grateful for life and generous with life. She was living the risen life even before she was raised and it is as if death could not hold her. My guess is that her sleeping dreams were of peace and joy and if she wasn’t laughing out loud when she waked, she was smiling ready for another new day to give herself away.
The church needs people like this who practice love and generosity and compassion until they are loving and generous and compassionate. We become what we do. Peace comes when we practice the risen life, when we trust the faith that promises love will overcome even death, when we do all the good we can; when we leave the world at the end of the day more at peace than when we began. We the church have a crucial role to play in bringing peace to the world, in bringing the light. Our part begins in our generous giving to the church so that it will be strong and healthy and able to all the good we can but this outpouring of our selves comes not from what we feel we have to do but from what we want to do because we love God and seek the light and love the world with a compassion befitting those who would rise from death and live the risen life. It is in generously giving of ourselves that we experience also the generosity of God and the blessings of life lived in love, whole and in the light. (You might want to keep this in mind as you consider what your gifts to the church will be in the new year, as you fill out your estimate of giving and offer it to God next week.) It could well be true that an entrance to eternal life is a generous heart that in the practice of giving finds itself on the way to God and in finding God is found by God.
I myself have more work to do, more practicing to do, more giving to risk, for perhaps it is the holding back that keeps my dreams from being complete and unbroken and that keeps me from as yet waking up to laughter. I have not given up. Here is another opportunity to integrate what we want with who we are, to offer God what we have and who we are with gladness and compassion.
Jon Walton, the pastor at First Presbyterian in New York City writes in the Christian Century: “Ðorcas became a symbol of resurrection life in the Joppa Church because her simple acts of compassion and caring expressed, in a visible and tangible way, something of the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder that death could lay no more claim on her than it could on Jesus?”
As awesome as this may sound we have been given the power by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to break the claim of death on us, to live generously and free, serving love in all things and by the grace of God to one day wake up laughing.
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