Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017.07.27 At Play With God

When I am on vacation on this island called Nantucket, I swear my mind goes fallow, or at least I feel plowed and unsown waiting to be seeded as I sit on the beach and stare blankly into the vastness of god-ness spread out before me with no end: the sea, the sky, the stretch of beach and sparkling white sand—even the tang of salt on my sun-dried legs. When I was young I swam in the ocean. Now I wade in it.

I listen to the sounds of silence punctuated by the surf’s splash and the occasional shouts of delight from children who dash toward the breaking waves and, suddenly frightened, race back—over and over and over. This is how I behave sometimes with God—boldly approaching with my words, my prayers, my theological assertions, and then, with no warning, I feel too big and too small at once, and retreat. I feel playful. Such a Mystery where mess and blessing collide.

I’m just back home in the city and still hearing, smelling, and feeling the island landscape and its lazy mood. I would not want to live there all the time—too isolated. Even an introvert like me could get claustrophobic here in winter, though I’m not sure about that. Nantucket is 30 miles out from mainland Cape Cod, a small scoop of land in the Atlantic Ocean. Every year the beaches recede almost imperceptibly. Climate change fears jump into my mind and jump out again—fast.  Not today. Today, I give my imagination full play.

I would be sad if we couldn’t return summer after summer for our two weeks in our small cottage at the west end of the island. It is quiet there. There's little ground light, so we sit outside and look up and see what looks like every single star in the cosmos and the milky way—better than any movie or television show we could watch. We actually ate by candlelight a couple of evenings, talked, and even cried a little—not sad just, dare I say, age appropriately age- aware, stoked by the power of 40 years of memories. These surge in and out of our minds and our conversation like the waves, bearing echoes of our children’s and grandchildren’s voices. And we said I love you more that we usually do. This is as close as we get to romantic. Godde, how strikingly irresponsible. Playing.

An island, such as Nantucket, is limited space thriving within limitless sky, sand, water, and air—a very playful image of God, I’d say.

Oh yes, I know there’s plenty of garish affluence among the stereotypical  “beautiful island people” who wander from store to store in Nantucket town and never stop spending. I do that, too sometimes, and this year nearly spent $200 (Ok reduced to $189.99) on a pair of fashion jeans that actually fit my skinny legs—nearly. I’m too old, not wise just old. And too, there’s plenty of loud partying among the young. I used to do that too. They are having fun, playing. 

How little we play in this present worried culture and gravely serious church. How little we let ourselves go and revel in godness wherever we sense it—be it idyllic natural scapes or on the sooty curbs of city streets where beggars gather to chat, compare the day’s wage, tell jokes. I’ve seen them play and seem them quarrel. But seriously, beggars in Boston smile, laugh, and say God bless you more than any other passerby caught in the rush.

In all this I imagine the face of a Creator-God exploding with delight watching Creation unfold, day by day, like a child inventing a new game. In Proverbs, Wisdom is portrayed as being God’s playmate:  “ . .  . beside God like a little child, I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” (Proverbs 9)

God at play, playing like children play, and adults play when they are free enough, exploding with delight at almost anything that bounces onto the cosmic scene. It is this image I seek, it is this image I play with—not to ignore sorrow or suffering or evil or decay, but to recognize and acknowledge what deeply matters, what gives the world and its creatures energy abundant.

Well of course! It would take unimaginable—beyond nucleic— energy to pull off a Big Bang.


Marya DeCarlen said...

I hope you send this to the owners of the cottage on Nanatucket...let them see what they help inspire in you!!!! Words better than the eclipse!!!!

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Oh, we delightedly watched the eclipse with our special glasses. It was strange indeed to see the sun as a sliver and the moon as full-bodied and in motion. Intriguing science I must say. We learned more on a NOVA program about the sun, our star, with its surrounding corona which is hotter that the sun's surface. Why? Science doesn't know but I can offer a spiritual guess: it's a halo, dummies. aka divinely blessed light and warmth.

Laurie Barnhart said...

I'm not sure why...because just now I refuse to explore the feeling....but you words touched my heart. No because of old memories of Nantucket which of course I have many no more about the playing. Whenever I go on vacation with my children and Grandchildren our time is filled with play...everything is funny somethings are hilarious, every game has a slight edge of competition, runs in the family, and the adults play just as hard as the kids. One game of capture the flag get the blood rushing and yes I too think God is right there enjoying every precious moment as in and around these games we express our love, respect and admiration for each other. Last Saturday we went and did an Adventure Room. It was great fun we worked together to solve numerous puzzles and riddles to finally escape from the room with 59 seconds left on the clock. Being together in this way with my family is my greatest joy since I lost Harry. These activities not only make God alive for me but also Harry, he loved them too.

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Yes, we don't make enough room for play and fun in our lives. I think video games do some of that but they are such a solo activity. Enough fun and suddenly we are experiencing joy, a spiritual gift which transcends simple fun and creates connections just like you describe in the family, Laurie. Ubi caritas deus ibi est = Where there is Love there is God.