On Sunday at church we had a very gloomy-doomy sermon. Lent. Repentance. Giving up things we enjoy. Evil. Sackcloth. Temptation. Ashes.
Look, I know that if you choose to follow this mad religion of mine, you’re signing up for a certain amount of tragedy. It is, after all, based on sin and salvation. The symbol of our faith is an instrument of torture.
But there must be a balance to be had between the determinedly cheerful “happy clappy” variety of Christian and the lugubrious, pious, eyes downcast version.
Running up the aisle
This was brought home to me at the part of the service when we lined up to take communion. As the priest stood before the altar waiting for the faithful to process up the aisle, a little girl of about three appeared at the back of the church near where I was sitting. I heard her say something to her mother about “going to see Jesus”. She was dancing and skipping, hardly able to contain the joy singing out of every pore of her body. She started to run – yes run! – up the aisle towards the priest.
Well this was too much for her poor mother, who with a couple of strides grabbed the little girl by the wrist and forced her to quiescence by her side. She held the child back to allow others to go first, and then they walked up the aisle together. Slowly. By this time the little girl was exuding not joy but a kind of sombre, disappointed puzzlement.
I couldn’t help thinking that the carpenter in whose name this was all taking place would have delighted in that little girl running, jumping and giggling straight into his arms.
It isn’t only religion
It isn’t only in religion that we lose our joy. Did you play that game when you were little of galloping down the street pretending you were a horse? Yes, me too. Faster and faster, until I could feel the wind in my mane.
Growing up damps down that child-like wonder and wildness. We learn to behave ourselves. That socialisation starts very early. (And it seems to me earlier and earlier now, and in more sinister ways, but that’s another discussion.)
So how do we manage to be adult and joyful at the same time? How do we regain that childlike unselfconsciousness?
Oh, did you think I was going to answer my own question? No, not right now, I want to know what you think first. Please tell us in the comments.
Photo credit: jody mcnary