I believe God has a sense of humor. Sometimes I think He thinks He’s funny and I respectfully disagree. This happens when one too many things go wrong at once, or when I’m faced with one too many ironies. But I also believe He takes great joy and glee in funny things. I”ve got to believe He laughs at jokes, life’s absurdities, and just funny shit. (How do you make a tissue dance? Put a boogie in it!) Because life is usually so jam packed with serious things, like murders and terrorism and fires and innocent children and men and women devastated by disease or war or weather events. I’ve got to believe He appreciates some good humor.
So I’ve got to think He had a little chuckle with La Chica’s card for a prison ministry project in her religious education program. They told her how and why people care about and minister to prisoners. She nodded solemnly. Then they asked us to make cards for the county’s prisoners. La Chica’s eyes lit up. Glitter glue, foam stickers, gems, markers…it was a veritable crafting wonderland for her. She made cards to let them know that she was thinking of them, that her favorite food was cheese, and that she hoped they had good mac and cheese to eat. She went through two glitter glue pens and a bazillion stickered gems to impart hope and faith to the recipients of her cards.
Then she found this foam sticker, “Make a joyful noise.” So she drew a prisoner being released, shouting “Yay!” at the door that’s labeled “Exit to prison.” I was tickled pink. I had her show the catechist. Because I thought this was so outstanding. So typical of an innocent child who thinks concretely. And so, so funny.
Apparently the catechist did not think this was so outstanding. She did not think this was so funny. She stiffened up and pursed her lips. I said, “Oh come on, we’ll leave the file and shank out of the card.” See, I think I’m pretty funny too. Apparently, she does not. This is when she really glared at us. And made La Chica add “through prayer” to the card after some tsk-tsking.
This is another example of why I don’t feel at home with our parish. Because I shouldn’t be made to feel bad. I believe God is a loving God, and shame isn’t something He doles out with his grace and mercy and love. Because shame is the feeling that there is something inherently wrong or bad about me. Completely different flavor than love and grace and mercy.
I’m reminded of the Living Nativity we attended this holiday season. The homily resonated with me. It was about Jesus’ humanity. That we must remember Jesus took on all of our human weaknesses, other than sin. He took on our humanity. He took on our hunger and anger and fear and suffering and fatigue and grief.
This is important to remember, the homily reminded us, because wherever humanity is found, especially at it’s most vulnerable, that is where God is to be found. And we must continue to seek Him. The flip side of this is that we can become divine if we act and speak as He did. That is where grace is found.
At no point are we supposed to be glaring at children who say the damndest things. At no point are we supposed to make someone feel shame for trying her best. At no point are we supposed to glare in disapproval at life’s ironies.
We are to seek God in our humanity. In our mistakes. In our missteps. In our messy. We are to strive to be grace. In the face of this humanity. It is in these moments we celebrate the gift of grace and mercy in the face of humanity. This holiday season reminds us of this. This is the reminder that we can bedazzle the crap out of our messiness. It is in our messiness that we have the opportunity to both find divinity and be divine.
So in the end, we left the file and shank out of the card. I let go of my irritation for the catechist. La Chica turned in a card she’s thrilled with. We remain with this parish because for now, I’m grateful for the opportunities to practice grace. These are all worth celebrating and making joyful noises. Can I hear a Woot?