Monday, July 22, 2013

Which Kind of Fox

But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.  No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Ezra 3:12-13

I saw an animal this morning - sitting in a patch of sunlight by the treeline in my backyard.  I was on the elliptical machine, exercising; the sight stopped me in my tracks.  Literally.  I ran downstairs for my camera.  Maybe if I took a picture, I would be able to identify it.  I didn't want to scare it away, so I brought my camera back upstairs - to that same window - and I used my telephoto lens through the glass.  Whatever it was - about cat-sized, but with longer ears - was scratching with single-minded determination.  Then it stood - longish tail, rough fur; I couldn't get a good look at its head before it loped off into the woods.  A last glimpse of reddish-brown fur between the trees, and it was gone.

With real anticipation, exercise forgotten, I rushed back downstairs to load the pictures on my computer.  Funny part - I tried to look it up by memory first - googling pictures of wild cats and mammals in my state.  It definitely wasn't a wild cat - romantic thoughts of an exotic species living right under my nose gone...  So, I looked at the pictures.  Definitely a red fox.  Common species found all across the United States.  Surviving in urban areas as well as suburban and rural.  Solitary.  Independent.  Trickster in folklore.

I liked that.  Because it fooled me...

So, how often are we fooled?  Made to think one thing when reality is entirely different?  Anticipating events that end up reversing our expectations?  Disappointed or pleasantly surprised?  There are a lot of foxes out there - tricksters...

I was just reading Ezra.  There was a passage that stuck with me - Ezra was talking about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem - authorized by King Cyrus of Persia - rebuilding by the descendants of the Israeli exiles to Babylon.  And witnessed by some of the original exiles - the men and women who had actually known the original temple built by King Solomon and destroyed seventy years earlier.  Imagine how they must have felt - finally coming back to their holy city, released from captivity, the chosen, children of the one God.  Joy.  But this temple wasn't the same - it was less - less grand, smaller, a re-do, a substitute.  The stones that laid the foundation weren't as finely cut from as costly material; there was no Ark, no rod of Aaron, no manna; Glory wasn't there.  Sorrow in the comparison.
Some commentaries mention the mixture of joy and sorrow as our life on earth.  The joy of heaven and the sorrow of hell that meet up together - the human condition.  I disagree.  The passage also says no one could distinguish the sounds - the joy from the weeping.  I think we've been fooled by a fox.  A fox that categorizes and labels.   Maybe there isn't so much of a difference between the two.  If I were to make a list of things that make me cry - the list would contain a jumble of acts of kindnesspain, undeserved love, loss, grace - impossible to order because they are equally important, equally life-changing, equally likely to be on a list of things that inspire joy.

When the congregation at my church sang Jesus Loves You to my daughter after her baptism; she was in middle school and the pastors walked with her up and down the central aisle so the people could express their love and support - I cried.  I didn't just cry - I sobbed - right there in front of God and everyone.  When a group of youth chose to lift her over a rope in a game they were playing - because she wasn't capable of jumping it - I cried again.  When I saw my father, with all the wires and tubes after open-heart surgery, fragile and tender, hugging a heart pillow to his chest, walking down the hall of the hospital with two therapists, I cried.  Tears of joy.  Tears of relief.  Tears of hope.

We've been fooled into thinking joy and weeping are opposites.  Heaven and hell.  I prefer to see them as part of a journey.  I will continue to seek joy, even though, at times, that joy is expressed through weeping.

Father in heaven, thank you for your foxes that make us think about truth.  
Thank you for joy and for tears.

Linked with Monday's Musings

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