The feet-on-the-stove stance of this book is a deliberate attempt to cure myself, and anyone else who will listen, of the nasty habit of worrying the world to pieces like a terrier with a rag.
Contemplation will be the only defense against drowning in our own spare time. Even now, the doctrine of justification by work is difficult to defend. Jobs are shorter and more boring than they used to be. It’s hard to believe that five hours a day of button-pushing and paper shuffling are the heart and soul of human existence. Heaven help us, then, in the bright new day of the guaranteed income and the twenty-hour week. The grim old religion of salvation by rushing will go bankrupt altogether, and we shall go straight out of our minds–unless we learn to sit still. . . . The habit of contemplation, therefore–the ability to sit down in front of something and care enough to let it speak for itself–cannot be acquired soon enough. Accordingly, I invite you, too, to put your feet up on the stove. If some true believer in the gospel of haste comes along and asks us why we are wasting time, we shall tell him we are busy getting the seats of our pants properly shined up for the millenium.
Recent revelations have felt so good. So healing. So happy and whole.
And then Satan sneaks back behind my ear and says, “It can’t last. You’ll be miserable again soon. Misery is where you humans belong.”
That’s wrong. That’s what Capon is saying. God calls us to a Party. To joy. Joy is what lasts. Yes, our world is broken and miserable and sick. But the glimpses of joy and bliss are glimpses at what is permanent. That lingers. That’s the Kingdom.
A friend just passed along this Tim Keller quotation that sums it all up:
The story of Jesus standing before the tomb of Lazarus is an endless source of insight for me. As he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was not smiling. He was angry. He was weeping. Why? Because death is a bad thing! Jesus wasn’t thinking, ‘They think that this is a tragedy, but no harm done! I’m about to raise him from the dead. This looks like a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s really a good thing! It’s a way for me to show my glory. It’s really exciting! I can’t wait!’ He wasn’t thinking that. Jesus was weeping at the tomb, because the bad thing he’s about to work for good is bad. The story of Lazarus does not give you a saccharine view of suffering, saying bad things are really blessings in disguise or that every cloud has a silver lining. The Bible never says anything like that! God will give bad things good effects in your life, but they’re still bad. Jesus Christ’s anger at the tomb of Lazarus proves that he hates death. He also hates loneliness, alienation, pain, and suffering. Jesus hates it all so much that he was willing to come into this world and experience it all himself, so that eventually he could destroy it without destroying us.
There’s no saccharine view in the Christian faith. The promise is not that if you love God, good things will happen in your life. The promise is not that if you love God, the bad things really aren’t bad; they’re really good things. The promise is that God will take the bad things, and he’ll work them for good in the totality.