The Defiant Act of Prophetic “Foolishness” in Serious Times

This week I took time with a baby bunny.
Not because my work is easy but because my work is hard.

There’s no doubt that these are serious times. We see acts of injustice, abuses of power, people living in darkness all around us—in our neighborhoods, country, and around the world. And we are called to care and respond—to work against injustice, to speak truth to power, to preach freedom to captives. It’s heart-breaking, back-breaking, never-ending work.

Defying The Darkness

I live and work among vigilant, hard-working people. We are engaged and responsive. And we’re exhausted and dejected. And in all that vigilance, this winter I saw a strange kind of defiance. Defiance in the form of “silliness.” I live and work among vigilant, hard-working people. We are engaged and responsive. And we’re exhausted and dejected. And in all that vigilance, this winter I saw a strange kind of defiance. Defiance in the form of 'silliness.' Click To Tweet

I saw it on one of the darkest days when I asked a friend, Jacob, how he was. He’s a prophetic soul who feels deeply the brokenness and injustices of the world. So I was surprised, in the midst of what felt like a dark winter, that he looked up, with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I’m good. I’ve been planting flowers.” He went on to tell me how he was spending the winter tending tiny shoots in his basement. It wasn’t to avoid the pain of the world, but to step into other realities.

His story remained with me today as I set out on my morning walk. I had serious things to think and pray about. I wanted answers, resolution. But instead God provided a baby bunny, asleep in the grass. I saw its fuzzy form and smiled briefly before moving on. Then, remembering Jacob’s attention to tiny plants, I stopped and knelt. Edging up close, I watched its every breath, saw its heart beat, counted every whisker. In a world filled with war and poverty and hate, there are also baby bunnies. Both are just as true. What miracle allowed this tiny, fragile thing to be born? And what wondrous imagination dreamed of bunnies in the first place? And why? Just for the joy of it?

And so from my morning fog of news, emails, and anxiety, I was lifted—not only to rest, but to worship by kneeling beside a sleeping, baby bunny. This seemingly insignificant thing drew me into a seemingly silly act which sent me back to my work with a new heart.

Jesus Leads Us in Prophetic Playfulness

There’s no doubt that Jesus was responsive to the needs around him, loving the poor and speaking against powers.

And yet Jesus surprised his followers by sleeping in a storm. He surprised his followers by saying, “Look to birds, flowers, children.”

These aren’t foolish, throwaway acts. These are acts of prophetic defiance in the face of human power.

In a world of war, art has no purpose.
In a world of machines, small things have no value.
In a world of utility, beauty is a hindrance.
In a world of progress, rest is anathema.
In a world of seriousness, there is no time for “silliness.”

If it’s all up to us, we have no time for rest.
If it’s all up to us, we have no right to play.

People who have no help must spend all their days in important meetings.
People who are all alone must engage until they understand, must work until they fix.

But this is not who we are.

If we truly are part of all things being made new, shouldn’t we have time for beauty?
If there is truly a power at work beyond our own, shouldn’t we have time for rest?
If there is wisdom and peace beyond our understanding, why not play?

This is not the rest and play of the oblivious or unengaged, but the kind of rest and play that teaches us to set aside our desperate, misguided seriousness.

We dance to defy the lie that it’s all up to us.

And as we set aside our habit of carrying it all alone to watch the sunrise, we remember something.
As we stop our striving for a moment for a pillow fight with our kids, we are restored.
As we breathe and rest and create and rejoice, even in pain, something eternally serious takes place:

We are reminded who we are and what we believe.
We are reminded it’s not all up to us.
We are reminded we are called by a Spirit who works in and through us.
We are reminded that Spirit of justice is also the Lord of tiny seedlings.
We are reminded that even in serious times, He still tends to baby bunnies.
We are reminded that He still rejoices over his creation, broken though it may be.
We are reminded that our work grows not from desperation but from hope.

We are restored for the work yet to be done and given new perspective to do it with courage and joy.

On a year when Easter falls on April Fools’ Day, we’re reminded that there are forces at work which the world finds foolish. On a year when Easter falls on April Fools' Day, we need God's reminder that there are forces at work which the world finds foolish. Click To Tweet

Thomas Merton, thinker and activist, has a serious challenge for us at this moment:

The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.

Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

These words of Merton’s are bearing fruit in my life, daring me to imagine how we might share our hope that God is making all things new.

In this spirit and in response to God’s leading, I’m planning an “All Things New Fest!” See here for what’s coming to life and how you can imagine along with me.

And as summer approaches, Jacob’s tiny shoots will become a garden in his community, to proclaim the serious power of “foolish” things.

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