Even Solomon says that there is a time of laughter as well as crying . . . and he wasn't bipolar.
I know that I've posted recently of pain but I must post now of laughter.
Last night was a perfect Friday night. After a very hard week at work I came home changed clothes, grabbed a cupful of delicious smoked sockeye salmon (which I made last weekend). Then I jumped on my bike and peddled across our island (through an old growth forest, over a small mountain pass) into our little fishing village. You couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. A dry 78 degrees and not a cloud (unlike the photo above) to be seen anywhere.
Once in town I met my wife and a group of our best friends (and here our "friend well" is quite shallow). In town we joined a growing crowd of about two hundred people as they clustered around the rim of the beautiful Cap Sante Harbor (pictured above) which sits in the center of our village. There we listened to a wonderful and talented "Beatles" band. I had a cold beer. Denise and I danced.
On a perfectly clear day, you can see snow-capped mountains in a 320 degree circle around our island (with a small gap for the Straits of Juan De Fuca). Last night, without a cloud, you could see 270 degrees of mountains. A slight haze blocked a few of the more distant ones, such as some in British Columbia. The glaciers on the towering Mount Baker nearby glistened with a reddish hue reflecting the sun's slow descent through some high altitude smoke from forest fires in our region.
As I stood, looking over the blue waters of semitransparent glass, the smooth lines of the rows of sail boats and the band singing in close proximity to John, Paul, George and Ringo, I thought how good times are. All five of my kids are healthy and doing okay. There's not major crises. While we are not rich, we have no bills which we can not pay. Our marriage is good right now.
Contrast always makes for better perceptions. I let my mind wonder back just about 15 years ago. It was one of the lowest points of my life. I felt that I was laying in a slimy gutter right outside of the gates of Dante's most inward and downward hell. It was far worst than death. The details are too many to list here but to say almost all the good that I see now, was bad then. It wasn't just a matter of perspective or attitude . . . but circumstances made the hell very real.
Now at this point is where I become philosophical. You see, if this was the typical Evangelical story I would add how those horrible times were the result of my own sin. That I repented, straightened out life and now am reaping the glorious benefits of that faithfulness. But this story does pay out that way at all.
You see, at the time of my personal horrors I was most attuned to doing everything "according to God's will" . . . or at least I thought. My God then, was the typical Evangelical God . . . an extreme micro-manager. I thought that He had a will for which shirt I should wear each day. I did everything I knew of to do exactly as He wanted. Yet, soon, we found ourselves in this terrible circumstances of financial failure, marital crisis and me in a true, major depression. Looking back, in other words, I had done nothing wrong. Yet, our Job-like experience was s sign to many of our Christian friends to abandon us. We didn't fit the paradigm so our plight made them very uncomfortable . . . some how it had to have been our fault.
How to I make sense of things now? I agree with Solomon. There is a season to life, not a fatalistic season but an alignment of circumstances, that can bring times of tears and times of joy. It is often beyond our control and it is usually of no "grand design" to teach us something. But lesson can be learned from it. For example, I would never choose a house contractor on the one merit that he was a "good Christian." Luther said he would rather be operated on by a Turk (meaning Muslim) doctor than a Christian butcher.
But I stood precariously last night, yet trying not to let my un-sured footing dampen the joy I was feeling in the moment. That shadow is the knowledge that while I laughed and danced that there are people near and far that were in that slimy ditch just outside Dante's cellar. That shouldn't take away from my joy. But I do feel for them and I don't blame them as I know how painful it is to be blamed. I mean, when I was at my lowest point, it didn't make me feel any worse knowing that others were in that place of joy . . . as long as they didn't take credit for it and rub it in my face (as a couple of people did).
I also know that there will be dark seasons again in this journey of life. I wish that I still believed in that old paradigm that my sin or lack up determined which season I was due for. I'm not saying that circumstances is left completely up to chance. I worked very hard to get out of that ditch and some of my efforts contributed to my ascension, however neither our will nor our actions ever guarantee that the season of laughter will be perpetual . . . at least here on this earth.