(Guest Meditation by Michele Pinkham*)
The following ironic advent meditation was composed by Michele Pinkam*, a heck of a writer. She's also a teacher, a student, a parent, a yoga aficionado, and a post-er of food pictures. And a great lover of the poetry of Mary Oliver.
To my mind, Mr. Ben Camino himself has been a little too tame lately. Maybe lost his edge. Or maybe worn out by trying to understand what the population of earth is SO ANGRY ABOUT on Facebook. Or maybe, and I hope this is the truth, this whole thing isn't or shouldn't be about one person's voice. And maybe the Ironic Advent and NOEL Blogverse (© myownselfdamnit 2012)not to mention the BenCaminoSoul itself, resides not in a place or a person but in a community of pilgrims.
Whatever, I think you'll agree, Michele has what we used to call VOICE before that word was co-opted by NBC. Read, listen, and breath along with this exercise in creatureliness. And, in the words and phrasing of Rorie the dog: If. It. Does. Not. Smell. Human. It. Ain't. Jesus.
So take it away Michele. . . .
So take it away Michele. . . .
Disclaimer: My faith status right now might politely be described as hanging by a thread. On any given day, this thread is attached to Tradition, or Love, or now, in the Advent season, Hope. I mean, there are twinkle lights and peppermint bark and carols. I should—or at least I think I want to—feel something. Maybe just want something. Some connection to the pastpresentfuture of Hope. And so, the thread.
Plus, there is “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” I heard that old Wesleyan Advent hymn the other day in the background of a friend’s Facebook video. In the video, she was listening to it as she decorated her Christmas tree, her baby strapped to her chest:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus/ Born to set Thy people free/
From our fears and sins release us/Let us find our rest in Thee/
Israel’s strength and consolation/Hope of all the earth Thou art/
Dear Desire of every nation/Joy of every longing heart.
It was a simple scene. Serene, even. The baby is NOT a sleeper, so I was glad for this moment of peace (on earth) for her mama. I could smell the Frazier Fir and the baby's lavender-scented fuzzy head. So, obviously, I Facebook LIKED her video. And then I thought two things: 1) Those people waiting for the long-expected Messiah got a unexpected diaper full of God and also . . . shit. And 2) the Gospels are pretty much the Facebook version of the Jesus story. Song. Baby. Peace on earth. LIKE.
I’m not particularly trying to be offensive, what with God and shit in the same sentence. Actually, God put God’s own little Godself there, in the swaddling clothes, helpless and puking and pooping. My friend Luke and his wife just had a baby, and Luke posted a picture of his girl, slung limp and blotchy over his shoulder, her forehead a plowed field of concern. Her brow is worried, but her eyes shine with relief and trust. She’s not three weeks old, and she is secure in the arms that hold her. The caption under the photo reads, “Burping ain't easy!” Luke's gospel in three words.
And I think all of a sudden that maybe this is why God came as a baby. Burping ain't easy. And God wanted someone to pat God’s back, and sing God soothing songs, and football hold God out under a tree, with the breeze in God’s face, a pinky finger in God’s mouth, whispering and kissing and cooing, “You are fine. You are going to be okay. It is all going to be okay.”
Those people who long expected Jesus? I’ll bet they expected what I still expect when I have moaned and beseeched and cried upside-down in child’s pose for a shift: they (as I) expected the answer on a white horse with the magic potion that was going to make it All Better. And they got a diaper full of God. And . . . well, you know. Don't make me say it again. They got a God who, in this particularly needy form said, I need you. Really.
And, if they were anything like me, I imagine they responded, “W. T. Actual. F! I needed and asked for help, not a divorce or a diagnosis or a decline on my credit card. And I certainly wasn’t asking for a load of poopy diapers. I was actually looking for an answer, and you gave me just One. More. Thing. To. Take. Care. Of!” As my friend Ben said when presented with such a miracle: “Send that shit back marked ‘Return to Sender.’”
In the Facebook version of the story, God comes to earth as a baby, and God’s parents are pretty cool with it, and three nice guys bring presents—some useful (gold) and some not-so-much (myrrh?)—and everybody apparently sort of feels good about the fact that this Hope they’ve been waiting for and dying for and baking-their-bread-over-poop-for (ask Ezekiel, you can’t make this up) is away in a manger and asleep on the hay. In the Facebook version, there are Angels We Have Heard on High and Little Drummer Boys and probably even Bing Crosby (But not Frank Sinatra. He had ties to the Mob. And also, martinis. The Facebook version of Jesus doesn’t do John Gotti or gin for that matter).
In the real life version, there is meconium, and a placenta, and an umbilical cord (what did Joseph use to cut that?). Also, birth smells. Along with animal smells and humans-traveling-for-weeks-across-the-desert-on-a-donkey smells. I mean all this had to add up to a Christmas-candle-scent-you-don’t-want-in-your-house smell. Stick with the Sugar Cookie and Plum Pudding Yankee Candle smells. Balsam Fir, if you want au naturel smell. Seriously. Christmas, like burping, ain't easy.
Maybe God (if you believe in such things, which I am conditioned toward this time of year, but I totally get it if you don’t) came, with blood and pain and yes, shitty diapers, in need of us. I mean, what if God came helpless so that we could learn to take care of God? The God in my divorce. The God in my friend’s infidelity. The God in a hysterectomy, or in cancer, or the God in aplastic anemia (which my friend’s son has, and it is wearing them out beyond the bone). The God in my selfishness, or my bottle of wine, or my desire to disengage. The God in cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome or autism. The God in every poor decision, every broken promise, every weak moment. The God in the refugee, the marginalized, the broke-ass. The God who knocks at the door of the inn. What if God lies pressed against our shoulders, blotchy and wrinkled, eyes full of trust?
How, then, do we respond to God?
|the only known picture of Michele without her kids. OK, I jest. A little.|