Jesus Doesn’t Tidy
But after his brothers had gone to the festival, [Jesus] also went … but in secret. And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.” – John 7:10 and 12 (NRSVUE)
They’re leaf-blowing the park outside my window. I can’t concentrate on anything else, so I’m pondering leaf blowers. Not their noise and toxicity or the way they dislodge the leaf litter essential to insects. No, I’m thinking about how tidy they leave the park: debris-free, sharp neat edges, mulch in perfect circles around the trunks of trees.
It’s pleasing, this tidiness, this clarity, this taming. Nothing unruly, no sprawl to spoil the satisfying view. Like slogans that delimit ideas, labels that delimit lives, rules that delimit behavior, theologies that square away the ineffable God. Leaf blowers, controlling the wild the way God intended.
I mean, consider Jesus: he’s a thicket. Try to edge him, he spreads. Try to mow him, he mows you. He re-litters every path swept clean. A straight line or perfect circle he is not. No one gets him exactly. He doesn’t let himself be got. Watch him long enough, you still can’t put your finger on him. Listen to him long enough, you know less, not more.
And thank God for that. Because you really don’t want a leaf-blowing savior, inclined to precise demarcations. Better this one, inclined to ambiguity. Better this one, who never manicured a mystery, tidied a sprawling thought into a six-word meme, or reduced a brave and beautiful life to a gender sign on a restroom door. Better this one, wild.
For all with an urge to clarify and tidy life, we pray. Relax us instead into your thicket, where life is wild, complicated, interesting, lovely, confounding, and real.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.