"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." -
Proving once again that standup comedy and progressive Christianity have more in common than we thought, in a recent article in GQ, late-night TV host and Sunday school teacher Stephen Colbert said that the greatest lesson he learned as a comedian was "to love the bomb."
This doesn’t mean, he says, "Don't worry, you'll get it next time. This doesn’t mean: ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you're failing."
If the stage is our entire life, and the bomb is the inevitable grief, suffering and sorrow that is the lot of every human being, sooner or later—how can we learn to love the bomb?
Loving the bomb is, of course, different from enjoying the bomb.
Colbert knows whereof he speaks. He was the youngest of 11 children. When he was 10, his two next-oldest brothers were killed, along with his father, in a plane crash. He was suddenly nearly alone, with a grieving but resilient mother.
"‘And by her example am I not bitter. She was broken, yes. Bitter, no.’ Even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity."
How can we, in this life, accept sorrow, even keening sorrow, as the consequence of having really loved someone, and continuing to love them even though they’re on a plane we cannot reach?
How can we turn from wanting a life that gives us everything we want, when we want it—toward taking life as it comes, and living partly in eternity, even here and now?
How can we be broken, but not bitter?
And how can we learn to love the bomb, to lean in to life, to throw ourselves over it wholeheartedly, knowing full well it has the capacity to blow us up?
God, when the BOOM comes, hold all our broken pieces together in one place. Knit us back together, and help us all the while to love You, serve You, and give thanks to You for this singular, beautiful life. Amen.
Molly Baskette is lead pastor of the quirky, loveable and truth-telling First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA. Read their personal testimonies in her latest book, Standing Naked Before God: The Art of Public Confession.