Saturday, December 3, 2011
The Keeper of the Stools
First Saturday of Advent
Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ and rest in peace.
Growing up in a household that bore many ruckus, parental arguments I learned to look for ways to strike some small order in the maddening, out-of-control eruptions that surfaced like the westerly winds whipping through our windows. One way I made up, when I was about five years old, was to tear pieces of red construction paper and tape them beneath the bar stools that stood beneath our kitchen counter. I numbered them, one through four, and lined them up. I had a notion that if I kept them in order my parents wouldn’t fight. It seemed to work until they began yelling. I would check the stools, and sure enough, they were out of order. I would line them back up and then check on them periodically.
Keeping the stools in line and therefore keeping order in our house was a thankless job and one that required constant vigil. When I failed at my duty as the keeper of the stools huge fighting would break out and dishes would begin flying through the rooms leaving a mosaic of sparkling glass crunching beneath our feet. At times, during the onslaught of war, I would sneak to the stools and line them up once again. Then it would be quiet and I thought I accomplished my mission. The reconnaissance quality to my activities in childhood give me cause to wonder, time and again, why I didn’t choose a career with the CIA or join the ranks of military snipers. I often respond to the phrase “being raised up” with the sense that I really “snuck up” in those early years. I don’t remember how I stepped down from this office of the “keeper of the stools,” but it may be as the anxiety built up, I gave up, and decided I was no good at lining up peace after all; at attempting to order the frightening and inexplicable.
Now, so many years, trials, and an ongoing conversion later, I am deeply grateful I have the Lord to embrace when life throws zingers and confusion and suffering and tragedy but also times of good fortune and happiness. I am receiving His grace in every moment. I have a still, luminous point of reference, of Divine love. I am learning to trust in His ordering and timing, even though I can only glimpse a diminished view from my window and not His ultimate view. I am trying, again and again, at swirling my living around the center of Him. Stooping to God, turning my disorders and wrong priorities and sin, but also joy, over at His altar: replacing all the various types of stools I number in an attempt to create order and peace and lasting joy in the depths of my life. Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ for His immeasurable love come to us as a baby cloaked in the arms of a dark and dangerous, desert night.