“Father,” said Flambeau in that infantile and heavy voice he used very seldom. “What are we to do?”
His friend’s reply came with the pent promptitude of a gun going off.
“Sleep!” cried Father Brown. “Sleep. We have come to the end of the ways. Do you know what sleep is? Do you know that every man who sleeps believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is a food. And we need a sacrament, if only a natural one. Something has fallen on us that falls very seldom on men; perhaps the worst thing that can fall on them.”
Craven’s parted lips came together to say, “What do you mean?”
The priest had turned his face to the castle as he answered: “We have found the truth; and the truth makes no sense.”
He went down the path in front of them with a plunging and reckless step very rare with him, and when they reached the castle again he threw himself upon sleep with the simplicity of a dog.
G.K. Chesterton, The Honour of Israel Gow
What do you do when the truth makes no sense? The phrase “it makes no sense” keeps ringing. What do you do when what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch does not reveal your next step on the path. When all the input makes no difference to the output. When all the output makes no difference to the outcome.
No meaning. No reason. No sense.
I came across the Father Brown excerpt this week. I had read this a long time ago but I had forgotten it. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
There are many things…so many things that make no sense right now. Let me tell you…..And for all of it, I know you could also tell me….
Mom is very, very unspeakably sick.
Husband’s company told his department they would let them know who is getting laid off this month.
And my girl is stressed out and tired, she feels alone and she does not know how to not respond in anger and scarily articulate defensiveness when she is confused and hurt and frustrated. And I am never sure of the right way to handle it and I am so deeply afraid I will do it wrong….
And this….this is all killing me.
They all sit heavy in my chest, like a snake squeezing. I hold my breath and I realize it a minute later when I am gasping. All of it, but you know, especially this period of time with my girls, it brings out all my darkness. All my fear. All my despair. All my own anger – because I am also confused and hurt and frustrated.
Because for all the love I have for these daughters of mine, all the power and the strength that that love is pumping into the world, it is not enough to make them, or me, whole and perfect.
For all the wealth and inventiveness out there, it is not enough to make jobs secure, to make the house and food and car and clothes non-negotiables.
For all the deaths and sacrifice, wisdom and research, prayers and desperate, heart-breaking final embraces, it is not enough to make cancer stop taking my momma away from me.
That is how it feels. There is no sense here.
“Father,” said Flambeau in that infantile and heavy voice he used very seldom, “What are we to do?”
“Father,” She said in a childlike, heavy, darkened voice she had been using way too much lately, “What are we to do?”
Father……What are we to do?
And then the nearly 100 year old words of humungous, pompous, brilliant, unflinching G.K. Chesterton shout out to me.
Real, actual, mouth open, unaware sleep.
And, as in so much of how this universe works, the directive is a non-directive. The way of Jesus is a way that goes against everything we think it should be. It is an imperative that takes the imperative out of your own hands. And puts it somewhere else–somewhere else infinitely less glamorous.
“Sleep is a sacrament” Chesterton wrote. A sacrament is a keyhole that we look through and see something true. A sacrament is a tangible picture through which we know grace. It is something that reveals the nature and the promise of God. Which is to say the nature and promise of our good world. We, if we grew up in such a way, maybe recognize some sacraments that do this, that show to us the nature and the promise of this world. Baptism-cleansing, starting over; Confession-letting the truth in (or out); Communion-food and people and recognizing the start of the universe right here; Marriage-the long coming together, putting together what was torn apart. And here is offered one more – sleep.
Sleep–when faced with all the no sense, it is a supreme act of trust. Trust that when I open my eyes again, it will all still be here. Trust that someone else will keep driving while I rest. Trust that my body will relax, will uncoil a bit and restore its own centre. Trust and hope that when I open my eyes again, there might be another way through that I couldn’t see in my exhaustion. Trust in my body and all it was designed to do. Sleep builds into us the pattern of the universe – that one that says, “Stop. Stop trying. Just stop. Close your eyes. Let go. Sleep. And then wake up again. You are held.”
It is the strangle hold I am trying have on the outcome of all these things that is killing me…..desperately trying to hold the pieces together, trying so hard that I am literally forgetting to breathe. That clenched fist is what I need to let go of. And sleeping is my reminder.
It doesn’t seem anywhere near enough. And it isn’t. And nothing will be. And yet it is and it is enough and it is more than we know.
In many ways, I do know that all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. I know it…. but not through my reason. Or even my intellectual assertion. I cannot think my way to being ok with any of this. I can only know it in my bones….like I know, and have always known, that I can sleep and that morning will come. I can only know it as I practice….my sleeping. Now I’m just learning to remember that.
And if you’re wondering, Father Brown did indeed fall fast asleep, and then wake up early the next morning and promptly solve they mystery…..of course.