by Rev. Eric Elnes, Ph.D.

Last week a minister from New Jersey named Terry Chapman, who has been an avid viewer of Darkwood Brew, passed along to me a book he wrote.   The book is called Sabbath Pause and contains seven weeks of daily practices structured around the observance of the Sabbath.

As I began reading the book – which is excellent – I was struck immediately by a metaphor for the human soul that is quoted from the work of another author, Michael Casey (Toward God).  Casey compares the soul to a rubber ball:

A rubber ball under water submits.  Once released, it springs to the surface; and the deeper it is held, the more it strains to rise.  The human spirit possesses natural buoyancy.  It can be held down by enslavement to the senses, by acquisitiveness and ambition, by anger and violence, or by what the New Testament calls “cares.”  It can be held down, but its natural tendency remains dramatically oriented toward God.  It can never be satisfied until this upward impulse is allowed freedom.

Do you ever feel like a rubber ball being held under water a bit too long?  Do you ever feel on a soul-level like you are being beckoned to move in a particular direction but just can’t quite bring yourself to go there?  Perhaps that tug is being held in check by a sense of uncertainty about where it will lead you.  Perhaps, even though that tug feels like it’s coming from God, it is challenging old belief-systems and easy certainties, thus provoking a sense of shame or guilt over challenging them even as you experience awe and wonder.

This is what it feels like to be human.

Of course, perhaps you’ve forgotten what it is like to feel that deeply human yearning – and who of us doesn’t now and again?  Yearning is painful.  If we believe we’re going to be held underwater for a long time, letting a little spiritual air out of our rubber-ball-soul may ease the strain, at least for a while.

Have you ever seen that film, Up in the Air, with George Clooney?  It was filmed here in Omaha a few years ago.  Clooney plays the role of a corporate hack, hired specifically to enact massive layoffs for large companies.  In one scene there’s this powerful exchange between Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, and a guy he’s laying off named Bob.  Understandably, Bob isn’t happy about learning he’s being laid off.  He protests that he’s going to move from making $90k a year to $250 a week on unemployment.  He envisions failing to make his mortgage payments and moving into a small apartment adding, “And I guess without benefits I’ll be able to hold my  daughter as she suffers from athsma that I won’t be able to afford the medication for.”

Clooney’s sidekick feebly offers that studies have shown that children under moderate pressure have a tendency to apply themselves academically as a method of coping.  Bob reacts crudely by telling her exactly what his kids would think of that.  Clooney jumps in, “Children’s admiration is important to you.”

“Ya, it was,” says Bob.

Clooney responds, “I doubt they ever admired you, Bob.”

Again, Bob offers a crude response, adding, “Aren’t you supposed to be consoling me?!”

“I’m not a shrink, Bob, I’m a wake-up call.  You know why kids love athletes?”

Bob offers that it’s because athletes get to go out with lingerie models.

“No, that’s why we love athletes,” Clooney responds adding, “Kids love athletes because they follow their dreams.”

“Well, I can’t dunk” says Bob dejectedly.

“No, but you can cook.”

“What are you talking about?”

Clooney continues “Your resume says that you minored in French Culinary Arts.  Most students, they work at the fryer at KFC.  But you bused tables at Il Picatorre to support yourself.  Then you get out of college and you come to work here. How much did they first pay you to give up on your dreams?”

“Twenty seven grand a year.”

“And when were you going to stop and come back to do what makes you happy?”

“Good question,” shrugs Bob.

Clooney continues, “I see guys who work at the same company for their entire lives, guys exactly like you.  They clock in and they clock out and never have a moment of happiness. You have an opportunity.  This is a rebirth.  If not for you, do it for your children.”

(You can see the whole scene here:)

For the past five weeks at Darkwood Brew, we’ve been exploring how to concretely live life in conversation with the Holy Spirit.  Listening to the Spirit can be uncomfortable because the Spirit tends to reawaken – and expand – the air inside that internal rubber ball that we call our soul.  It gives us a taste of what our ancient Christian ancestors called “freedom in Christ” – a freedom we yearn for above all else.  It excites us at primal levels, lifting our vision to the point where it can become painful not to embrace it.

Our first response to that pain is to shrink back, to try to deflate the air.  Like the beggar at the pool in John 5:1-15, we cling to the limitations that have so defined our lives.  But if we do respond, if we do embrace God’s vision, we are reborn.  We may move from living life at the top of the pecking order at the beggar’s pool to working as a sous-chef in the Kingdom of God, but when we embrace God’s dream – which, in our quiet moments, we realize is also our dream – we begin to move about this world more lightly and with greater joy and confidence than ever before.

If you’ve been having a hard time hearing God’s whispers within you, the scriptures would suggest that the first question to ask is not, “Where is God when I call?”  Rather, the first question to ask is what Jesus asked the man lying beside the pool: “Do you want – really want – to be made well?”

The answer is not nearly as easy as we think it is.  Yet if we can get out from under our pride and fear of uncertainty to hear our soul responding, then saying “Yes” is the easiest, safest, and most unburdened answer we will ever make.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This