In his Autobiography of Prayer, Albert Day tells the story of a young boy whose pride and anger were so great, he came to such a point of protest and rebellion that he no longer wanted to be a part of his family. Partly to accommodate the child, partly to buy some peace, and mostly to teach him a lesson, the child was “banished to the attic at bedtime.” Continues Day:
It was drastic treatment [to be sure], but it was realistic. He had read himself out of the family; so he had to realize what being out of the family meant. The attic roof would protect him against the weather; the attic floor would give him a place to sleep. But the attic was not home; it was an ironic fulfillment of his wish to be outside home.
But that night the father in his comfortable bed could not sleep for thinking about the boy, alone in the bleak darkness. So he left his bed, and taking his blanket, entered the attic, and spent the night and the succeeding nights of the exile beside his boy, sharing the punishment.
Day draws his own conclusions for the benefit of his immediate discussion — that is, about the redemptive potential of our struggles. (Redeeming the pain of the boy’s exile, for example, were the lessons that law/justice and love/mercy are essentials of a healthy home.)
For my own part, I find the story a powerful analogy of the Gospel we now celebrate at Advent and Christmas:
- that, no matter how many years we’ve been walking with the Lord, we are not fully home nor will we ever be fully home in this world – suspended, as we are, somewhere between earth and Heaven. (There’s a focus of Advent.)
- that God so loved the world — even you and me, even in our foolish rebellion — that he chose (and chooses) to descend into our dark exile and make His bed with us. (And, there, dear Friends, is a crucial focus of Christmas!)
Twixt and tween
Fall and Spring—
Earth and Heaven,
We are not alone!
He is “Emmanuel”–
“God with us!”
To be sure, suffering abides still —
even for Him, who must make his bed in straw
in a chilly stable and a stinkin’ stall.
(And, lest we forget:
there’s a cross beyond the creche!)
But, for those who sense His presence near —
who feel and perceive another mate in the cell:
for these, the banishment becomes redemptive,
its pain entirely bearable.
Our exile is effectively over.