I took another sip of wine and sighed. I sigh when I have too much to say, but lack the courage to say a word. It's a rare moment for me, as my close friends will attest.
My friend Clarke took my hand and held it. And I sighed, yet again.
"Why?" I asked, that most useful wail when we know there truly isn't an answer, but we ask anyway, hoping, perhaps, that God will drop a memo from heaven detailing the hurtful actions done by said offender, along with an even more detailed list as to the reasons behind said actions.
Yes. That will happen.
After a few minutes, when no memo rained down from heaven, I rambled on some more about what another friend had done to upset me and hurt me. Normally, I would have been talking to the offender, but he lived in another place, and I'd hung up on him in that overwhelming moment where I knew I would burst into tears at any moment, but would rather die a thousand deaths than give him the knowledge that he'd been able to drive that knife into me.
Pride goeth before the tears and wine on the back porch while a friend salves your soul with words of comfort.
Clarke has an amazing ability to listen to the pain and offer true pastoral care without using any of the cliches that make those of us who actually live pastoral care flinch. Those phrases like, "Thank you for sharing," or "I'm sorry you feel that way." They may be useful for some, but I, for one, took that class. Maybe Clarke's ability is simply to join a friend in the Land of Suck, as we call it, that place when you're hurting and want to sign the offending person up for a decade's worth of telemarketing calls at all hours but it seems a bit, oh, illegal.
And Clarke listened, then poured me more wine. I asked, "Why?" again.
"Well, sounds like he took a refuge in stupidity," Clarke offered.
A refuge in stupidity. Refuge, that place we go to escape or hide, to get away from the things that challenging us. We need refuge from the storms of life and from people who hurt us, but honestly, we humans also find refuge from the better things of life. We find refuge from kindness and friendship and love, from following God's call to someplace new - those things that challenge us out of our comfort zones, out of the walls we've built and moats we've dug to stay in our little corner of the world where we are in control and where we make the rules and we can have exactly what we want with no concern for the other. This place, apparently, has a name: a refuge in stupidity.
Refuge, a place or state of safety, is not always a good place. To be safe may mean we need to be stupid and hurtful while hiding from whatever or whoever seems troubling or uncomfortable to us. My personal forays into the refuge of stupidity are often attempts to avoid feeling vulnerable or to deny a truth I don't want to speak. A sure sign that you've entered the refuge in stupidity: when someone asks you why you did something, and the best answer you offer is, "I don't know."
Holy Scripture is replete with characters who spent time in the refuge of stupidity. Actually, maybe it's a requirement for being human. As our awareness grows, we are offered the opportunity to stand at the edge of creation and engage in becoming something new and unknown. We know that we are on the way, but we are still in the unknown and the incomplete, and our fear invites us to grasp for an oasis of sureness and certainty and selfishness.
We flee to a refuge, a place where we can act in old unaware ways, in ways that feel comfortable to us. And we can be spectacularly stupid while living in this refuge while we live our life, just as we like it. Some people set up shop in the refuge their entire lives. Most of us ease in and out of it, depending upon what or who is in our lives or how annoying God is being about pushing that, "Follow me," button.
We all also know how to leave that refuge to continue the journey. Those exit moments are when we quit saying we don't know and start asking and even answering the hard questions and facing what we were running from in the first place, whatever that may be.
"Ahh," I nodded, when I realized I'd had my life passport stamped, "Refuge of Stupidity" a few times. Maybe more. And I probably had a few more trips planned.
It's a place to visit, but not to stay for long. God's got more exciting places for us to go.