Monday, August 26, 2013

The Sacred and The Profane

I am sitting at my desk in my home-office writing this blog-post.  To my left, not an arm's length from my keyboard is the window where a burglar broke into our house at 3:00AM last Monday night.  The would-be thief used an ax-hoe to break into the house, then proceeded to knock over desks, rifle through papers, sift through filing cabinets, break other sundry locks and cabinets, and finally steal a car  with a set of keys he found in my desk.  The car, was then found wrapped around a telephone pole on the east side of town, later that morning.  None of our family were harmed in any way, thanks in part to our one year old infant, Sheena, who woke up at 3:00AM that same night, crying out loud, sensing something was awry.  To be honest, it has taken me about a week to begin to process this life-impinging event.  But what I have been thinking about again and again is the close proximity we all experience in this life between;

*  Utterly Sacred things and profoundly Profane things
*  Transformingly Risen things and totally Fallen things,
*  Sordidly Evil things and patently Good things.

The social theorist and the religious thinker Mircea Eliade has coined this dichotomy in his classic religious primer; "The Sacred and the Profane" (1987).

The window of the aforementioned crime (Profane) is arms length from my desk, where an open Bible on the desk (Sacred), awaited the man who stole our property.

Our entire faith is a mix of close proximity between sacred and profane, fallen and risen, evil and good things.  In the Garden of Eden was the most bucolic, perfect place to live.  In the middle of the garden was a tree.  That tree wasn't inherently "bad", it was after all "the tree of GOOD and evil.  The tree was simply something that was off limits to Adam and Eve.  The beauty of creation sitting next to the luster of forbbiden-ness.  Within that garden was also a snake, who was evil.  The snake (profanity) convinced Adam and Eve (at that time perfect, sacred) to eat the forbidden fruit.  Right at the beginning of creation is the closeness and proximity of sacredness and profanity.

The birthplace of Jesus was a similar mix of utter abjectivity and complete holiness.  On a chilly Spring evening (most historians believe Jesus was actually born about the same time as the Passover, Spring), Mary and Joseph took a long mule-ride's trip from Nazareth, where they lived, to Bethlehem in the south, essentially the place of the polling station for their district, the place where they had to register for taxation purposes.  Upon arrival in Bethlehem, the holy child within Mary's womb began to kick.  A child would be born soon.  Finding no other rooms available in town, the couple were forced to take up lodging in a barn/stable.  Then in the middle of the night, the holy child was born.  The God of the universe (Sacred) was born into the filthiest of stables (Profane).

The cross is an example of the exaltedness of God juxtaposed with the cruelest kind of fallen-ness by humans.  The holiest of holies, God Himself, was hoisted up onto a cross by a rope and a handful of Roman guards, who had just rolled dice for God's clothes.  They took the most profane of nails and banged them through Jesus' hands and feet, and Jesus (Sacredness itself) died on a cross (Profanity in it's purest form).

On Wednesday, two days after the crime at our house, I drove out to the edge of town to the Police impound lot to collect whatever was left of our family's possessions from the completely decimated car that we once owned.  A law enforcement officer stood beside me as I gathered up baby prams, strollers, baby blankets, old bottles, and toys, now peppered with glass from the shattered windows of the car.  Inside the cup holder was a picture of a little girl that I wasn't familiar with.  It must have been the burglar's daughter, I told myself. Her toothy school picture gleamed at the school photographer (Sacred).  Right beside the picture was the leatherman pocket-knife the criminal used to break into our house (Profane).

And somehow, God was in the middle of all of this...just as He always is!

All For Now,

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