“No one laughs at God in the hospital.” Or so sings Regina Spektor.
It’s not an absolute truth, but my pastoral experience thus far bears witness. In fact, my first ever hospital visit in the name of the Church of England was to see a man whom I didn’t know; when I asked why he called for me he replied:
“Because I’m afraid to die. I know it won’t be long before I meet my Maker and I don’t know what to do about it.”
No one laughs at God in the hospital.
But I think God – and perhaps the various creatures of his entourage, the ones who can see us as we live our lives on earth – must laugh at us sometimes. Or quite a bit.
Much like the way I laugh at my dog, Hamish, enjoying his simplicity and ignorance, his total lack of comprehension of things obvious.
Hamish sometimes gets what I call an “anus demon”. It makes me laugh. What happens is this: in his voracious efforts to indiscriminately eat anything and everything that smells (even slightly) edible, and eat it quickly, he sometimes ingests a hair or two. Unlike humans, this doesn’t seem to bother him in any way when it goes down with the rest of his dinner. But a day later, when it comes out the other end, it invariably causes a problem: it doesn’t come out cleanly with the rest of his poop. The result is a hair hanging out his anus, to one end of which clings a small piece of tenacious turd.
Watching from a distance, and with my superior knowledge of the world, I think: “Hamish, it’s just a hair coming out your butt with a piece of crap hanging on it.”
But Hamish earnestly believes otherwise. He knows he has entered a thin space between the worlds; he has inexplicably crossed into some sort of twilight zone where an evil creature has set its sights on him and is trying to possess him, via his ass. His eyes bulge, his ears go back, and his face fills with anxious worry. The Anus Demon has returned and found the house swept clean.
He turns to see what’s the matter. But of course – as I discovered when I was a young, inquisitive (some might say “curious”) child – no one can see their anus without the help of a mirror, excepting perhaps the odd circus performer. Not having a mirror to hand, Hamish soon gives up looking. Still, he KNOWS something is there; he can feel it dangling in the breeze. And his little brain says: “Escape! Now! Fly, you fool! If you value your life and all that is dear to you, RUN!”
The end result is a dog mightily conflicted about what he should do. He dashes about in an erratic, panicked mode, now crouching, now running, now sitting, always feeling the finger of doom ever poking at his rear end. Finally, his doggy instinct takes over and he will hunch in desperation, heaving until the job is done. Then, as if he was cool with it all along, he’ll sneeze in indignation and kick up some dirt with his hind legs. Take that, Anus Demon.
Sometimes I feel overcome with events that I’m sure from God’s perspective are really quite minor, things I can’t quite wrap my mind around. Like Hamish, I’m not very intelligent to begin with, and it doesn’t take much to get me seeing demons where there is just a dark shadow. Who knows, maybe the angels have a bit of a laugh at my expense when I’m running around believing my end is near.