Saturday, July 7, 2012

Looking for Mayberry

This week an American and entertainment icon, Andy Griffith passed away at the age of 86. His distinguished career included theater, recordings, movies and television. While Andy played many roles, perhaps none is more fondly remembered than that of Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Each week, and through countless reruns, we return to Mayberry and long for a slower pace of life and quieter days gone by in a sleepy southern town, feeling secure, doors left unlocked and children playing safely outside.

One of the unique qualities of Mayberry was its overall sense of quiet. No one was screaming into their cell phone in the grocery store. When trucks backed up, you didn’t hear that really annoying “beep-beep-beep” high pitched sound that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up as you try and sink your head into your shoulders. Cars didn’t have subwoofers repeatedly pumping out “thump-thump-thump.” People spoke quietly and gently to one another, even when they were involved in some hair-brained scheme or relational bumbling episode of life.

There may be a part of us that daydreams for a life in an idyllic town like Mayberry, but do we really want to go back? I live in a small, central Florida town that has some similarities to Mayberry, but it’s also very different. I’m typing this blog on my 21st century laptop with two 24-inch external monitors and an encrypted wireless connection to the Internet. My car gets almost three-times the miles per gallon that were available in the 60’s. The windows on our house reflect heat, keeping the house cooler.

Yes, I like the technology, comforts and convenience of modern life, but the noise of life is sometimes more than I can stand. Once in a while, something happens and I start looking for Mayberry and answers.

When we first moved to central Florida, we had a small shiatsu poodle named Boots. Boots came to us while we were living in Connecticut. She would run through the woods and snow, chasing raccoons and the neighbor’s twin Dobermans. She came with us to the desert of Scottsdale, AZ where for three years she chased baby quail while hiding from the unbelievably hot sun. Landing here in Lake Wales, Boots transitioned to chasing squirrels and small lizards.

If there were any high-level thought waves going on inside Boots brain, I’m sure that she was a confused little dog, not understanding all these changes in her life that were completely outside her control. She went from green and wet Connecticut to brown and dry Arizona. Now, she was in central Florida where there were no familiar smells and the alligators near the lake were a complete mystery.

But I think the thing that made Boots the most upset were the loud “booms” of thunderstorms. When the sky darkened and the first low thunder rumbles rolled into town, she started to shake and run in circles looking for a place to hide. She eventually wound up in one of three places; under the bed, under the dishwasher or behind the toilet. There she would stay, literally “shaking in her boots” until the storm had passed.

One day, Boots and I were just hanging around the house, not doing anything especially important. I remembered reading something about the Space Shuttle landing scheduled for some time later that day, but didn’t pay it any mind. Sometime in the middle of the afternoon, with no warning there came the double sonic boom-boom of the Space Shuttle returning to earth. If you’ve never heard the double sonic boom from a returning Space Shuttle, there are some YouTube links at the end of this blog that you can watch[1].

To say that this really upset Boots is a great understatement. She ran in circles with that “what the heck was that” look in her bulging eyes. To this day I don’t comprehend how she never got dizzy from running in circles like she did. Eventually she made a beeline for the back bathroom, curled into a ball and squeezed herself behind the toilet.

With thunderstorms, there was some warning, an unexpected cool breeze accompanied by darkening clouds. You would hear a distant, faint rumble at first that grew in volume and intensity as the storm drew closer. There was time to get use to the idea that a storm was coming, there was time to prepare, close the windows in your car, bring the lawnmower into the shed. But not with the Space Shuttle and its powerful double sonic boom.

In a rare moment of compassion, I walked back to the bathroom and Boots. She was not only coiled up in a physical ball, but had emotionally gotten herself into a frenzy. She was sweating profusely as she shook from sheer terror. I had to get down on both knees, crawling to reach around the toilet and gently pick Boots up. I cradled her in my arms, taking her to the couch where we sat down together.

At this point I had a decision to make. I could take her outside, point to the sky try and explain that the Space Shuttle was returning to earth. I could switch on TV news coverage and interviews, hoping that this would calm her frayed nerves. I could have sat down at a computer display and attempted to explain the laws of physics and aerodynamics through numerous web sites, graphs, diagrams and PowerPoint’s. While all these would have provided information, this is not what she needed. She needed comfort and assurance that everything was OK.

This past week I listened to several people whose Mayberry world was shook by things outside their control;

  • Sudden and unexpected loss of job
  • Death of a close family member
  • A promising career path was cut off due to a merger, requiring an unplanned job search
  • Howls of anguish and anger at failed relationships
  • Emptiness and a meaningless life 

As I listened, I came to realize that no amount of information or piece of pop-psychology would help. The pain was too deep, the hurt too intense, the wound too fresh. Perhaps you’ve been there recently, the place where life just doesn’t seem to make sense. Where hurt and bitterness overwhelm you in a sea of confusion as you look for a place to hide till the storm passes.

This same thing happened to a small group of men I know[2]. They were on a boat far from shore when a sudden storm started tossing them around violently. The wind was ferocious; water was coming into the boat faster than they could bail. They didn’t see it coming and now they were facing certain death. They were at the end of their wits and there was nothing that they could do to fix their situation. Then, they turned to Jesus who was there all the time.

Jesus then did something incredible – he spoke to the storm. Like a general speaking to lowly troops, he gave a command to the wind and waves. His command was to be quiet and still. He put a muzzle on the storm and told it to be quiet and stay that way. Their reaction was priceless; they were terrified and said;

“Who is this man? He commands the winds and water, the storm obeys him.”

Like these men in a storm, Jesus is right there. When we don’t understand what is going on, when we’re looking for help, when life takes us to the edge, we need to turn to Jesus. He’s the only one that has the power to speak to the storm, calm the winds of uncertainty and fear in our soul. And we know that he loves us because when we were still his enemy, he took our punishment, reopening the way to a free and transparent relationship with God.

So, now is the time to take our problems and life to Jesus and quiet the storm raging in and around us.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[2] Matthew 8:23-27

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