During our recent vacation at Table Rock Lake in Missouri, my family and I spent some time in Branson, the entertainment capital of redneck, red-blooded, red-letter Christian America. We caught a showing of Noah, The Musical. It was everything you might imagine, much more of it good than I expected, the worst a surprise appearance by the cheesiest Jesus since Jesus Christ Superstar.
What stuck with me was how the actors portrayed Noah and his family, before their trials and tribulations struck, as exceedingly gleeful. They didn't just say good morning to one another, they practically burst into song (actually, it was a musical, so they might have sung it and I just forgot). Noah was tickled pink to milk his cow. His sons were practically giddy about a day of work in the fields. Is this, I wondered, what we think good Christians are supposed to look like?
Right now there's a pedantic commenter all set to point out that Noah and his family weren't technically Christians. But you get the point, and the question. Is this what we expect of ourselves, of one another? Incessant, almost irritating cheerfulness?
Perhaps that's only a question that occurs to a curmudgeon like me. And perhaps the answer is an obvious "yes" to better Christians. Then again, the Psalms don't always speak of joy, and so I wonder if there is room in the Christian heart for sadness. Did Noah ever have a bad day? Did he ever grumble at the stink of the cow and the bite of the flies? Did he ever doubt, for only just a moment, whether God really cares?
He was a righteous man, the Bible says, and maybe righteous men don't doubt or cry. But I do, and maybe you do too, and so I wondered as I watched from the audience if there were people sitting around me who don't know much about Christianity, soaking up the inadvertent message that loving Jesus means never a wistful sigh. At the same time I know plenty of Christians who keep their pain to themselves for fear of the inevitable "count it all joy" admonition, so perhaps this isn't a misconception limited only to unbelievers. I think we know the Christian walk entails suffering and sadness, but I think it makes us uncomfortable. If someone is sad he must be fixed. But often when we are sad we just need someone to be silent and present. Presence and silence are two things a good many of us could stand to practice more.