By Diana Bridges
I’m always a little troubled when I read that someone “doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” Rather than being a sign of enlightenment or sophistication, it strikes me as a mark of willful blindness. In John 1:14 the apostle declares that “…we have seen his glory…full of grace and truth.” Certainly, many who heard Jesus teach and experienced his healing touch saw the glory for what it was, a sign that God was indeed among them. Others saw his unconventional behavior—healing, forgiving sins, speaking easily and kindly with women, sinners, cultural outsiders—and judged him to be out of his mind.
In Wonderful Fool, Japanese Christian author Shusako Endo tells the story of Gaston Bonaparte, an awkward, trusting Frenchman who is an embarrassment to his Japanese hosts. He stumbles through a variety of misadventures, trying to help others, but far from heroic. Through his unremitting goodness, however, he ends up saving lives and giving others new purpose.
In this fictional account, Endo points out two things that have always been true. First, spiritual light often comes from strange and unexpected sources. St. Anthony, the best-known of the Desert Fathers, could have given John the Baptist a run for his money when it came to asceticism. Francis of Assisi, when taken to court by his father for giving away family resources, left the courtroom—and his clothes—behind to follow Jesus. 20th-century Baptist saint Will Campbell became very unpopular for his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement and then confounded even his admirers by reaching out in friendship to opponents of integration. Second, people who are paying attention are much more likely to recognize light when they see it.
This is our joyful Advent task. Be on the lookout. And don’t just look in the usual places.