“Slowly I Turned”: Scars of a Clown
I wake up in the morning at five. Lights on, sweats on—time for morning exercise. I beat the air with my fists as if it were my enemy, all to prepare myself for the real fight ahead of me. Punch, punch, block, dodge, kick, ha! Thank goodness that’s over. Now I can shower and put on my loose-fitting work clothes, except for socks. I always forget the socks until it’s time to put on my shoes. I never pay much attention to my hair, because I always wear a hat. Who cares what’s underneath a hat, anyway?
Eat breakfast next, so I don’t have to worry about ruining my makeup or having to scrub red lip-prints off my milk glass. Feed the body with Cheerios, fruit, and instant breakfast. Feed the soul, too—and wouldn’t you know it, today I open the page to read, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.* Fitting, that quote. I make note of it just before I rinse my dishes and leave them in the sink to wash after work.
Now it’s time for makeup. Time is running short; I haven’t packed my lunch yet. I paint my face with a somewhat hurried, careless hand guided by habit. But I don’t forget to overdraw my lips. That’s important, they always say. Deep red, as if I have just come from feeding on fresh prey. That’s a disturbing thought. Why red? It looks so aggressive. But it’s traditional, so there’s no use pondering it when I still have a lunch to pack and three minutes to be out the door.
Socks… I told you I always forget. Now I can pull on my large floppy shoes. On with the slightly oversized jacket with the swallow tail that flutters behind my knees when I walk. The choice of hats always causes me a little trouble, but I have just thirty seconds left. The bowler with the large plastic flower will have to do for today. I grab an extra bottle of seltzer water, just in case. Ten seconds: just enough time to lock my front door, waddle down the steps, and climb into my tiny car. The shoes always slow me up.
Who am I? I’m a clown. Why am I a clown? I’ll tell you: because the world around me is full of grumbling ingratitude, for one thing, and people don’t take care of one another as they ought. I have gazed across the surrounding landscape and seen it littered with the abandoned, the depressed, the burdened, and the abused. I can’t fix these things on a large enough scale to change the world at large. I don’t have the money, and there isn’t enough time in the day. But one thing I decided that I could do: wield joy that the world cannot overcome, so that perhaps I can shine light into a world that might otherwise sink into darkness.
Okay, the bit about the greasepaint, seltzer water, and floppy shoes was just a gag. On the outside, I’m extremely ordinary. But on the inside, I shall be a fool for God, if that’s what it takes to carry the fight to the darkness. When Paul said, For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh,** he wasn’t kidding. The Pentagon will never attempt this.
It’s anything but easy, fighting a battle like this. In my workplace, I find that the culture of complaining has an undertow so strong that, if it catches you, it’s almost sure to suck you under, never to be seen again in this life. Oftentimes my attempts to brighten people’s day are met with brick-wall resistance. Strange as it sounds, some people like being miserable. I suppose it’s easier than fighting the pull, especially when you have no real foundation in joy. At other times, I’m met with outright hostility and suspicion, as if my humor is meant as criticism in disguise. Honestly, when I want to criticize you, you’ll know it.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing any good. Sometimes the undertow gets me, and I need to pull back and regroup. However, the occasional smiles I get from some of the people around me are sufficient to tell me that my ongoing struggle is not in vain. I draw my strength from a source that cannot be exhausted, no matter how exhausted I may feel. So stitch up my wounds, give me a couple of aspirin, and let me take a quick nap before I head back out to the battlefield. Oh, and freshen my custard pie. The whipped cream has lost its peaks.
Always remember: most clowns are more afraid of you than you are of them.
*1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV
**2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ESV