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It’s a Serious Business

A Hope for the Helpers Blog

By Barry Pearman

It’s the day after Christmas Day as I write this, Boxing Day here in New Zealand. It’s warm, muggy, and later I will either drive to a local beach or jump in the swimming pool.

It’s summer, and the serious business for many is having a holiday.

When I was ten years old, I set up a very serious business. I had a small roadside stall where I would sell plums to holiday makers passing by our farm. It was a serious business. Well, I was serious about it.

Years later, I attended the School of Spiritual Direction at Glen Eyrie Colorado Springs. A time for the serious business of soul care, spiritual direction, and going deep.

Then one evening we went to an ice cream parlour in Colorado Springs for some serious ice cream.

The serious business

“Are you lonesome tonight?” was crooned out, Elvis Presley-style,  and Larry invited a young lady to dance. I think Papa, Jesus, and Spirit swept a dance among us all.

It’s a serious business, this church thing. Meetings. agendas, liturgy, and form. Rules, roles, regulations keep the religion righteously routine.

I go to an Anglican place of worship, Episcopalian for those of you in North America. 

Sometimes when my vicarious vicar holds up the host (wafer/ bread/body) and breaks it in two, I want either to shout “hallelujah” and run around the church in celebration or fall flat on my face in awe.

I said to my vicar one day, when we were doing some Soul Talk, that ‘Sacred cows make gourmet burgers.’

The serious business of sacred cows.

How many sacred cows are sitting on your longing to dance?

Are you carrying loads that only Jesus was ever meant to carry?

I want to spark joy.

I was with someone the other day. They had a heavy burden overwhelming their beauty.

I felt Spirit dance a few words into my soul to ask her: “Would you like something to drink?” 

I offered it, and she declined, which was fine, but I interrupted her religion of consuming thoughts with the offering of a simple gift.

As I write this, Spirit reminds me of Jesus offering living water to a similarly burdened woman. John 4:1-38


C.S. Lewis tells us that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

Larry, in Waiting for Heaven, quoted G. K. Chesterton saying that “the secret business of heaven is joy.”

In looking up the quote, I think it comes from this piece of writing.

“We sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear. Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

It’s both a serious and a secret business.

Secret in the sense that we don’t fully understand it and that we’re not there yet. We have whiffs of it now and then, like the scent of a rose wafting over the walls of a hidden garden. We long for it, and we can become addicts to false substitutes.

We become serious in our empire building and cistern digging when – all along – what Spirit wanted us to do was to offer a glass of cool water to a burdened soul. That simple, secret, and serious expression of joy.

I have a burden to give cool water to weary souls. People who want to dance but have been told to do it only in an “I’m in the Lord’s Army” military formation parade-style.

It’s so tiring, anxiety-promoting, and depressing when performance is measured, and we know we will fumble and fail.

The dance instructor says this.

“Dance with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” -Jesus, Matthew 11:29 (The Message)

Quote to consider

  • “As G. K. Chesterton once remarked, ‘The secret business of heaven is joy.’ The secret is no longer hidden. Salvation is centered in sharing the joy the Son experiences in His relationship with the Father. That joy, I submit, will powerfully compete with the self-serving and self-managed pleasure that addictions provide. And note this: addictive pleasure blights our experience of divine joy.” Dr. Larry Crabb, Waiting for Heaven, pg 88.

Questions to answer

  1. What is the “business” you are serious about?
  2. How does this “serious business” dance with heaven’s “serious business”?
  3. What would a small act of “serious business joy” look like in a relationship you have?

Formation Exercise

  • Play a piece of your favourite music. In the secret and in the seriousness of joy, allow yourself to dance. Be it slow, disco, or “Larry Crabb Elvis-style,” sense Spirit joining in the rhythm.

Barry lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and writes about Mental Health and Spiritual Formation. Learn more about him on his website Turning the Page.

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