Monday, September 22, 2003

How Great a Love

I've been thinking about life. Sometimes the reality of suffering becomes so clear and present to me that it is heartbreaking. I mean, not the kind of suffering that I've ever experienced myself... but the kind that you start to understand in glimpses through a book, or a film, or a newspaper headline, or a sponsor-a-child advertisement. The suffering of the people of Israel in Egypt, the suffering of Christians under Nero, the suffering of modern-day people in Iraq, the suffering of people in war, and in persecution, and in starvation, and in terror.

In the face of such suffering, what can one person do? It makes me think of the quote in the Lord of the Rings... 'What can men do in the face of such reckless hate?' What can we do in the face of the terrors that happened under Saddam and his sons... under Hitler... and even the everyday horrors of abortion, murder, racism, suicide, hatred, war, persecution...?

What are we to do in a world gone so terribly wrong? I was thinking about this, and I suppose the answer is pretty simple. The meaning of life... is to live. God didn't make humankind to die. He didn't make us to go hungry and to wear down and break apart and be alone and suffer and live in fear or terror... he didn't make us to die. He made us to live! In the beginning, God made man and woman to live forever. But He gave us the will to choose, and Adam and Eve chose sin and darkness and ... nothingness ... absense ... instead of good and beauty and light and everything that is real and solid and true. And we all make the same choices, over and over again... loving little reflections more than their image found in God. And when humankind turned from Him in whom we live and move and have our being, some of the privileges of life were taken away. Now all of life ended in death. And death is the opposite of the light and life that God created us for.

We were meant to live, and in the Goodness of the world God created, we were given life. But we turned from Him and now life ends. And now, in the midst of life... sorrow, and terror, and pain, and loneliness, and lost-ness. And that's why Jesus is so central to everything. He came to comfort those who mourned, to cast out fear with Love, to heal wounds, to fill loneliness, and to seek and save the lost. And most of all He came to die, and it's so amazing! The eternal Word, through whom all things were made, took on flesh. God stepped onto the stage of the great drama He was producing. The incarnation of Christ reconciled the painfully real Platonic dichotomy between the world of Being and the world of Becoming. He came and He LIVED, as man was meant to live, and then He died, as man wasn't meant to but had to... He carried the penalty of all our sins and all of the heavens and earth cried out and trembled and when it was all over, everything was made right again from an eternal perspective. "So Man, as is most just, shall satisfy for Man, be judged and die, and dying rise, and rising, with Him raise His brethren, ransomed with His own dear life." He took on Himself death and all the world's sin and wrong-ness and He transformed it to give us LIFE. The forever-and-ever-world-without-end-amen kind of life.

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are." "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God... if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

How good and amazing it is. God's mercy and His justice... Jesus Christ. LOVE. The love that Dante says "moves the sun and the other stars." God just made us to live... to live and to love, I think. To live for Him, and for one another... to love Him and to love one another.

Jesus Christ and the cross... it all came together. Anselm talks about it in Cur Deus Homo, and Athanasius in On the Incarnation. And they're much more eloquent, only I had to write about things anyway to help me process the issues because I'm feeling so helpless about the sufferings of the world. And yet... weeping and being heartbroken isn't the whole answer. Yes, God weeps... and we should weep with Him. But we're here to live, and to live for CHRIST. And we can't just be sorrowful, because we've got to live and love... we've got to create art, and build beautiful architecture, and sing, and dance, and make music, and read books, and explore space, and travel and see the world, and write, and smile at friends, and get married and have babies and teach them to love Jesus, and we've got to be the Church, to be God's kingdom here on earth, to go and love our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia and China and New York City and wherever we're called, doing whatever we're called to do. And whatever we're called to, I just think... we've got to be warriors. To lead the culture, to make a difference... by living and loving. Am I getting redundant? I can't help it. God is big and mighty and beyond all comprehension and yet He chose to look upon our distress, us, so lowly, and to come and give us real life again.

So, in the face of suffering and tragedy... I am deciding to be joyful. You know, in the Psalms, David keeps crying out to God to come and heal his broken revive him... but did you notice, it's followed by a reason - a reason that's centered on others and not himself. He wants to be healed so he can go and love and live for God and for others. And that's what I want to do. Not focus on the times when I'm sad or lonely or insecure or anything. I'm not saying that kind of sorrow isn't real; I think it is. But it's not what God made me to live for. I think what we do in the face of apathy and hatred and sorrow everywhere is just to live the way we were made to live. And be intelligent and engaging and winsome Christians who will sneak up on the whole world and take it by surprise with our love and life that is all a reflection of Christ. I think that's what He made us for.

Oh, I know all these thoughts don't really answer all the questions about the depths of both suffering and joy in this life, and how we might reconcile them. But I'm just trying to think it all through.

Coincidentally, I came back to my computer this evening to find an IM from a friend containing a quote that sort of fit with my mindset and all that I had been thinking about tonight.

"When a man lies he murders some part of the world. These are the pale deaths men must call their lives. All this I cannot bear to witness any longer. Cannot the kingdom of salvations take me home?" ...Metalica

And sometimes I do just want to go home. Home to the new Narnia, to Aslan's country and Aslan Himself... "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this...come further up, come further in!" This is the feeling that puts an ache in my chest and a lump in my throat... It's not sorrow, but it's not joy either, at least it's not either one entirely separate from the other. It's a bittersweet feeling, when I experience beauty, or pain, or goodness, or truth, or sorrow, or any number of very *real* experiences in words, music, or just living.

Of course, the hard thing is to live well while I'm here. To really get outside myself and outside all my insecurities and just live with every single breath and every single word. I'm trying.

All these words, and I haven't really said anything profound or resolved any deep questions. But somehow, I always feel better after writing something like this.

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