Friday, November 13, 2009
The pain that evil has brought with it into this world feels sometimes simply unbearable. When feeling the sting of love that is NOT returned our hearts melt, our tears flow, and our understanding is often baffled. When the object of our love is no longer on this earth and therefore unable to return our love for now, we feel a loss akin to no other. But when we choose to love and are plainly rejected it is our thinking that takes the hit. We wrestle with questions that have no answers. Why would the person of our affections not want to bathe in the love we would offer? Why are our motives questioned? Why are our deeds ignored? What did we do to cause this?
When I think of the sadness that has directly impacted my own life from evil, I am astounded that often I have been the center of it all. I have been the reason for my own pain. Bad choices. Gratifying short term desires while truly killing long term fundamentals. Treating others as objects of conquest rather than precious treasure of association. My apathy and simple disinterest in the pain of others has led me to a very narrow self interested set of priorities, and my friendships with others suffer as a result. Cherishing privacy is tantamount to avoiding the world and its need. But see for a minute through His eyes, and the revelations about my own deficiencies spring forth off the map.
And that is when it hit me like never before … see the effects of evil for just a minute through His eyes. Imagine the pain our Lord must feel as He watches the events of our lives unfold. Forget for a minute that He longs to help us avoid causing ourselves such horror; He must deal with our constant rejection of His love as well. He must ask all the same questions we ponder, and be even more mystified by the lack of real answers for our rejection. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a parent to personally witness the murder of one of his children by another. I cannot imagine what it must be like to see the raping and torture that one brother does to another, or one brother does to his very own sister. Yet God can, because He sees it every day.
And who is He supposed to love? Just the victims of evil? The murdered, the raped, the abused? For are we ALL not equally victims of evil, as well as the perpetrators of these crimes? Is not our hate just as painful to Him. Is not our rejection of His constant offers to solve our problems supremely more painful to Him, as He truly is the ONLY one with real solutions for us? To grieve as He grieves is more than the human heart can bear. To see the effects of evil, the insidious disease that kills good as its primary goal, to witness it spread and take root, even in the hearts of those who call themselves His servants, His followers, that take on His very name – Christ-ians. It must be so much more sadness than we can even begin to measure.
We think we know something of rejection. Most of us have experienced it at least romantically. But He experiences it as way more than a mere jilted lover or spouse. He experiences it as our Father, our Family, our Brother, our Savior, and our Friend. We turn Him away though He gives us the life we have, the very air we breathe. He must watch us, as we direct our will into the evil it seeks, and then suffer with us as the effects of evil wreak their toll. To grieve as He grieves is more than humanity was meant to know. It is what broke the very heart of Christ while on the cross of our redemption.
But it is not empathy with God for the sadness He feels that truly shatters my heart. It is not the pain I have endured, or more often caused myself, that was capable of breaking this heart of stone. More recently I have discovered a new phenomenon in Christianity and in myself that broke me and my heart on the rock of the Lord. Not to grieve as He grieves, but to glimpse love as He loves. More than all the effects of evil combined with all the sadness it brings, it was a brief glance at love through pure eyes that shattered my cemented heart. To watch what love can do for another, is to bring my pride to tears.
I have lived my life for years following the edicts of society that men rarely if ever show great sadness. To see a man cry is debilitating at best, to see it in the mirror is dumbfounding. And even more astounding, is to see it in the eyes, and in the hearts, of other Christian men who appear to be discovering the same phenomenon the same way at the same time. Not only is my own heart shattered, and now I am moved to tears when I see His love enacted or reflected in the world around me; I see the same response from those “strong” souls I am acquainted with in the church.
Men who have no reason to break. Men who have no history of demonstrating deep emotion. Men, and yes some women as well, are responding the impact of the love of Christ is a completely vulnerable way. It is deeply humiliating to shed tears in front of another, let alone in front of those who you barely know. And it is even harder to explain when the cause for tears is not based in depression, circumstances, or the infliction of pain by another – against these conditions I and those around me seem to remain as stalwart and composed as Winston Churchill. But up against the demonstrated love of Christ at work in the life of another, there is no defense, there is no composure, there is only real naked emotional response. Against this there is only tears.
To be so deeply moved from love I must believe is a side-effect of submitting the will to Christ. It must be part of the process He is enacting in our lives as we allow Him – to mold our hearts, to realign our priorities, to see with His eyes rather than our own. I did not expect this work to have the effects it has. I did not expect to find it so difficult to maintain my own composure when sighting the examples of His great love for us. A year ago I would have labeled this behavior as some form of mass psychosis. I would have used logic to attribute it to real issues such as long term unemployment or under-employment; economic hardship; political turmoil. There are a myriad of real stressors in the world that one could blame for men breaking down.
But living inside this experience I can attest to none of these reasons. The timing does not work, for it is not when hardship presses in that the tears begin to flow. It is the gentleness, the beauty, the intimacy, the care, and the life altering effects of His love demonstrated in the life of another, or even in my own, that moves me beyond my composure. I am becoming a small child once again, perhaps too small. I thought the council Christ gave about becoming a little child to enter into Heaven meant the average mental age might be 7 or 8. For me it appears to be more like 2 or 3. Fully dependent, fully vulnerable, fully trusting – perhaps one must be younger in order to truly achieve these conditions.
For so many years we are taught to rely on ourselves. We are taught to look out for number one, as nobody else will. But these teachings run counter to the wisdom of scripture which offers us a completely different view of the world. Don’t worry about what you wear, eat, or need - seek Christ first. Do not carry your own burdens – give them to Christ so He can carry them FOR you. You need merely accept the GIFT of salvation, there is nothing for you to earn or do to be saved from evil accept allowing God to save you from it. Submission of the will, is the start of the real change in your life. But now I realize it is not just behavior that He intends to change. It is the vision we see life by. It is how we see things like grief and love. And in so doing, the unexpected becomes the norm.
We do not know, what we do not know, but our gentle Lord does. As He continues to mold our hearts, I pray for the humility to accept the changes He proposes and enacts. I pray for the humility to see myself as a mere toddler in His world, and extend my arms outstretched to Him in response. For I can think of no better place than to be carried in the arms of our Savior; and I can think of no better way to see purest love than through the eyes of its originator …