Archive for the ‘Connected’ Category

I wrote three paragraphs. Finally. Three!

In Abraham, Allison, Bathsheba, Breath, Christianity, Communion, Connected, David, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, Job, John, Joseph, Making a Mistake, Mary, Moses, Mud, Myth, Passover, Prayer, Prostrate, Spirit, Stations of the Cross, Stillness, Story, The Way, Uncategorized on 24 March 2013 at 8:57 PM

At my church for the past few weeks, we’ve been observing Lent and meditating on the (new) Stations of the Cross. I’ve helped organize and facilitate some of that. Below are the meditations I wrote for this week, the final week of Lent—

 

Twelfth Station: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and Disciple (John 19:25-27)

Abel, dead and cold in a field, had been Adam & Eve’s innocent son. And Abraham bound Isaac to the altar. And Jacob for years lost Joseph to the wilderness. And ten thousand mothers of ten thousand murdered boys cried out to God in Egypt. And Bathsheba’s baby died very soon. And David wept for Absalom. And Job and his wife, what but the whirlwind was left for them after the quake? — And you, Mary. You lose your child, too. You kept him safe from Herod once but now you watch his body suffer, bleed out, die. What hopeful secrets does He keep from you, Mary, and what horror does He allow you to abide in? You belong to the Story; your sacrifice is your people’s Story—and now you bear its weight. The Kingdom comes but you don’t know it yet. So let yourself be held. Move into the arms of this beloved disciple. It is no consolation, I know, but the LORD gives you this body to writhe against, to weep into, to suffer alongside you. Love upholds you still. So can it be, Mary? Blessed be the Name, even now? Will you say it with me, Mary?—will you bless His Name with me, even so?

 

Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross (Luke 23:44-46)

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus said. What can I commend to God? Not even my time on Facebook. Not my morning coffee. Not my impatience. Not my wife’s emotions, nor my own. Not my anxiety. Not my desire to control. I cannot commend into His hands my desire to be best, to be noticed, to be liked, to impress. But these are what He requires in the Kingdom. I’m to be a vessel of His Kingdom, not of my small loud will. So I close my eyes. And I practice. Father, into your hands I commend this breath. And this one. And this one again. I breathe You in, my Father, and I breathe me out. I take your Spirit within me like these filled-up lungs, like this blood that stirs throughout my body. I breathe in your Likeness, your Spirit. I join my breath to yours. One breath at a time. Into your hands, my Father, my Creator, I commend this breath. And this one. And this one again.

 

Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb (Matthew 27: 57-60)

As you lie prostrate on the cold hard ground your body feels the earth against itself, this God-made earth, so big, so full of love and death, now against your chest, now beneath your belly, now pressed even to your cheeks. This is not an insight; it is a practice. Your body, your only true possession, rests upon the earth. You can smell its wildness. You can hear its generations of passing life, this great muted groan singing to you as through layers of mud. When you are dead you are like the mud. You are a once-a-song returned to the mud. You are a once-a-song that became silenced by the mud. It is the Way of the world. Even God becomes like the mud. He joins you—for you. His body becomes like the layers of mud and contains for a moment all these muted songs. Alive, He was so beautiful a vessel; dead, He becomes like the mud. Listen. Stay here on the ground until creation sings to you through the mud. Stay quiet. The world is singing. Press your ear to the earth. Listen to the silent groaning music. Join your God in the mud. Join your voice to His beautiful—to His terrible song.

 

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Chase us. Bug us. Haunt us. Woo us. —A communion prayer (4).

In Christianity, Communion, Connected, Jesus, Making a Mistake, Moses, Myth, Passover, Prayer, Uncategorized on 8 October 2012 at 6:21 PM

Our Father,

We are tired. And we hurt. And we twist inwardly. In the evening, before bed; while we sleep and dream or stay awake alone; while we wake in the morning, eat, shower, arrive; and even now as we gather in your Name: there is this Something and this Something Else. And if I pay attention I can feel them moving. I worry and I fear and I plot and I fight and I grow bored and I complain and I doubt and I gossip and I eat too much and I desire and I grow proud and I hide and I agree with my disappointments and I hope and I trust: apart from the Name. I understand that I want you and I do not know how to want you. I fear you and I go on being afraid. I return to you and I continue in my exile. I am foolish. I am your beloved.

So I am tired—but I wear myself out; and I am hurt—but I am hurtful; and I twist inwardly—but it’s my own shame I’m trying to escape.

And I find, after years and years—I regret myself.

Still, you have come—you, voice of creation; you, Passover lamb; you, Bread in the desert; you, Messiah. You wash my feet. You break yourself open. You pour yourself out.

Because of you—even while we do not know ourselves, even while we do not know what we are doing, even while we fumble around like badly told jokes—even so, we gather in your Name. You say, This is my body. You say, This is my blood. You say, Remember me. So we try. We do what we can. —But give us your Spirit; help us do what we cannot do. Chase us. Bug us. Haunt us. Woo us. Help us love, and trust, and pray—according to the Name.

Some days I take the train to work. Some days I drive. Part II.

In Breath, Connected, McDonald's, Myth, People Watching, Saint Aquinas, Stillness, Story on 11 November 2011 at 9:30 AM

On days I drive it takes only thirty-four minutes to arrive from Whittier to Redondo Beach, but only because I leave very early in the morning, to beat traffic. Traffic gets bad at 5:12 AM, goes from crowded-but-fast to crowded-and-great-can-you-believe-it-now-Grandma-is-writing-a-check-for-her-groceries. The switchover is instantaneous. Grandma can’t find two forms of ID. She goes back to her purse for cash. Counts out perfect change.

So I leave the house at 4:43 AM without eating breakfast and I arrive to Redondo Beach at 5:17 AM. And I go to McDonald’s. I order a Number Two: Sausage McMuffin with Egg value meal, with coffee. How many creams and sugars? Four creams, four Equals. Okay. That’ll be $4.77. I take my meal to the back of the McDonald’s and I sit and I take the morning in slowly. My breath becomes a prayer to the heavens. The smell of coffee is a great consolation. I drink, I eat. I like the crunch of my hash brown. I pray simply a recited prayer over and over and over, slowly as I breathe. I ask for the day’s basic needs, for the willingness to forgive the people I resent, for the strength to keep away from evil. I thank God for my family and friends. I breathe in, I breathe out.

When I get to McDonald’s I have forty-three minutes until work begins, so I eat slowly. I am learning to breathe with my whole body, mindfully.

Each time I am here, the same things happen:

I am the first person to arrive each morning. I order, I sit, I eat, I breathe.

A man who works here cleans the floor. First he takes his wet thick-and-short-bristles push-broom and scrubs the floor. Then with his mop he soaks the floor and wipes away the dirt. Then he pours his bucket full of sudsy water everywhere onto the floor, and soap water goes under all the tables, and he mops that back up. It is a long process. He goes back and forth over the entire floor three times.  By the end, everything looks clean and nice. He is never in a rush. He does not look angry while he mops. He doesn’t even look tired. I imagine that this man enters his body completely—and that for him there is only now: now when he works, when he does not think, when he only does, when he does not resent anyone, when he has no longings, when there is only this water and this mop and these movements. He is slow in his work. His face is peaceful. I like him.

In comes the man with the short disgusting ponytail and a buzz around the sides of his head, who arrives with his ear buds in his ears, and who orders food with his ear buds in his ears, and who eats with his ear buds in his ears. He never looks at anyone. He listens to his music. He eats his breakfast burrito. He taps his feet.

But then the woman comes next. The lovely ugly a little bit fat very out of style crossing guard who doesn’t shower before work. She carries a big cloth sack full of stuff. She wears a fanny pack. She wears jeans from the 1990s, pleated. She tucks her sweatshirt into her jeans. She wears a bright orange vest that says CROSSING GUARD on the back. Her short brown hair sticks up in the back, because she has just woken up, because she hasn’t showered. She walks slowly, as though crossing the street with children, everywhere. She limps. She brings her food to her small booth, sets it down on the table. She pauses, she holds her breath. In a moment, she pushes the fanny pack to the side, making enough room between her stomach and the table, so she can squat into her seat at the single booth. She slides in slowly, carefully, inch by inch, and then while she sits and eats she doesn’t move her body—only sits upright while she brings food to her mouth. Any high schooler would see her and make fun of her—within earshot. I’m sure she has awful nicknames among some children, things you would be embarrassed to be told in public. But do you know that she is my Saint Aquinas? I will tell you why. Because before she moves her fanny pack to the side and before she squats so awkwardly-carefully down into her seat, she, standing next to her table, having set down her food, fishes through her big cloth sack full of stuff. She pulls out a plastic Ziplock bag where she keeps an old piece of paper. She opens the bag. She pulls out the paper. There are pictures on it. She leans the paper up so the pictures will face her as she eats, pictures of her dead parents from when they were alive and young: her mother in a pink blouse, smiling, hair done up nice for church; her father next to his army buddies, everyone smoking a cigarette and holding a gun. Saint Aquinas eats her breakfast looking at the pictures on the paper. She misses her parents. She brings them with her to McDonald’s every morning. She keeps them in a Ziplock. She loves them. She is lonely. Probably the last people who loved her unconditionally, who called her Sweetie, who held her, who touched her face, were these two people in these pictures. And they are gone. Maybe she’s eating a McMuffin and crazy-thinking: Good morning, Mom! How are you, Dad? You want some hash brown? Maybe all this is only weird, and bad-weird. Maybe this is pitiful and crazy and sad. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe she prays to them, and to God. Maybe she knows that while these two are dead and gone and not ever coming back, and maybe while there is a deep and abiding longing to be near them, to smell them, to feel her father’s hands on her shoulders, to hear her mother say her name, maybe beneath those pitiful-seeming and easy-to-laugh-at-and-call-an-unshowered-lady-crazy-for habits she is practicing deep and mysterious and beautiful truths. No, she is not crazy. She is not crazy at all. She is looking at her mother. She is looking at her father. She is remembering them. This morning she is thinking about all the birthday parties, all the times talking in the car, all the weekends, all the bedtimes, all the phone calls, all the sandwiches, all the music they clapped to and sang to and loved each other near, all the advice and laughter and forgiveness that passed between them like a secret language, back and forth for years. She is seeing a vision from God. She is joined to a prayer and a hope and a love that makes all our knowledge like straw to light fires with.

Italian chefs from Egypt. The peoples of Ecuador. Mean, helpless old ladies. Mongolian Barbeque. Even so.

In Allison, Connected, Italian chefs from Egypt, Jonah, Mongolian Barbeque, Old ladies, Raymond Carver, Robin Dembroff, Simon, The peoples of Ecuador, Uncategorized on 31 August 2011 at 10:29 AM

My family are Latinos, which means that even though the invitation to the Mongolian Barbeque says 6:30 PM (just thirty minutes before our one-year-old usually goes off to sleep), they begin to show well after 7:15 PM, except us, except us, since a few weeks earlier we were eating at the Italian place, to wish my mother and stepfather well, to say goodbyes before they went off to Italy for three months, that restaurant owned by an expert Italian chef from Egypt, where the food was perfect but the kids went nuts, screaming, throwing food, pounding the table, spilling drinks, finding seven hundred ways to ruin a nice evening at an Italian restaurant, so that we received from other patrons (and gave right back to them) all kinds of dirty looks, so that even this old lady told my one-year-old nephew, “My God. Can’t you just shut up?” and I gave her a long, cold What the fuck, grandma, you wanna start something? stare, until she quietly went back to drinking her old lady’s milk with her old lady’s pills. So, tonight, when my brother invites us out to dinner at the Mongolian Barbeque at 6:30 PM, we show up early, very early for Latinos, at 6:00 PM, and we feed our kids, and we stuff our faces, and we wait around like a bunch of idiot gringos for the Latinos to show up. Does this strategy work? Almost. By the time the peoples of Ecuador arrive to eat, our kids have already eaten, are therefore not grumpy, and we believe we, the parents, are in control. We believe we are geniuses, that this night is an enormous success. And we look around to confirm that there are no old ladies to intimidate. But the peoples of Ecuador have brought their children, and these children see my children, and they play with my children, and, now that it’s getting late for children, this evening at the Mongolian Barbeque  becomes like a slumber party, with screaming and running and strange secret games long into the night. And Jonah, my three-year-old, who can blame him, who can say it could go any other way, gets himself into some trouble, because it is so late, and because he hits, and because he screams, and because he scratches, and because he kicks, and because he bites, and because he is three years old late at night with cousins and children, and his little child’s body does not know how to behave in a Mongolian Barbeque where there are no slides or wide open places to kick a ball. So he disobeys. And we tell him No. We walk him outside. We have a time-out. We come back inside. We tell him No. We bring him back outside. We spank. We bring him back inside. We tell him No. We bring him back outside. And it is late in the evening now, and we are driving home, and it is after the trouble, after our words together, after the time-outs, after the spankings, after his biting and hitting and kicking and screaming and telling children mean words. The night is quiet, and we drive silently along the road. And Jonah says, “I have to stop doing those bad things. I have to stop doing those bad things. But I just can’t.” I hear him say this, and I hear him repeat it, and I ask him questions, and Alli asks him questions, and he keeps saying it, keeps saying, “I just can’t, I just can’t.” I am moved to tears, and Alli holds his hand, saying, “We know. Mom and Dad know. We are the same way. It’s so hard, isn’t it, Jonah, to stop doing bad things. But do you know that we love you, Jonah, and that we are always connected.” And Jonah says, “I just can’t stop,” but then he repeats after Alli, “We are always connected.”

The past few days, I have been thinking about that night, about how rich and beautiful it was, about how my son taught me about honesty, and love, and the sickness of my inward life, how he taught me about my God who loves me and forgives me and abides even in my sickness. And then something else came to mind, an old student, Robin Dembroff, who, just before graduation, was inducted into the college’s honors society. She asked me to be the one to induct her into it, so I did. And this is the speech I wrote to do it:

Robin Dembroff is the smartest student I have taught, the one I thought about when, preparing for class, my anxiety would rise about my whether I know…more than they know. All professors know this feeling, know those moments: moments of faking it, of saying “I don’t know” in four-syllable words, of believing that any second now the game is up, moments of, “How long do I have look up and away, and say ‘ontological’ and ‘soteriology’ –so I can just—get—out—of—this?” It was her face I saw, her questions I imagined, her possible objections or obscure facts that made me afraid.

For this reason, I am glad to be rid of her.

She is very smart, the best kind of student. And every teacher she’s had knows it. In this regard, then, she belongs in the EKE. And for this she deserves our recognition, deserves this ceremony, deserves my personal and heartfelt congratulations:

Congratulations, Robin. This is a big deal. A wonderful achievement. Thank you for being so smart, for taking so much time, for devoting yourself to such difficult questions, for being such a good writer and thinker, for being so creative, for being the kind of student who intimidates me.

But your being smart, or my being your professor of smart stuff—these are not why you asked me to be here. My standing here has almost nothing to do with smart stuff.

And I want to honor that. And I want to spend my time talking about you in ways I know match your reason for my standing up here.

There is a very short poem by the great storyteller Raymond Carver. Carver: that reformed and recovered drunk, that cheat, that neglectful father, that abusive husband, that generally mean person. The poem is called “Late Fragment,” which he wrote at the end of his life, just before lung cancer killed him. This is how it goes:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Carver, the brilliant storyteller and worst kind of person, who told his own life without excuses, presenting himself in his stories as the worst kind of person, finally found recovery, found a great deal of reconciliation, and, eventually, he found himself beloved on the earth—even so. It’s in the even so that his life story is told here, in the even so that my and your and Robin’s lives are told. We are suffering, wandering, confused, hurt—and hurtful—we are the kinds of people who, left to ourselves, are no better or hardly better than Carver ever was. And, even so, even so, we are beloved.

This is why Robin wants me up here. Because of even so.

To be honored in front of so many, to be told Good job, and Congratulations, and We think you’re something else!—it’s a kind of love, or a stand-in for it. At the very least, it’s like love. Because it’s people giving you this big good thing.

And in its being like love, this smart stuff event, I think Robin made the mistake of putting up in front of you someone who almost has nothing to do with her smart stuff, but someone who has seen her through years of her learning her own belovedness; someone who would assume her smart stuff and then ignore it; someone who will instead tell you about her belovedness even so.

Last year, Robin wrote love-letter-paintings to many, if not all, of the Torrey faculty, these people who represented to her smart stuff and even so. Her friend Renee painted likenesses, and then Robin wrote the words over the painted image. Here is what she wrote on mine:

Of course, he says. Of course, yes. Fingers skim along rows of bindings, pulling down certain volumes. Not that he means to read from each one. He wants to remember them, delight in them and, most of all, simply have them in his hands. He arranges the books in a careful stack on his desk and, each time he lays one down, talks about a particular section and the author’s particular genius. Always in particulars. And this—amazing. Amazing. He extracts a book and, for the slightest instant, pauses to feel its weight in his hand. While he tells me about the text, he turns the pages over, one by one, only to have their texture between his fingers. The rustle is warm and familiar. His eye skims passages, head shaking with awe. Does he know the corners of his mouth arch this way every time a familiar text is in his hands? Or how many students have learned to love fitting words through witnessing this expression? To find richness in so many things… We see it most when he looks at his son. Or hear it when his voice cracks, and he laughs at the remembering of himself. He leans back and is still. Now. Space to wordlessly revisit where we have been. Words are beautiful, but only as signs to wordlessness. I remember. Now. I am beginning to understand where understanding ends. He knows this place, and that is how he brought us here. Now. Nothing but to sit here and process. To process without being alone. To not be alone as the end of the question. And then—slight lean forward. I know the drill. Social etiquette for time awareness. My appointment should have ended long ago. I motion as if to leave, but when I blink, he’s leaned back again. A gentle, but defiant flash passes through his eyes. No, no, wrong, it says. Things can be different. He searches for something until he finds it. And then his finger jabs a page and slides the book to me. Read that, he says. Everything is in that ‘even so,’ he says. It’s wonderful, really. Even so. Wonderful. Even so.

And so, Robin: No, you are not alone. I hear you. I am connected to you. My wife, my in-laws, and I—we love you. You are a part of our family. You are a gift to me as much as I am a gift to you. You are a gift to this institution, to your teachers, to your friends, to your family, to our Lord. You are beloved on the earth. Even so.

Peculiar Graces: Dark, Dark Nights

In Allison, Connected, Jonah, Myth, Peculiar Graces, Pittsburgh, Uncategorized on 30 October 2007 at 9:40 PM

The hardest thing I have ever known is to become a parent. Fifteen years ago I became a high schooler; that was pretty hard. Then came college, which was harder; but then, after a while, if I’m honest with you, it got easy. After graduation, becoming a teacher was hard, too, but eventually it was manageable. Then Alli and I married, and I turned into a husband: Wow—now that’s still very, very hard. But Parent, being the parent, being the dad, being so powerlessly in love with this vulnerable, crying, helpless, beautiful, loud need wrapped in personhood…I mean, it’s just the hardest thing I have ever imagined, and the hardest thing I have ever done.

I sit back to reflect on it for a moment, in order to come up with the words, with the images, to prove to you by way of metaphor that I’m telling the truth, to show you, to make you aware in a way that is just right, in a way that would explain it perfectly, clearly, even for those of you who aren’t parents yet. I reflect on just how hard it is. I think of the nights, of the loneliness of night when no one is around but the three of us, darkness everywhere and a hungry baby. I want to make you understand. But my arms dangle, and they hang—limply—at my sides. They become numb. I am tired. My shoulders hurt. I find I can’t even type the words to describe it. And anyway I am wordless for it, unable to describe anything this hard, and so typing wouldn’t do any good anyhow. And yet, here they are: the words have appeared. Somehow the words are brought to the page.

Maybe that is how I feel.

Sure, of course, I love him. His smells are everywhere in the house. On my hands. On my shirt. In the living room. In the kitchen near his baby’s bottles and baby’s bath and baby’s towel. They are there when I do the dishes, and when the laundry is folded by the couch. I have never been more aware of my gratitude, or more conscious of my love, or closer to the belief that my love is a thing in my chest, something I could take out and show to him if he asked to see it, its weight and size, its rounded edges, the hardness and softness of it at the same time, its willingness to sacrifice or change shape at his will, for his safety, for his pleasure.

Or maybe I believe that my love is my chest itself, and its heaving is proof enough.

Several days ago he gave out his first social smile—to me. He looked me in the eye as I sat down next to Alli on the couch, who was holding him. I had put my finger in his hand—a cheap trick to make myself feel loved, really, since it’s a reflex for him to grab onto me—and he turned his head to see me. He looked, and he looked, and then he gave a sign of recognition. Something in his face changed as if to say, You. And, in a moment, he smiled. He held it for about seven seconds. He was smiling at me, right at my face. This was not gas, or poop. This was us. You could not talk about the energy and warmth I felt throughout my body when it happened, since really it is unspeakable. I love my son. You know that, and I know that, and there is no question about the matter.

Still, my son suffers. He has colic, or something like it, and we know this because every night he cries and he cries and he cries. This—watching him cry without end—this is pain I have never felt, every night.

It is pain I have never seen before either, because even in marriage, in this relationship we call our most intimate, even here with my wife, both of us have had the decency to hide some of our pain from the other.

But this one, this Jonah, he cries and he cries, and he continues to cry, and sometimes there is no consoling him.

I walk around with him, and I hold him to me, but he pushes away. So I bounce him, up and down, up and down, but he waves his arms and he kicks his legs. Then, because the walking around hasn’t worked, I sit down with him, but he writhes, and he wiggles, back and forth, arching his back, kicking his legs some more. I stand up again, and I hold him up and out, so he’s facing the world. Maybe something out there will calm him, yes—but his eyes fill with terror, and he holds his arms out as though he wants to feel more secure.

So I turn him around to face my chest, but he presses his face into my shirt, shaking his head back and forth, rubbing his face against me, pushing his face deeper and deeper into my chest, and I feel the heat from his face, that hot breath leaving his mouth, the sobs, the air that leaves his body like desperation, and all the time the voice, the pain, those high-pitched notes that carry through the rooms of our house, through my head and down my back, into my stomach and legs, Dad, help me, I hurt, I hurt, I need help, please help me. He hides nothing. He grieves everything. He has been born into this world with a mountain of pain, and he is honest enough to let it show. And I can’t do anything, Jonah. I can’t do anything at all. What can I do? I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried it all.

Now metaphors are not good ways, I know, to establish something as a fact. Just because this something is like that other thing does not mean that either is true, I am aware. So please do not misunderstand me.

Still, I am about to make a metaphor, but by no means do I believe that the likeness between the two makes one of them any truer. However, if the facts of the matter are true, and if the likeness is right, then metaphors are very good teachers, are they not?

The work of metaphors, then, is to clarify the truth, not to establish it. I understand this—let that be known.

A few nights ago, Jonah was crying. Alli, who wakes up with him early every morning, was pooped by now, and rightfully so, for she is this family’s anchor, its strength. She gives too much, which is what mothers by nature do. Mothers might be the most powerful force in nature, and Alli is no exception. By now, though, she had worked beyond her ability, and so I had sent her off to sleep.

It was now just we two, Jonah and Dad, and the dark, and the sounds he was making long into the night.

I held him in my arms.

He cried.

I bounced him.

He cried.

I moved him to face the world.

He cried.

I moved him to face my chest.

He cried.

He was hiding nothing. He was grieving everything. He had a mountain of pain to carry, and he was being honest with me, letting it show.

And I couldn’t do anything.

So I began to whisper very softly into his ear, Jonah, I’m here with you. This is me, it’s your dad. I’m here. I’m right here. Jonah, do you hear me? Jonah, I’m here.

We walked around and around the kitchen, because at night it’s the darkest room of the house, and darkness brings sleep—it says so in all the baby books. Here we were, in the darkness of night, around and around and around the kitchen, around and around for a long time, and he’s crying like always, and I’m whispering to him, I know, son. I know. It’s so hard. It’s so so hard. But here I am. Here I am with you.

Did I think he could understand me? And if he could understand me, could he hear me over his cries? I suppose part of me hoped he would. I held him close to me, and still he kept crying.

And for a moment, I will tell you, because this is the truth I believe in, and this, you might have guessed, is the metaphor I was working up to: I understood the reason for Christ. I understood that I would give anything to help my son, that I would give up all my possessions, all my relationships, and even give up my own existence, if only Jonah could be made to have what he needed. I would do anything to climb down through my years of knowing and experience, and I would join him in his babyness, and I would take it all onto me, because I want him to experience relief.

When he suffers, I suffer. But I would suffer all the more if only his suffering would stop.

This understanding came in a moment, and then, in a moment again, it was gone.

I know: Not everyone who will read this believes in the same truth claims that I do, and so I do not want to offend. Please, if you want to, consider it a nice metaphor, a silly way for me to cling to hope in the midst of hopelessness, a foolishness, a game, or a way for me to deceive myself into believing that existence makes sense; in short—call it a pretty form of denial.

But, again, if the truth of the world is that Jesus somehow offers us relief, that in the midst of all this suffering, in the midst of all these cries—there is hope, that somehow by this offering we are able to connect, and to receive grace, to reconcile one to another and to God in heaven, and finally to live without alienation, and if there is in fact a God who wants to use this universe to demonstrate his love for creation, then this parenthood, this being the dad, this hardest best thing—has made itself to me a picture of God’s love which illuminates truth beyond my wildest imaginations. And for a moment I see the love, I understand the love, and I feel the love—all the love in the universe which surrounds me, and surrounds you, and surrounds us all. And my heart grows big with thanks.