By: Sarah Nyhan
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the primary question we as the human race struggle with is: are we alone? Did our Creator spin us out into the cosmos and leave us to ourselves? Is He a deadbeat dad who sends occasional greetings, takes us on a few weekends, and sends the minimal amount of support to keep us surviving? Or is our Abba more?
We treat others the way we believe God treats us. I think of many men in my life who treat me how their fathers treated them. They seem quite unaware that they have understandably but incorrectly confused the character of the god their fathers represented with the character of their true God the Father.
Picture the plot as a movie.
The first scene is Job. Doing his best. Thinking he has to appease a diety in order to secure the well-being of his loved ones. Surely a man of his means would be well-acquainted with hard work. And things go well enough for awhile. But then disaster strikes. After years and years dedicated to trying to stay on top of things, loss after loss. And to add insult to injury, the others that seem to live a life of flippant disregard stand in judgement and maybe even comfort as we seem to be drowning in suffering. I think Job, like I imagine most all of us, judged God and said at least in his heart, “You have forsaken me. You have left me alone.”
That sets the theme for the movie. The bulk of the rest of the movie fleshes out the problem for us. We get very invested as it progresses.
The next scene in the movie is Adam and Eve. Maybe Adam first. Standing in the garden. Naming the animals. This beautiful garden. These amazing animals. But no physical partner for himself. Maybe it was then that Adam judged God and said, “You’re not good, God.” Maybe God then said, “It’s not good that Adam be in this state of feeling separated from Me.” Maybe Eve was sent to help Adam come back to realizing who and Whose we truly are.
This is not necessarily Biblical, but many Bible teachings paint Eve as this beautiful supermodel, and I now wonder if Adam, who was and is very good, woke up to an Eve that was less than he hoped for. Maybe he was unimpressed. Maybe he resented God for giving him THIS woman to take care of. Maybe he wanted to be worshipped instead of doing any work. Maybe he wanted a mother more than a wife.
And maybe in the excitement of the newness of it all, Eve, who was and is still very good, was unphased for awhile. But maybe Adam’s attitude grew on her after awhile. Maybe the hours she spent with him grew more weighty in terms of the time she spent with God. Maybe she got lost in Adam’s treatment of her.
And maybe they both, eyes focused on the appearance of things, eventually turned to their own strength. That turning being the turning away from God; and more to the point – unto themselves. And each other.
Maybe Adam’s feelings of abandonment cried out as, “You’re not good, God. You left me alone with all this work and then you gave me THIS woman! Look at her. How could you do this to me? After all I’ve done for You. I trusted You. I guess You don’t care. I guess it’s all up to me. So fine, forget You. I’ll go take care of myself.” Out of his mind. Literally. Off to futile attempts to save himself by working the wrong gardens.
Then we have Eve. Maybe her feelings of abandonment looked like, “I thought I knew You loved me, Lord. I thought I knew where We were going with this, where You were taking me. I followed You here. I trusted You. But look how this man is treating me, how he is hurting me. Do You even care? How am I supposed to save him? How am I supposed to save myself? I know I am here for a reason. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I will do better next time.” As she follows Adam out into his delusions. Both of them buried in the work of their own hands.
And so it continues. The next scenes of the movie are more of the same. Each character, each generation wrestling with the same question in different ways. All getting right up to that breaking point between logic and… And what? I like to think of it as THE deep calling in our souls. The jump. To welcome the mystery. To let go. I feel like the rest of our joy, the real explosion of the full manifestation of our existence, lies just over that line. Of holding onto ourselves versus letting ourselves be held.
But I cannot do even that on my own. I am just a child. My faith in my own faith has been proven inadequate time and time again. Where is this Jesus I hear about who can save me? Who can save us?
He hung on a cross we constructed for Him. He did not arrive and lead us out of Rome. He did not bring back our children. He did not give us the spouse of our dreams. He did not give us dominion over our oppressors. He did not feed and clothe us so that we could sit at His feet and watch the world go by.
No, this Jesus’ arrival was very different. I call it healing now. But it rarely looks that way to my broken heart. It looks a lot more like work. Like the painful practice of digging shattered glass out of a wound and sewing it all back up again. One stitch at a time. Coming back and back and back again to soothe the pain and nurture life back into what was torn and ripped apart. Making sure the slightest burn of a wick is not snuffed out. Righting and rehabilitating every bruised reed.
But I find myself woefully inadequate for this, God. That seems more like Your department. I am only Your child.
And that is the point. The pinnacle of the story. The climax of the movie.
The camera pans to Jesus hanging on a torture and annihilation device that we constructed for OUR JUDGEMENT of Him. His head torn apart by thorns we ripped into His skin. The blood soaking His hair and pouring down His face. Strips of skin and muscle torn off of his torso, back, legs and arms as He stood while we whipped Him mercilessly. “Here, after all that, carry our murder weapon on Your back all the way up that hill where we will humiliate You by hanging You naked for all to see. This is what we think of You.”
Naked. Just like in the first garden. Redeeming every last bit. Willing that none should perish.
And He stood there. He took it. He could have called down legions of angels. But he walked towards us. He embraced us in the midst of OUR rejection.
And then AS US, he hung on that tree. Cursed by us. And he shouted out what we shout out: “My God, why have You forsaken me?!”
Plot twist! “No one knows the Father except for Me.”
All of Psalm 22. Not just the first few verses.
No one knew the REAL Father, the REAL Abba except Jesus. He hung on that tree AS US. To show us we have nothing to fear! Not death, not each other, not even ourselves, and certainly not our Creator God. Who took it all when we gave Him our worst. When we give Him our worst. He wasn’t mad then. And He isn’t mad now. We threw our worst punch and He didn’t flinch. He doesn’t flinch. We are just toddlers who don’t understand. He knew that and He knows that. We are still very good. He has never been done with us.
Jesus came back. He lived a life we can live. He showed us what Life is available for and to us. A more abundant Life. That WE are invited to step into. To grab a hold of. To enjoy. To reclaim what has always been and always will be ours for the taking.
Not that His sacrifice was insufficient and He expects us to lay ourselves upon the altar of everyone else’s abuse and depravity. No, I am not suggesting that formula or any other. There will be trouble, but I think it’s a lot more simple: start by receiving God’s love. We can practice this even now. Even if it means calling out to a Father we maybe don’t even yet let ourselves acknowledge we long for and asking Trinity to help us know, see, hear, and more importantly experience Truth and Love.
If it is true what they say, He is The God who sees, who hears, who listens, and who does not turn away. I can’t do that for you. Maybe my words are sometimes beautiful. But I’m just a messenger. This God, this life, is about relationship. Real relationship. And all the messiness that entails. You are already included. As you are. Because of exactly who you are. Not in spite of.
This Abba does not do abandonment. This Dad never stops scanning the horizon in anticipation of celebrating our re-turn-ing. Yes, His servants have it good. But Jesus doesn’t call us servants. He calls us friends. Spirit longs to have us rest in Their embrace. Are we willing? What will it take?
We live this story collectively. We live this story individually.
What else changes if Jesus came to show us what more is available to us? That how He lived in union with Father and Holy Spirit is exactly how we can also walk on this earth. That what He did, we can do. And more! Not through our own strength of course; but as we say what we hear OUR Father say, as we do as OUR Father does. Would that change the narrative?
I am just here to tell you that God loves me. And Trinity loves you also. And once you get it, once you really get it, once you’ve lived it and really experienced it, you will want everyone else to experience the same. It won’t feel like a chore. You won’t feel pressure or guilt. You won’t have to fake it. Your questions will be welcome and your honesty will be wanted.
You are wanted.
And just like most movies, there will be a final scene. Rarely the end of the story; most times a new beginning. And as for the Bible, I think the books after the Ascension showed very real humans wrestling with how to go forward. Highly likely that there were mistakes, if we go back to the judgement paradigm, along the way. But it’s all about relationship and healing.
So what if we look at Revelation in that light? Letting Jesus define everything. And letting Revelation be just the last scene of that particular movie. Like a good essay: Job telling us what we are going to be told. Genesis and all the other books doing the telling. Jesus the crux of the chiasm. His “why have you forsaken me” even more so. And then for all the love of God, Revelation just being symbolism (much lost on this culture) that simply tells us what we have been told. That simply unveils what happened in and to us.
There is no fear in love.
My friends, will you join me? I long to sit at the table in union with you. The celebration that never ends.