I don’t see why it should have to hurt. I don’t know why we keep on hurting each other; why we choose sin when we could choose life.
That childhood ritual of knocking on air:
“We need somewhere to stay”
“I’m sorry, we haven’t any room”
The perpetual searching for succour, connection, support, encouragement, life.
Even for the messiah – especially for the messiah – we have no room at the inn; space only for those who can afford to pay. How much less comfort we give to each other, to our brothers and sisters, our tribe, our kindred, to those made our blood family by rebirth in Christ, to those who need us.
God, cast out, from the very beginning. This is perhaps the flipside of the story of the fall, as well as that of the crucifixion: we chose our Godforsakenness, because we thought we knew better than God. Because we were afraid of our own fallibility; because we did not dare to be vulnerable. So instead we become the aggressors. We tear at every strip left hanging, we dart our blades into every chink, we defend every gap because we know how exposed we are, because we know how villainous we are – because we know that we would attack those gaps, given the chance. It is our fear of our own sinfulness that makes us believe we have no choice, that leads us to choose sin when we could choose life. If only we could allow our armour down just a tiny little bit – just take one small risk, make ourselves vulnerable to one other, maybe to God.
No room at the inn. No room at all, until that one person, maybe beaten down with guilt, maybe harangued by his wife, maybe sympathetic, maybe exhausted: that one person who chose to risk just a little, made space for the Other, the one who wasn’t like him and who couldn’t afford to pay, who would seemingly never reciprocate.
And in that moment, we learn. In our giving of ourselves, we take more than we know. The gaps we expose allow into us the love that was always within us, but that we resist so strongly and disappoint so frequently.
And so we are faced with a choice after all: forgive, and risk, and love – or defend and attack and die.
We are called to forgive, not because it lets other people off the hook, but because it causes us to risk. In forgiving, we expose ourselves and become vulnerable. Perhaps this is the angle I’ve needed into the crucifixion: God risked everything by becoming vulnerable in Christ. God allowed Godself to become exposed to us, and modelled for us the truth of life, the bread of life, the living water, the light of the world: that we must love. It is the only way we can live. Without love, we have no community, and without community, we cannot grow. We become isolated and frozen and then begin to shrink, until we are gone.
It is only when we expose ourselves to risk that we can afford to grow. It is only when we allow ourselves to be challenged, to be changed – when we welcome in the Other with all that is different and scary about them, and allow (force?) ourselves to forgive their differences and thus to risk being changed by what they teach us – that we are forgiven, and allow (force?) ourselves to be loved.
God, thank you for your help. Thank you for showing me: I need to forgive.
I need to forgive those who have taken so much from me: those who have taken my love, my resources, my hopes and dreams; even those who play me – or the system – deliberately. I need not only to forgive them but to thank them, because they are the ones who have allowed (forced?) me to grow. The pain is a sign of the growth. This is our curse, the consequence of our fallenness: that in pain we will give birth, and that through painful toil we might eat.
Perhaps I do understand, a little, why it hurts, why we make those choices. It’s just so very hard to face the light sometimes.
Abba, please forgive me, as I force myself into the space where I forgive others. Help me to love them, and us to love you.
Think I’m going to go and read 1 John….!