When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, “Peace, child; you don’t understand.”
― C.S. Lewis
It was years ago. I had a baby on my chest. It was nap time. All of my babies took naps on me until their heavy and long bodies stretched too far and halted my breath. But this particular day Claire was nestled just right under my chin, the sweet smell of her head within a nod of my nose. Brooks, the energetic two year old was asleep. It was a good day. These precious hours were the only way I could, in those outnumbered afternoons, reclaim a modicum of sanity.
As I was reading scripture (I wish now, sixteen years later, that I would’ve given myself a break and slept), I landed in 1 John and the question persisted:
Do you love me?
I hemmed and hawed, a bit like Peter I guess. Sure, of course I love you.
No, do you love me? A gentle coaxing question, not at all filled with condemnation, just a question.
Of course I love you. Look at what I do for you? I could be sleeping right now.
Do you love me? A bit more persistent this time.
I guess so. Maybe. I don’t know.
I was breathless. Claire was heavy but not enough to take my air. I felt sadness, but not shame. This truth hurt, in the right ways.
It’s been a rough couple of years, hasn’t it? I’m in this and somedays I’m not sure how I’m doing. I have a pleasant sunny disposition that gets me by, but those close to me know that I’m pensive and a little bit not myself. I don’t want to be fixed, I think it’s important to feel the weight of the world, but I also know I must retreat into nature, finding time to be with family and friends and church.
This morning, feeling the weight, I heard a new question.
You say that Love wins. Do you believe it?
This prescient question is the determiner of my hope in these days. Do I believe that Love wins? It’s a great thing to say, a reminder of the promises of God, yet I’m not feeling it. When the weight of the world bears down, as fires burn and threats loom and our hearts ache where do we see Love winning? As children and parents remain separated, as rhetoric ramps up, as leaders fail to lead, where do we see the face of Christ in the midst of the suffering?
This past weekend I backpacked with my crew on our sixth annual trip. Our second day’s plan was to hike from Snowmass Lake up and over two 12,000 foot mountain passes. After a mile, cresting into a meadow, we came upon a distressing situation. A man we met the day before was down next to the trail clutching his stomach, groaning in pain. With fever and chills, after three days of abdominal pain, there was no way he could hike out ten miles. Thank goodness a group of runners came upon the scene just before us with a satellite phone and some medical knowledge.
It took an hour and a half for the Flight for Life helicopter to arrive. We cycled through fear and tears, prayers, hope, desperation, laughter. As we flagged the crew in the adjacent meadow, relief overflowed while we trembled with the resultant adrenaline. Casey was in good hands while he was airlifted to Colorado Springs.
The four of us, all mothers, flanked Glen – Casey’s sweetheart. Guiding her ten miles out of the wilderness we bantered and laughed, sharing the sordid details of our lives as if we were friends for far longer than a matter of hours. Suffering unites us. Pain breaks our pioneer spirits, reminding us of our desperate need for other humans. This is Love winning – the face of Christ reflected in one another.
Following the news of a difficult cancer diagnosis, the American poet Christian Wiman writes in his book, My Bright Abyss:
Last night my wife and I finally fell asleep after talking and crying about our life together and the life of our children – the splendor of some moments, so many moments, the gift we have been given; and then the misery of my sickness and the way it is crushing us, the terror the two of us feel at what will happen if I die.
It is not some meditative communion with God that I crave. What one wants during extreme crisis is not connection with God, but connection with people; not supernatural love, but human love. No, that is not quite right. What one craves is supernatural love, but one finds it only within human love. This is why I am a Christian, because I can feel God only through physical existence, and can feel his love only in the love of other people.
Glen made the long drive from Aspen to Colorado Springs to be with her Casey. We learned upon receiving cell service he had a perforated bowel, a life-threatening diagnosis that demanded immediate attention.
From the runners to the medical personnel, from the pilot to the dogs that licked Casey’s face while he was writhing in pain – all of it is Love winning. All I have now is what I’ve been given, so I’ll take what I can get – the face of Jesus’ goodness and lovingkindness, his beautiful and radiant love reflected back to me in the face and life of humanity. This is love, God’s love demonstrated to us firsthand, through the love and life of other people.
This is what we have.
Do you Love me?
Yes. Yes I love you!