"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Daughter and My Lord

Easter week has come and gone. Easter is arguably the height of Christian remembrance and practice of the essence of our faith. It’s also a reminder of how mysterious this all is—that in which we put our faith. There’s so much I understand, but don’t really understand.

I don’t really understand the incarnation. The significance of the birth of Jesus and presence of God on earth. God became a human? God became someone that appeared to be a human but was really much more than a human because that man was actually God? God sent someone on God’s behalf, an ambassador of sorts?

Or maybe in Jesus, a person was born who would later become “adopted” by God? A person was born who would later grow to embody everything that God is and stands for? Was this incarnation profoundly unique, or very unique but not that unique?

I don’t really understand the life and teachings and acts of Jesus. Was he a pacifist? Did he expect us to successfully follow his teachings? Was he doing away with Judaism or just offering a corrective to it? Did he believe the end of the world was coming soon?

What’s the “Kingdom of God/heaven” and the best way to express the character and import of this Kingdom? Did he preach a future judgment based on our good actions or lack thereof? Did he fully understand his mission and the significance of what he was doing and saying?

I don’t really understand the death of Jesus. What happened in/on the cross? What changed? Must Jesus have died? Or was his death not necessary but simply the inevitable conclusion of the life he lived? Is the cross the centerpiece of our faith, the element on which everything depends?

Does his death reveal a defeat of the devil? Or, a kind of substitution, as if Jesus suffered what we would have suffered? Did God kill Jesus? Did Jesus die to inspire us? Did God die on the cross? Did we die on the cross?

I don’t really understand the resurrection. Was the corpse of Jesus literally resuscitated and found wandering around for a time? Was he more like a spiritual, ghost-y figure that could walk through walls? Was it more of an existential resurrection, a resurrection in the hearts of the first Christians? Is the Holy Spirit the resurrected form of Christ?

Was it a literal resurrection but not in a sense we can understand, given our mental limitations and the reality that scientific study increasingly reveals more complexity to what we call “matter” but is really so much more than matter? Is “Jesus is alive” a trite Christian phrase whose meaning we can’t articulate very well or can we not articulate it well because it points to something we know but can’t really put into better words? And, what does the resurrection—whatever its nature—mean for us? Is it about our potentialities here and now, or does it point to something in an undefined future moment?


I’ve heard the explanations for these things, and like all Christians, I make choices. You might not think you’ve made a choice from among various ways to articulate the doctrines and events of Christian faith, as if you simply believe the right thing, or what “actually happened” or “is.” If so, I don’t know what to say to that.

As for myself, I make choices and, with faith and not certainty, lean toward various understandings of the four above components of the person and work of Jesus, and try to trust God on the rest. God is trustworthy, I think; human ability to articulate mystery and the divine in concise, timeless, easily-digestible formulas is not as trustworthy.

I don’t understand these mysteries very well. But I think maybe I understand my daughter a bit better. My daughter, through her actions and simple existence teaches me so much. Clara is a symbol of mysteries beyond herself. Clara is a glimpse of life in all its glory.

Life was incarnated, several months ago, in my wife’s womb. Life came to dwell inside her. I don’t really understand how it happened, though I’ve read the books and seen the instructional videos (and probably giggled watching them) and get it.

But I don’t get it. How friendship could lead to courtship could lead to lifelong commitment could lead to intimate but kind of primal actions that could lead to a sperm’s quest for "the holy grail" that could lead to the simple beginnings of a person, tiny but packed with the ingredients for something much more.

Life lived and in a sense, taught. Life was very much alive inside Joann, making its presence known. Life, for whatever reason, didn’t get along flawlessly with Joann’s body, which caused us a lot of problems that we didn’t take as seriously as we should because, as the now-obnoxious (to me) saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Life grew, developed, became. Life helped us grow, develop, and become as well, as individuals and as a married couple. Life was inextricably linked to Joann, one with her, their bodies influencing each other, part of an interdependent reality.

Life died. At least it seemed like that was the direction things were headed. My tears of confusion and horrific fear flowed that night, the night that it all happened so fast. I was told my wife might die. I was told my daughter might die. I’m optimistic, and tend to hope for the best.

But my personality bent could not defeat the looming possibility that threatened to destroy my world, and so I broke. I feel anxiety this very moment as I think back to that night. We really didn’t know what the outcome would be. Things were dark.
Life endured. Life was born early the next morning. Healthy. Screaming. Kicking. Covered in baby goop (I haven’t read all of the books I probably should have). Joann’s body was rocked by it all, but she gradually recovered; once Life was born, Joann’s body began to heal itself, with proper medical “nudges” from doctors. Life was beautiful. Life was mine. And I was Life’s. Together we’d both grow, one playing the role of Father, one the role of Daughter.
Life, or Clara we call her now, laying there in her little hospital bed or on my chest, looked at me. I looked in her eyes, and saw so much potential for goodness, beauty, creativity, for life in abundance. Since that day I have enjoyed the benefits of my profound experience of Life in Clara, and our story is only beginning…there’s so much more Life to come.
There is a lot I don’t understand about God and the meaning of life. But when I look at Clara, these things make a little more sense.