Saturday, November 10, 2018

eternity springs from hope

"People can feel when you give up on them," I said to Sam on the phone in the doctor's office—feeling, for one moment, like my mother, juggling the phone on her face, pulling cards out of her wallet, while checking in with the nurse. It is easier to give up on someone than hoping in them.

I think of all the ways we try to ward off heartbreak—making vows, building systems, creating a world we can be sure of, certain of, without the pain of faith, without that terrible, awful feeling that we will be hurt and wounded. We insist on our rights, because we know that it is fundamentally right for us to be met in love, and it is absolutely guaranteed that we will be unmet in love. The potential for total devastation runs under every single day of our lives.

There are two sorts of people in this world: the people who respond to this perpetual potential with denial: this will not happen to me. I am a Smart, Competent, Truly Highly-Able Person. All about me, I see the common fool continually crushed under the weight of disappointment and heartbreak. This will not happen to me. This person seeks with whatever very capable talents that they have, to control their lives. They set their mind to achieve the goals they have laid out for them, they make plans and stick to them, they devise systems of understanding, categorizing, and responding to the world. They do not brook surprise, they have already ordered their world. There is no space for an ounce of uncertainty, there is no room for anything they have not already previously accounted for—particularly not the radical variable of another person.

If they will only accept that which they control, their world will slowly shrink until it is no wider than the boundaries of our own self. For humans really cannot bring anything under their domain that is not them. To rule by control, then, means to make everything Self. This is not Adam's paradise, but Hell.

Adam in paradise ruled not by naming all things "Adam," but by naming them their own unique names. Adam ruled by seeing the world as what it truly is—something mysterious and other. Something beyond the boundaries of himself. And then he fell, because he saw that he could take the world and subsume it into his control, into his own self.

There is another response to the human condition of constantly standing on the precipice of heartbreak. There is another way.

You must respond to the chasm that opens at your feet by constantly extending yourself over it—because that is love. Love says: do not give up, do not shrivel up into the snail shell of your meager heart. Love is both endless surrender and constant boundary-keeping between self and other —it is tempting maybe even to the Father to turn the others divine love seeks so ardently into puppets, to collapse the distance between self and other, to control. Control is the opposite, I think, of love.

But, no, of course God has not been tempted to control, because control arises, first and foremost, from fear—love's nemesis. God, perfect love—perfect love who daily dazzles with the risks he dares to take—pours God's lovely self out so that divinity could very well run dry. God gives so utterly that very quickly God would become empty—that is the risk of God: to love with a love that is not guaranteed a response.

Beyond a guarantee, beyond a promise or a vow, the Son responds in love each day, unfettered by a previous commitment from time past, but moved simply by his eternal present to enter into the fullness of his being: love. The Son, each day a surprise, rises up like dawn, like the world's first sunrise, before all mornings without beginning and end.

This miracle of perfect love, who move toward one another in concert and out in to the world, is the miracle that is reality. It is the world's fundamental truth—the world's foundation is impossible, but the only possible foundation of a world at all. It is painful, terrible to love creatures, because they will not respond—we all do it to one another—the un-responded text dangles frozen like a blue banner advertising our un-metness. We continually reinforce the fear that we will extend ourselves across the precipice and fall, because it happens far too frequently.

But love demands we do not hoard the world into our self and give it our own name. Love demands we see the beauty that surrounds us and surrender to it—giving it its own name, letting it be what it is. And hoping, as a gardener watches the silent earth, that it will yield itself to us as we have yielded to it.

These are the only two responses—there is no middle way. Either we live in fear and control or we live with hearts in great danger of shattering. But a heart that keeps itself safe is hardly a heart at all.

And where is God? God is found not on the other side of danger, or in the answers our love seeks—God is with us, in the uncertainty of our side of the precipice. And God says: leap.

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