Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Poverty in love leads to riches?
I awakened this morning to learn that my maternal grandmother, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this week, died last night. I was planning to go to Atlanta on Friday to visit with her, say goodbye and hopefully get a chance to introduce her to her great grandson (my 13 month old son Roman). I regret that I will not have that opportunity, and therefore not be able to place the celebration of a new life alongside the somber winding-down of an old one. Naturally, the death of a family member stirs up a lot of emotions, and I know that a blog is not the best place to delve into such things. I share this news only because it, and many other current circumstances in my life, have put me in mind of an important event that happened to me several years ago, an event which I now find myself needing to revisit and contemplate. I suspect it is a place that symbolizes something we all need to revisit regularly. Hence, my desire to share it as part of my own attempt to process through this current passage in my life (sharing it is kind of like placing a "stone" or something in the ground to mark the moment).
Several years ago one of my wife's step-cousins got married in Oklahoma City. We were in attendance at the wedding which was held in a church that is very close to where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood (the target of the Oklahoma City Bombing). We arrived early enough for the wedding to go and visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial located near the church. It was a deeply moving and sobering experience; as was walking around the church and seeing the visible signs of damage from the bombing to part of the church's foundation. But what made this a truly unforgettable experience, placed in the context of this space, were the following words printed on the front of K.C. & David's wedding program:
Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family."
— Henri J.M. Nouwen
I've been going through a phase of life, culminating in some ways today, that has brought me back to a place where I'm really needing to hear and believe these words.
They are words whose truth is captured quite powerfully for me in the picture included with this post; a picture of a woman kneeling at one of the "empty chairs"-each bearing the name of a victim-that are a prominent feature of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. At present, I find myself needing to simply kneel and contemplate the truth that all people love poorly, that I love poorly and that forgiveness in love is indeed part of the essence of the work that Christ has left for us; a work that if taken honestly and sincerely always leads at some point to moments where we feel like we're left kneeling, feeling only the emptiness (though very different) that sin and sacrifice both engender in their turns (certainly one of the great paradoxes of the spiritual life). It is at moments like this where the temptation to turn and blame others, to become angry at God and to demand that we be loved perfectly-which can only alienate-can overcome us. We all need to be regularly reminded that the greatest freedom in being able to move toward one another in love comes from recognizing the limitations of our ability to love, acceptance of our shortcomings in love (and in the losses related to love) and our determination to continue our quest to abide in the perfect and eternal love of God despite our shortcomings and those of others. So, I found a lot of hope in these words today and thought that I would take a moment to share them.