It was just before Thanksgiving when I found myself sitting in the second row at a funeral. A good friend of mine lost her brother to cystic fibrosis. He lived to be 40, which is outstanding for someone living with CF, but still too young to die. I watched as my friend laid her head on her husband’s shoulder, crying, and in turn, opening her arms wide to comfort nieces and nephews. The morning was filled with the hope of heaven and the reality of earth.
I sat there thinking about how this man never married or had children. Being born with disability or disease often leaves very loving people with naked ring fingers and empty wombs. It’s sad. Sometimes it makes a person feel like they are sitting behind glass watching everyone live their happy lives while you sit in the stands choking back tears, faking a smile as you wave to everyone else skating by. It was haunting for me to identify with the man lying in the coffin. I sat there at the funeral wondering if 50 years down the road that would be me.
Last Friday, my friend Steve posted this morsel on Facebook:
It took me a few weeks and a few more heavy moments, but eventually, I lay down on my floor and sobbed. Not the kind where tears gently fall down your face and land on your lips, but the kind where your whole body heaves.
Who is Jesus in these moments?
Sometimes it’s easier to believe Jesus really only came to earth for his final hours, and in our lives, the thing he must care about the most is the salvation of our souls.
Truly, the redemption of humankind and our salvation from sin and death are paramount. But it doesn’t negate the fact that Jesus also cares about the mundane: our earthly disappointment, our day to day pain.
As kids we see images of Jesus surrounded by children, smiling as he rides on a donkey. As adults we ponder Jesus, who, for the joy set before him endured the cross… Certainly, there had to be many moments where Jesus was giddy, bubbling with joy as he worked to bring healing and redemption to the world. Performing miracles was like pulling the curtain back giving the world a glimpse of heaven as if turning over the pages in a photo book revealing visions of home.
So I find it interesting that “happy” is not how Jesus is heralded or remembered in scripture. Isaiah foretells Jesus as a Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with grief. Can you imagine it? It’s as if Jesus was sitting down conversing with Grief, as if they were two old men, swapping stories, nodding their heads, often just sitting together in silence, acknowledging the weight of pain.
In Hebrews, the author writes that while Jesus was on earth, he made petitions to God with loud cries and tears. Even before Gethsemane, I wonder if Jesus often had wet eyes to show the Father when he went off to pray. Being that close to humanity had to wonderful, but it also had to be hard because sometimes beauty and suffering exists in the same face.
I imagine Jesus off in the corner, heaving and crying loud. The disciples looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders and whispering, “He’s doing it again…”
“We’d better leave Him alone.”
With the end of the Advent season, it might be helpful to wonder what it was like for Jesus the first time he stretched out his hand and clenched his fist; feeling the limitation and the strength of tendons and ligaments and skin and bone working together in a human body.
It might be helpful to ponder what it like was for Jesus to change his perspective. No longer looking down on us from above, but staring back into the face of humanity, the creation, seeing us through his own two eyes….
What was it like to leave the vastness, comfort, and eternity of heaven to be confined, hurt, and limited?
All of these things point towards the fact that Jesus knew what it was to become human and dwell with us. It reminds us that he is with us in our humanity even now.