Eternally Transcendent Love
The Easter story is that tragically, perhaps inadvertently, unwittingly, we killed God’s messenger. But God is not so easily rebuffed. Torture cannot stop God. Even death does not stop God. And the resurrection is God coming after us in love transcending death. What kind of love is that? Literally beyond our imagination, which is why this story is told beyond our imagining.
The most we can know of divine love is the best of what we know of human love, the kind that reaches maturity, the profoundest love that we have for each other, when we live our lives as gift. Like Amy Rosenthal, who wrote a piece this winter for the New York Times.
She had a great marriage to her husband of 26 years. They raised three wonderful children. One day she is seeing a doctor about and attack of appendicitis, when he does some tests and discovers that her cancer of the uterus is advanced. In a short amount of time, she started to die. A writer, she decided to publish one last piece titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband”. She was old enough to have never been on Match.com or Tinder. So she wrote a kind of personal reference from experience of having lived with him for 9,490 days.
She describes how she fell in love with him on their first date and thought to herself that she would marry this man. It took him a year to ask. And then she turned to his attributes.
“He is a sharp dresser. Our young adult sons, Justin and Miles, often borrow his clothes. Those who know him… know that he has a flair for fabulous socks. He enjoys keeping in shape.
“On the subject of food- man, can he cook? After a long day, there is no sweeter joy than seeing him walk in the door, plop a grocery bag down on the counter, and woo me with olives and some yummy cheese he has procured before he gets to work on the evening’s meal..
Jason loves listening to live music; it’s our favorite thing to do together. I should also add that your 19-year-old daughter, Paris, would rather go to a concert with him than anyone else…
He’s an absolutely wonderful father… compassionate and he can flip a pancake.
And he paints…
“If you’re looking for a dreamy, let’s go-for it travel companion, Jason is your man. He has an affinity for tiny things: taster spoons, little jars, a mini-sculpture of a couple sitting on a bench, which he presented to me as a reminder of how our family began.
Here is the kind of man Jason is: He showed up at our first pregnancy ultrasound with flowers. This is a man, who, because he is always up early, surprises me every Sunday morning by making some kind of oddball smiley face out of items near the coffee pot: a spoon, a mug, a banana.
[Okay, this is a bit of high bar fellas]
“This is a man who emerges from the minimart and says, “Give me your palm.” And, voila, a colorful gumball appears (He knows I love all the flavors but white)
Wait. Did I mention that he is incredibly handsome? I’m going to miss looking at that face of his.
If it sound like our relationship was a fairy tale, it’s not too far off, except for all the regular stuff that comes from two and a half decades of playing house together. And the part about me getting cancer. Blech.
“I want more time with Jason. I want more time with my children. I want more time sipping martinis at the Green Mill Jazz Club on Thursday nights. But that is not going to happen. I probably only have a few days left being a person on this planet.
“I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine gift I can hope for is that the right person read this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.
“I’ll leave this intentional empty space below as a way of giving you two the fresh start you deserve.”
Beautiful piece. If you are a man like Jason reading that, you don’t know why you deserve to be loved the way she loves him, but when you are it is all grace and gratitude.
Love, when it reaches its fullest potential has that quality of blessing to it. It so wants what is best for the other person that you can let them go, in a poignant, non-possessive way. That love transcends death. It doesn’t abrogate it. We all still die. But love transcends death in a most poignant way.
And God loves you so much more. You really can’t imagine it.
The Easter message is that you, too, can bloom with God’s love. You, too, can bless. At the more profound moments of our lives, we can come full circle from blessed to blessing.
In the endearing new show, ‘This is Us’, one of the protagonists, Randall, is adopted. His adoptive father went out of his way to soothe Randall when he was a kid, encourage him, tell him how talented he was. He was an awesome father.
Randall had panic attacks, anxiety attacks, maybe because he was adopted, maybe because he was just pre-disposed to panic attacks. Who knows?
When Randall had these panic attacks as a kid, his adoptive father would always step right in, hold his face in his hand, hold him right up face to face, and walk him through a relaxation process. He would say to him, “Breathe, just breathe” (inhaling and exhaling slowly). And he would keep doing it until the panic passed. It was a primordial blessing that stuck.
Randall gets older and goes to college. His adoptive father dies.
He grows up, gets a big job, makes partner, raises his family. Way leads to way, one day things come together and he has the chance to meet his birth father. He wondered what the story was, why his parents gave him up for adoption? What were they like? He wants to know.
His birth father comes back into his life. It is awkward but they share some stories. He introduces his birth father to his children. Grandfather and granddaughters make a super connection that makes it better when Randall has the more difficult questions to raise with his father.
But he raises the hard questions and his birth father is remarkably open to them. His birth father expected that Randall would ask these difficult questions. His birth father wants to process these questions. As it turns out, doesn’t have a lot of time. His birth father has a form of cancer that has low odds of survival and he has chosen not to treat the cancer. He has limited time.
Way leads to way, and Randall’s birth father asks him to make a road trip back to Memphis where his people are from. Randall finds out he has this large clan of extended relatives and now he wants to go meet them. His wife thinks this is a great idea, so off the two of them go on a road trip to find his roots.
They get to Memphis. Randall’s birth father was a musician. He played in the Blues Clubs on Beale Street that B.B. King made famous. They go back and visit some of his birth Father’s old haunts. They run into extended cousins, other cousins… They go to one of those family barbecue’s where there are dozens of Randall’s distant relatives and he gets that incredible sense of family and place and food that makes the deep South so wonderful.
Randall’s birth father feels bad, so Randall gives him the key to the hotel to lay down. A couple hours later, Randall gets back to the room and his birth Father looks weak, wan, ashen. His birth father tells him that he thinks he might be dying. Randall says to his birth father, “How are you feeling right now?” His birth father says, “I’m scared”.
These two men don’t know each other well. They don’t have emotional intimacy, so they don’t have the physical intimacy of touch or hug. They are developing it in the moment. The boy who was adopted so long ago has only recently allowed his birth father into his life.
Like all of us, Randall is unprepared for the suddenness of the moment and his birth father is so vulnerable, so frail. And then it comes out of him, the Spirit moves. The blessing that he received as a child from his adoptive father comes back to him in full circle.
He takes his birth father’s face in his hands and he tells him, “It’s going to be okay…. Just breath… Just breathe.” He passes on the blessing that he knows. It is the most spiritually powerful thing we can release.
In the resurrection, God took the suffering and death that Jesus went through in dying on the Cross and transformed it through redemptive compassion into a transcendent hope filled expression of love for all of us.
God, most certainly shine through the detritus of your life, the brokenness, the tragedy, the disappointments…God can take your pain and with the Spirit, can make you too into a conduit of love and blessing to those around you who need it most, when they need it most, in a way that they can actually receive. You, even you, have an awesome power to bless and soothe your people.
My brothers and sisters, the healing hope of the Easter season upon you. You are loved more than you know and you are a blessing of love to those around you more than you can imagine. Release the divine love and may eternity shine in and through you. Amen.