The miracle is not that these stories kind of resembled my life, it is that they exactly described my life. As if they were made not for some man somewhere but for exactly this man right here. As if I had opened a dusty, old box and found an oddly shaped suit of clothes with an engraved watch in the front pocket,
Not that an oddly shaped man in some ancient yesterday might have fit in, but that I fit in, and the pocketwatch with today engraved upon its back,
Not that it was unreal and that made it a miracle, but that it was real--and it was exactly its realness that made it miraculous.
Before, it was I who was unreal. It was I who was oddly shaped.
Jesus’ life on earth is Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the whale.
Look at Abel. Why is his face like that: contented and joyful? He does not suffer like I. He can’t.
He hasn’t endured what I have endured. This wrenching pain in his back or this hacking cough in his lungs? Or all these sneering looks in his streets? Of course not.
He doesn’t get these constant gripes in his stomach. He doesn’t get a single bug bite. There is no way. I’m sick of his smiling. There is only one reason he can smile like that: existence favors him and not me. It hands him the easier and better life.
So why—years later—alone, brooding and brooding in my murderous heart, does a question float in from the dark edges of my mind: “How is Abel?”
How is Abel?!
I have just annihilated him with my heart. Again today and again yesterday and again for a thousand years! How should I know? Who cares how he is?! Who cares where he is?! Who cares who he is?! I don’t think about him except only to hate him. Why would you ask me that? What about me? That is the only question to ask! I give! I care! But nobody gives to me! Nobody cares about me!
There is no Abel! He is nothing to me! Leave me alone!
1 John 3:11-12
"For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous."
I both lost my inheritance and
Gained it unjustly.
I both stole the blessing from the firstborn and am the firstborn who squandered his blessing in consumption.
The blessing of eternity, vomited from the father, lands squarely on the thief; the blessing unable to return; unable to flow back inside the father who spake it.
And the squanderer rages in his emptiness and circumnavigates his lostness never straying far from yesterday.
And the thief steals away with his blessing, cursed to never go home. For a thief is always a thief until he is not.
He took everything away from me—all the obstructions, all the accretions, all the cataracts and clothes and scales-- everything but the truth. And revealing it; raising it high enough even for me to see, I finally see I am hanging naked on a cross. The place I have always been.
The sight explaining so much: explaining the ache in my hands and feet; explaining the stretching rack in my shoulders; explaining the piercing in my chest; explaining the tired collapse of my unbroken bones; explaining the bitter aftertaste of every drink; explaining everything and everything and everything.
And I cry with relief, “It is finished!"
I am ready to go home. I am ready to be free. I am ready to let go of this cursed tree and leap into the air. And if ever again I land, I will land in a new life. I will love this world like Christ. I will walk through the petrified forest of crosses shouldering my own as I go. I will lay my hand on every bloody trunk. I will set up my cross and willingly scale to the top. I will hang there again, yet this time helping thieves see and understand and live. Thank you Father for letting me see the whole world!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
The problem with yelling angrily, or discussing heatedly, or murmuring intensely, or even thinking moderately about important modern issues like packing the courts or unpacking them, or the merits or demerits of Trump’s behavior is this:
I imagine Jesus walked street after street crowded with the same modern arguments; surely many from his own disciples:
“They're going to pack the courts! And half the country is fine with that!"
"The whole place is going to shambles!"
"It’s the poor, it's the future I’m worried about!"
"Sometimes a man of his time has to do what he's gotta do, and if he has to make a few heads roll...”
When all of the sudden Jesus says, “Did somebody just touch my cloak?”
And then he searches the crowd for the only soul brave enough to admit she’s desperately sick. And while He and the woman quietly speak--their backs stooped in concern like two rocks leaned against each other, alone yet unfazed in the roaring ocean--everyone else chokes on the stones stuck in their throats. It is this aspect of Christ and the crucified, of healer and healing and healed, which veritably sings to the universe that chattering and gnawing on hypotheticals is a sensory-depriving, life-fracturing, faith-dimming, heart-shrinking problem. Why? Because it ignores love. Love is not hypothetical. It is right now—and right now is small and outside of what everyone talks about. Love wanders near the fringes desperately tugging. But no one notices.
No one except Christ. Because Christ is love.
Love is Scout. She suddenly appears out of nowhere, below the red mist clouding everyone’s lycnhing. “Mr. Cunningham. I say, Mr. Cunningham...I know your boy...”