Sunday, April 24, 2011

He Knows

Consider Jesus. The Son of God, living in the eternal glory of His Father, steps into human flesh and walks among us. The King arrives, but for what? To be welcomed with open arms? No. To be lifted up? Yes, but as a condemned criminal, not a King. He came to die. He came to live, be tempted, suffer, and die a criminal's death. He knows, it says in Hebrews, what life is like. He can sympathize with our sufferings, with our weaknesses, and with our temptations.
He knows what it is like to be misunderstood by his family.

He knows what it is like to be betrayed and abandoned by those closest to him.

He knows what it is like to be an outcast.

He knows what it is like to be treated unjustly.

He knows what it is like to be tempted and tormented from within.

None of us need to choose to suffer. It finds us quite easily. But Jesus did. He chose it. He chose to do what He came to do and be misunderstood by his family, abandoned by his friends, outcast, treated unjustly, and tempted. He even experienced the ultimate abandonment, when His Father turned His back on Him as He bore the ugliness and rebellion of the whole world on the cross.

Sometimes we feel so defeated by people, we are so betrayed by those we have the deepest attachments to, that it feels like most of the world is on their side. Under the weight we sigh, "if we can't beat them, join them," and we betray ourselves. It's like we have Stockholm syndrome. We sympathize with their betrayal and turn our rage against ourselves. "Anyone," we say inside, "would do the same thing to us. It is because of how I am. If I was not like this, they would not have done this to me." A black hole, a point so dense, so compact with pain and rage, forms in the center of our heart, and everything within us wilts and is sucked in by its gravity. Even light, any light within us, cannot escape. We turn inward, on ourselvs and against ourselves, loathing who we are and the things in us that were the object of another's sin.

And as we do, our pain and fury, our tormentor, becomes our companion, our most willing ally. "Hello darkness, my old friend," echoes in the hollow chambers of the heart. "Hold on to me," it says. "I will protect you. They were right to hurt you because you are ugly and filthy right here, with this right here. Listen to me, and I will protect you. Hide yourself and turn in toward me. To deal with others, put up a facade -fun smiles, niceness, witty charm, and a helpful disposition. Dull yourself and let no one close. Do nice things for people to keep them off the scent, but engage no one with your heart. Let no one in, and let no one see the darkness nor the things you were betrayed over. You cannot afford it."

But against this tide of internal implosion stands One who knows our pain because He stood in it. He says, "No, I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you because I know exactly what it feels like to be betrayed and forsaken. I am with you. I am with you. I am with you." He stands with you against this tide, even if the whole world were in on it. He says to you, "Their betrayal is betrayal, and I am with you. I understand you. Do not turn your rage against yourself. I see you, all the way through to your deepest parts. Heal with me and let your bitterness go. I suffered all these things for you -for your sin, for the self-reliant ways you run from others and from God to try to do life more 'safely' under the delusion of your own strength and protection, for all your bitterness and all the pain and rage you swallow, killing yourself daily inside, for all of it... You are forgiven. I'm not going to leave you, even if the whole world crumbles on you."