This is a third installment of a blog series that has taken a back burner as my life has been largely occupied by new little girl. To catch us both up, here are the links for the previous blogs:
I found a meme a couple of years ago and it immediately resonated with me.
I have seen this in a few different places. Many people have used her as a way to express the way they feel having a particular illness or in an effort to explain their experience living in a unique situation or circumstance, running the gamut from acquiring Lyme Disease, facing depression, or living with Sensory Processing Disorders, just to name a few. While the reason she resonates differs, she speaks to many folks the same way. I feel like I could be this woman too, with the lightning and the coffee and the well-expressed play-on-verse. I feel her isolation and underneath, her desire to connect but feeling more and more disconnected. These are serious feelings that can lead down some dark paths. I think of my news feed lately, discussions of depression and suicide in every circle. I understand those things are not cured with better Theology. Sometimes our physical needs must be attended first. At the same time, we need connection. We were made for it.
A few years ago, I was invited to join a facebook group for those who have some connection to embryo adoption. It was a rather small group to begin with but after a couple of years, it branched off in a few different directions. Even a small group of people bound by a similar path still find areas of disconnectedness and dissimilarity. Even within the branches, one may or may not still feel like it is an exact fit. We reach out for someone to listen, even through the written word with accompanying emoji, and hope anyone will catch the inflection in our voices that underscore the deep, emotive power of our experiences.
Our lives are varied and unless we believe someone sees us clearly, our experiences can isolate us. But something sacred happens when another human being enters into another’s experience enough to empathize. More immediate bonds are formed when we find others who have the ability to sympathize with us. I know there have been times a writer or speaker will say something that connects me with them in a way that makes me believe we speak the same language— a language not everyone understands. Almost always, there is something unique or some variation of thought in the way we process things that arise.
But this is what we all want. This is what I ask for as I try to explain my thoughts, feelings, and desires in a way that begs to be understood. This is what I want when I employ my understanding of words, usage, and grammar (sometimes poor grammar) to write honest descriptions. And this is what causes me angst when my attempts at being understood are met with indifference, apathy, or judgement. Surely, if only I could speak with more clarity, I would be heard. If only I could describe my feelings and thoughts in a way that the hearer had a visceral understanding, you and I could form a bond and truly see each other.
When life experience affects me deeply, I ask the big questions, whether or not I am aware. There is a question underneath the desire to be seen and heard that my soul speaks. If distilled down to a core level, I ask, “Does anyone understand what I am going through?” or more specifically and importantly, “Does anyone understand me?”. Could it be that God, in His wisdom, not only sent Jesus to seek and save the lost, which attends my greatest need, but in tenderness came to live as man so that at the appointed time, after “it is finished” and “ascension”, He sat down at the right hand of God the Father so that He may always live to intercede for me— every moment of my day. Could it be that He pleads wholly, body and blood, as God Incarnate, Emmanuel, Substitute, and Sympathizer?
In Trinity, Christ Jesus just might answer in a way that has the capability to speak to those core questions. Could , “Does anyone understand?” be met with a balm-for-the-soul, “I do”?
The Person who relates to my question with perfect sympathy and empathy, omniscience and personal experience is Jesus Christ. There are so many functions of the incarnation. Upon Him is the crux of salvation in his life, death, and resurrection. But among those holy rites are very human ones. Kelly Kapic has an excellent chapter in his book, Embodied Hope which looks at Colossians 2:9 through the lenses of Athanasius and Warfield, exploring the emotional life of Savior of the World. It is beautiful. We often think of Jesus in His big moments, doing all to fulfill the big laws, accomplishing all we should do and doing nothing we shouldn’t. We think of His big decisions, His preaching, teaching, discipling, providing, and healing. Among the big moments were many small ones. Was there down time in the life of the Savior of the World? Well, it would be true that all of His time here was completely and perfectly good, even the ways He negotiated every in-between moment in His ministry. He fulfilled the Law for us, savingly as a substitute but also sympathetically. He didn’t fail to take every moment captive in service to His mission when others were watching and did not fail to continue even when they weren’t. His life, every minute, was poured out, measured to meet us in our every need.
There is a record of his humanity recorded in the gospels*. Jesus developed in utero and was born. He was circumcised. He increased in wisdom and stature as His body grew and brain developed. He learned to walk, to eat, to jump. He was baptized and felt the water wash over Him. He was led by the Spirit. He was hungry, tempted, and physically needed the ministry of angels. He negotiated complicated circumstances to stay the course of His mission on earth. He listened and asked questions. He used words and language to preach and draw people to Himself, the Living Word. He was famous and popular among people and built a reputation. When He healed others, He used hands which He created first for Adam. He looked down and experienced the skin He designed for man for Himself. He submitted to their limitations in His humanity, yet they bore the power to help and heal in His divinity. One hand grasped the hand of Peter in the water, his very physical feet rested on the surface of the waves. He mixed and placed mud on the eyes of the blind. He broke the bread and served the wine. He tenderly held the feet of His disciples and washed them. He marveled at those who came to Him. He reclined and ate. He gave counsel. He felt compassion– in fact, He was moved with it over and over again.
Kapic says, “Jesus was no stoic.” And I wholeheartedly agree.
Could it be that His face is not neutral? That He expresses emotions with us as He prays for us? With His own blood, He addresses our biggest needs and with His never-ending petitions, doesn’t fail to remember our smallest.
So what isolates me these days? What makes me ask, “Does anyone understand?” Well, learning to parent six children has —in the same day— had me both laughing in stitches and wanting to curl up in the fetal position. Our family life has needed to be entirely renegotiated. Adoption is beautiful and so, so hard. Our church has been undergoing some pretty difficult stuff. Some of my adult relationships have changed. I am continuing to hear, “at your age…” from medical personnel. I have visited various docs way more than I would like so far this year. There may be a facebook group for those things— but could it be that in the Trinity, I might find a relationship more satisfying?
When I feel grief, the kind that rips my soul open, makes my gut seize, and elicits the kind of cry that makes my head hurt, Jesus has wept.
When I feel deep joy, those awarenesses only experience brings to the most simple and profound things, causing my smiling eyes to well up and face beam as the center of my chest threatens to burst, Jesus created this response and felt this too.
When things are so complicated that feelings and thoughts, desires and choices make my mind spin, Jesus negotiated tough situations in a way that always put the work given Him by the Father first. His priorities were never compromised and capacity to love never undermined by His mission.
He knew the feeling of torn skin and broken bones, of lethargy and sweat, hunger and thirst. When my body breaks, aches, and hurts, He has felt those things.
He was misunderstood, misjudged, the subject of gossip and lies. When I am a target of speculation and judgement, He knows what that feels like, too.
When I am in situation of suspense and I feel completely nauseated or my mind is fatigued to the point of mental exhaustion, He knows.
He felt all of these things, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He lived without the poison that makes me forget His righteousness for me and praise my own accomplishment ~or~ momentarily, fear, despair, and forget to hope.
The words spoken to the Father on my behalf are uttered out of the lips of a Holy Savior using real breath from once breathless, now transfigured lungs. If I meditate on this long enough to fill in the space between biblical inspiration and my experience, I imagine He explains how it feels to live under the weight of sin in a world groaning for redemption. He is the fulfillment of weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and all that is between.
Jesus Christ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but took the form of a servant (Phil. 2:5-7), so that He could do what I cannot. My life doesn’t need a makeover. I don’t just need some help. I need a substitute— for all of it. I need a Savior who lived an obedient life that honors God in all ways in all things— a life that fulfills the Law and silences it. I must have the sin-penalty paid— death and sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of God. I have to have someone who is an advocate for me who defeated death so that I may have the eternal hope of heaven. Yet, in the way God ordained my need to be met with His work, I have a Savior who is also is my Sympathizer.
It is hard to believe that anyone could do and be all of those things. Lord I believe, help my unbelief. Learning more of this Savior and Sympathizer with others in community is a gift and a connection worth preserving.
Jesus was eager to return to the Father at His ascension. He was also eager for us to receive the Comforter. I have more questions. Could it be that in the Persons of the Trinity, there are more answers?
*Ref. Matthew 2:1; 3:16; 4:1,2,12; 4:24; 5:1-7:28; 8:3,10; 9:36; 11:16, 21; 14:14; 15:32 – just to name a few.