I recently had the privilege of being present through the final moments of a person’s life for the second time. They did not know me and I did not know them, and many others were present too, but nevertheless both times rekindled a sense of humble awe in me and reminded me of one of the reasons I decided to enter a profession where this would be a frequent place to be. You never know when you’re the last touch someone feels, or if you’re the last face someone sees. “no one’s laughing at God on the day they realize that the last sight they’ll ever see’s a pair of hateful eyes, no one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes” (Laughing With–Regina Spektor) To be there for someone in their exposed emotional, mental, and physical vulnerability and assure them they are accepted, wanted, beautiful by creation, and loved. It’s taking someone’s mess of a life and saying “you’re still O.K.!” I’ve realized that one of the reasons I am attracted to a career involving interacting with people in their most raw condition is the desire for acceptance regardless of condition, a craving I think we all share in some way: “you’re a mess but you’re a beautiful one!” To expand what I mean there, we crave to be assured even in our most raw form that we are accepted and even more so loved. I still recall my dad’s words to me at bedtime when I was younger, after a day of being a royal pain in everyone’s neck through selfish or cowardly behavior:
“there is nothing you can do that would make me stop loving you”
I vividly recall nights when I was angrily face-down into my pillow after one of ‘those days’ when my parents were for sure my greatest enemy and I waspulling the whole “you don’t love me!” bitter angry freak out. Not my best elementary moments for sure, and my parents didn’t appreciate that attitude either. However more than one of those nights after going to bed angry, I’d hear my dad coming in to say goodnight (and I stubbornly burrowing into my covers) and saying those words in the most matter-0f-fact, non-negotiable tone.
How I never knew the impact of those words until I discovered I craved them.
I believe we all crave these words shown to us, both verbally and even more so manifested in our relationships with others. Authenticity in deep relationships (example: family) cannot be achieved without a non-negotiable understanding of stubborn, non-negotiable love for the other. These are the people who won’t tolerate less than the potential they know is in you, they’ll be irritated with you, downright infuriated with you more than once, and you’ll feel that way about them (siblings anyone? There’s no number to quantify the times I’ve infuriated my sister). However the golden thing about it is they’ve probably seen a very ugly side of you, but they are still with you and not giving up. They look straight in they eyes the mess you are and say “yes.” Now honestly no human relationship ever lives up to this standard of such selflessness because we are all plagued with various manifestations of personal insecurity (whether we know it or not) and when our human relationships hurt or fail us we recoil into distrust and consequentially pull ourselves into a kind of controlled isolation, attempting to construct our world as subject to our control and self-protection from further disappointment. Yet we still seem to hold this non-negotiable love as a wishful ideal, and I’m convinced it’s because that is the designer craving of our hearts.
What a man desires is unfailing love…(Proverbs 19:22)
One of my favorite illustrations of Jesus’s character (and therefore I do believe the character of God) is the story of Jesus meeting a woman at the well and knowing everything about her life but looks on at her and extends what he refers to as ‘living water’ (I’d say this is kind of a metaphor for the offer of a full life). That is a very cut-down version of the story and I’d recommend reading the actual story regardless of where you stand with faith (I’m tired of putting disclaimers on these posts, come on guys you can handle a bible verse or two 😉
Every time I recall/read this story I can’t help but putting myself in the story as the woman, imagining Jesus looking at me, and I become afraid of what he would see; a broken person desperate to feel the truth of those words (nothing you could do…) So, essentially what Jesus is doing here is looking straight into the face of this woman’s torn up life, letting her know that he see’s it, and despite it all he seeks her out past her faults. He paints a picture of this raw acceptance and love to those he knows regardless of what they have done. He points to the fact that nothing she did or could do earns her freedom in the truth of life but that it is a free gift that she may decide to accept. It’s nothing we do that can make God stop loving his reflection in creation.
He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has planted eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)