from Light When It Comes (Eerdmans, 2016)
When my oldest son was sixteen we drove to Spokane to pick up an old car my dad was giving him, a 69 Mercury Bobcat, rusted along the doors.
The next morning John got into the driver’s seat, backed out, grinning, and disappeared down the street on his long way home, 400 miles, by himself, through the desert and the mountains.
All I could do was stand there and watch him go.
“Another word for father,” says the poet Li-Young Li, is “worry.”
When I think of the image of God the Father, God the Father of Us All, I think of his sadness. I think of him standing in the driveway, watching his son disappear.
God is not an all-powerful God who ignores the suffering of others. He is an all-powerful God who by his very nature gives all his power away. He is Absolute, and He chooses to empty Himself out, absolutely.
I think of the day Maggie and I were walking by the track at the middle school—she was four–and before I knew it she was running. She had decided to take off. When I looked up I saw her in the distance, rounding the curve, her little arms pumping, her wispy hair floating behind her.
There is light and there is darkness and we can’t reduce one to the other or see for ourselves how they are held together, what larger movement reconciles their tensions, or if the tension itself is the order, or the plan. For us it must be and, this and that. To try to rise above the and, to turn it into a thus or therefore, is arrogant. It’s impossible.
At the Sea of Galilee I looked out over the waters, to the hills, and the sky, and I saw what our Lord himself must have seen, the same topography, the same rises and falls.
And in Nazareth I saw this: a middle-aged man walking with his son. The son was 15 or 16, with wild eyes and a wild smile, neck straining, head at a crooked angle, stumbling and twitching down the sidewalk. Flapping his arms.
I looked away, as we do. I didn’t want to see it—not there, in Nazareth.
But later I remembered. I remembered how patiently the father managed to get the boy into a car. I remembered how heroic the father seemed, and how terribly burdened.
And I believe in the dove, too, descending from the sky. I believe in the wind blowing against the door. I believe the man who wept over Jerusalem entered into it, and let it enter into him, and we must, too, and when we do, when we feel what we must feel, we will rise with him and we will live with him and somehow, in the midst of this sadness and loss, there is joy, too, joy we can’t explain and don’t have to because it’s real, it exists, it’s true.
All of it. All at once.