Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Opportunity for Grace Comes In Ugly Packages

If you've ever been cheated on you know the feeling of holding the golden kernel of forgiveness in the palm of your hand; to have someone beg you for it is an incredibly humbling event. The opportunity to forgive such a painful, shameful, ugly sin is a token gift, a free offering on God's behalf, to give you a taste of what it is like to live with the gain and burden Christ carried with him his whole life.

In terms of betrayals, Peter's sin against Jesus, his denial, is perhaps the most adulterous, because it was a betrayal of trust, and of friendship--something of God. How does it feel to be betrayed by someone you love? He asks us when it is staring us in the face, glowing scarlet red, images dancing in the tongues of fire? It is intoxicating, the hurt; it commands a sense of entitlement, and desire for a home--but an even stronger desire to be free.

But entitlement of this kind only makes one into what he believes himself entitled to be: an exacter of vengeance. As the searing sin slices through the air like a comet towards him, he winds up to return the volley. The moment the ball hits the racket is the moment when one decides what he really wants to be in this life. Analogous to de Chardin's theories of evolutionary consciousness, life gets separated into two camps: those who forgive, and those who bind. And so Christ's prophecy is made manifest in the decision of a single act, any act, of such forgiveness: "what you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Big sins require big grace, and adultery--married or otherwise--is no exception. When this was staring me in the face a few months before my anticipated wedding date five years ago, the bottom my trust was standing on dropped out, and a vacancy emerged. There were two distinctive parties interested in occupying them. Each pleaded their case.

The first kept reminding me of what had happened, what had really happened. He held up photographic images, replayed audio, showing surveillance footage of the events leading up to it, as a lawyer might show a jury in order to get a conviction. Whether it happened or not was irrefutable (it had)--the only thing to be contested was a sentence weaker than the one this party felt it warranted. This one bought me drinks, and talked a lot about justice, fairness, consequences, and the importance of not letting crimes go unpunished. He was aggressively interested in occupying this vacancy, and making sure the person responsible for the damages was not allowed to walk.

The other party interested in filling this space did not speak. Instead, he merely showed me a photograph, of myself, on my knees, pleading for my life. I recognized the picture, when it was taken, the things surrounding me. The embarrassing sense of urgency, weakness, and regret was stifling. He showed me picture after picture, each time the same except for the surroundings. It was the passage of time, frozen, diced, and presented visually as a scrapbook. I was the subject of every picture. He asked for the room, and held a mirror to my face in payment.

Time stood still; the smell was acrid: It was paralyzing. In my hesitation a wind picked up, and I felt something rush through me from the inside out. My body felt like it was glowing, and my fingertips became like tips of light. I was living in the shell of my body while something rushed in and filled every gap between every cell in my body. It occupied the empty space and when it had reached every crack and crevice in which it could abide, it continued to expand, pushing against my skin, welling my insides, aching to seep out through my mouth, my ears, my eyes. It did, and before I knew it I had the source of my pain between my arms, stroking her hair, telling her that I loved her, with little recognition of what had happened.

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