As I mentioned in a post last week, I’ve been reading My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman, and I could (and might) write a post that jumps off from every chapter it includes. (If you get nothing else from this post, get this–if you like thoughtful, beautifully-crafted writing about art or beauty or faith or humanity or what gives life meaning, you need to buy this book. Yes, buy it, and ideally in physical rather than virtual form, because you will want to return to it again and again. You will want it on your bookshelf for your children to pick up decades from now.)
With that said, here’s the passage I want to consider today, as Wiman explains his turn/return to Christianity:
It took a radical disruption of my life to allow me to see the sanity and vitality of this strange, ancient thing. There was no bolt-from-the-blue revelation or conversation or any of that. My old ideas simply were not adequate for the extremes of joy and grief that I experienced, but when I looked at my life through the lens of Christianity–or, more specifically, through the lens of Christ, as much of Christainity seemed (and still seems) uselessly absurd to me–it made sense. The world made sense. This ditance between culture and Christ seems like a modern phenomenon, but I think it’s probably always been the case. Even when Christainity is the default mode of a society, Christ is not. There is always some leap into what looks like absurdity, and there is always, for the one who makes that leap, some cost.
Yes to all of it, but especially to the world only making sense to me when I look at it through the lens of Christ. The simple joys of love and beauty and friendship and family make the most sense as I think about the world Christ came to restore. It is absurd to think that God would take the form of a servant, the physical form of a human being, and yet it is also the only way to understand God’s affirmation of this physical world, this created space with these beautiful odd creatures called people roaming around it.
The horrors of rape and war, the grief of illness and divorce and addiction, these also make sense to me only as I think about God coming in the flesh and as a savior. Again, absurd in this time and place to talk about sinfulness and atonement and salvation, and yet necessary too. Necessary, at least, in order for me to understand how far away we are as a human race from God’s desire for us. Necessary for me to understand God’s willingness not only to forgive us when we increase the distance, but to actually bridge the gap, to come towards us as we run away. The cross is a brutal instrument of torture. It not only symbolizes but again, physically realizes, the worst that broken, rebellious, wretched humanity has to offer. And Jesus hung there. Forsaken. Screaming. In agony. Until he died. If there is a God, only Christ’s death can begin to make sense of the pain in this world.
And then the resurrection. Yet another absurd physical reality, this claim that a dead man-God rose from the dead and walked around and talked and cooked breakfast. And yet again, necessary to try to bring these disparate daily realities together–to connect the beauty to the brokenness, the friendship to the fallenness, the love to the longing and loss.
I make sense of my life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, absurd as it might seem. I make sense of the love I feel for my husband and our children, of the joy I experience in writing a good sentence, of the punch in the gut when I read headlines about children abused or hear of a couple getting divorced or realize that I have hurt one of my children because of my own selfishness. And I make sense of the hope I continue to hold out for all the wrong things to be made right, for even the impossible, the shattered pieces of this world to be made whole, for the dead to return to life, for all that is true and good and just and lovely to be all in all.