Friday, April 6, 2018

God Suffers

The Crucifixion, by myself. 2015, acrylic on wood.
In the Depths, Where I Had Cried
by myself, 2016
O Lord, as I stare at you upon the tree 
I remember that you undertook blasphemy for my sake
For who in their right mind would kill God?
But here you hang, loving me until the end.
No one else would, could, do this for me.
I damaged the Imago Dei in my soul.
Rather than demanding I be eradicated You performed the unthinkable.
Instead of making me come to YouYou came to me first
Now, when I see You I see myself:
In horrific pain, suffocating to death, but God and man.
Your Crucifixion made God a mockery
That I, a mockery, may be saved.
Glory to Your condescension!
Glory to Your love for men, who were dust but can be so much more!

Despair is the single most difficult thing to deal with in the world. I don't care who you are, if your psychological legs are taken out from under you nothing else is going to work or matter. And it's not something that you can say you do: despair happens. It's the spiritual equivalent of a tsunami, without the string of relief workers and posts on Facebook, Twitter, or what-have-you, with people showing their support. Despair is a massive sea-change in the soul that seemingly nobody else notices. They walk on past the wreckage and you stand there, alone and confused. The world ended for you and not only are you still here but nobody seemed to notice.

And as time goes on you realize that not only did nobody notice but nobody seems to want to. You wander, from place to place in the death and destruction in your own mind, hoping that maybe, just maybe, somebody will look at you and realize that your universe is shrivelling of its own accord. Maybe your loved ones will notice, maybe you're not alone! Maybe they'll see it.

Disillusionment walks in as your loved ones unwittingly walk out.

Loneliness sets in as you descend down, down down. At some point you realize that you can no longer pray, because prayer is based in fear and wonder and love and you don't have any of that anymore. Somehow you've come to a spot where God is not reachable. You're alone. God is, for all intents and purposes not there.

That's when the rage kicks in.

Why on earth would God leave you here? What did you do to be abandoned thus, alone and disillusioned. Even if you haven't tried that hard to be a good person there's an innate outrage at this turn of events. I didn't have this coming, I didn't deserve this becomes the matnra. Anger seeps in and your inner sight turns red and that's it, you've been had. Most people stay in this state for the rest of their lives to varying degree, bitter and alone in their heart in places that are so deep they've no idea they're even doing it. Perfectly reasonable and pleasant people can have years of resentment and hatred buried, making them whitewashed tombs. At least for me I've found that most of my repentance has centered around finding these whitewashed tombs.

But more likely than not we fall into one of these tombs unawares and we're right back to where we started: alone, angry, and afraid. Most of the time we try to claw our way out of this place, regretting whatever we did that brought up this pocket of death in our personalities, pleading for God to get us out of it. The silence is deafening and that can make the rage intensify.

It's at moments like these we should pray to the saints: Holy N. pray to God for me. This is literal, not figurative. You are not in a Norman Rockwell painting asking a buddy for the salt at the dinner table. You are in a do or die situation, where you're already weighed down and unable to do anything for yourself. Even your ability to ask God for help has been taken and the only alternative is to swallow your pride and ask someone else to pray for you. And at this point something remarkable happens: if you'll let it, you will be held and the death spot will die. As it dies and shrivels you might find something remarkable: the pain itself has God in it. He's so in it that He is your anger, He is your rage, He is your pain. He supports your blasphemy against Him, He allows it to exist because you asked Him to let it. God allows the blasphemy right up until the second you ask Him to take it away. And the Saints, particularly the Theotokos, hold you as this incredibly painful process begins. You die and God dies with you, sharing in the pain as the Saints pray for you. It is an exercise in receptivity, of complete and utter poverty. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

But sometimes that isn't enough. Sometimes you can't even reach out to the saints; the parts of yourself that must die are kept alive by the demons in a horrific state of undeath, unable to pass on, unable to live, left in crippling psychological and spiritual pain. This is a different type of bereavement. When the Scriptures say "poor in spirit" that means destitute, devoid, empty. All that's left to you is your anger. But God is here too. Jesus transformed your anger and so you can use it against depression. At the end of the day if there's nothing but you and your ills get up, grab that sword that you can never use at any other time, and fight. You're not in a position to be polite and nice, Christianity isn't about being nice and sweet, it's about being good, and sometimes to be good you must roll up your sleeves and get ready to get bloody. Weaponize yourself against your own sin. Fight, curse the demons that are causing your despair with Psalms and prayers and anything that comes from God, GET ANGRY BECAUSE ANGER IS THE ONLY WAY OUT. Call upon God like a child throwing a tantrum, because now is not the time for dignity, now is the time to live! Despondency kills and it's the one time in the spiritual life where kill or be killed is the law of the land. Draw the sword that God has forged of Himself and, with God's help, drive off the things that are after you, whom God supports with His very existence. Then allow those parts of you that are diseased to die, keeping watch over it with the help of God and the saints.

That's what the Cross is: God has become your ills, He has become your sins, your anger, your everything. He has become all the things you hate, so that way when you're willing to let those things go it's possible to do so! The Crucifixion is much more than God-man suffocating to death: it is Him allowing us to let go because, as He dies, all the things we give to Him die with Him. In so doing we add what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ. We die together, the Saints holding us and helping us walk the path they walked before, over and over and over again. We die a little repeatedly over the course of our life, fighting for the right to die and not be left as spiritually undead abberations of creation, until finally our form gives out in a crash of horror and doom. But it's only the horror that dies. We cruised all the way down, and Christ will come to our defense, fighting the last fight that no one but Him can fight, and  bring us back up, leaning on His shoulder. The Crucifixion is the beginning of the invasion against an undeath most unholy, most immoral.

On this holy and terrible day remember that Christ is there, at the bottom of every bad decision you ever made, waiting for you to die with Him. Dying and pain have become a loving embrace of love, as has the mad scramble to get there. Death is the door. Enter and gain hope.

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