Disclaimer: I have a beautiful diversity of readers/followers from many different faith and non-faith backgrounds for which I am truly thankful. To know me is to know that my spirituality is deeply Christo-centric, meaning I’m ‘all in on the Jesus thing’. What follows here is a lenten reflection on the passion week of Jesus within the context of the timeless mind and heart of God the Creator.
At what point did the anguish of God begin?
What I don’t care about in this question is an actual chronological answer of ‘when’, but more of a reflection on the wonder around the fact there there is a ‘why’. The Hebrew Scriptures reveal to us that the heart of God has been in anguish over his creation for quite some time. The fact that humanity chose away from him in pride in the Garden and then subsequently we have chosen a billion other false gods (i.e. consumer lifestyles) since has never set well with him and his heart. I believe in a God that is immutable, timeless and Sovereign . . . and yet deeply relational with his creation and leaves himself vulnerable to having his feelings hurt by the very ones he made as a reflection of his own identity.
Genesis 3:9 – “Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” The first words out of the mouth of God in the Garden after the fall of humanity is puzzling. If he is in fact all-knowing, then this can not be a question of locality. God knew what physical space the first humans were inhabiting on this planet, it wasn’t a cosmic game of hide and seek. Hiding from God is sort of pointless. I think this question is not about spatial location, but rather about relational longing, it is the first written account of the anguish of God. God was once in perfect communion with his created humanity and now in the fallen choice, they were in discommunion and his heart didn’t like it. He allowed himself to feel anguish over this distance. In the same manner as with Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, God wept.
Genesis 22:12 – “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham was asked by God to do a strange task, be willing to sacrifice his own son as a sacrifice upon the altar. In the end, God’s test to Abraham does not have to be carried out, he provides the ram in the bushes instead of Abraham’s son, Isaac. I have longed felt that this bizarre Hebrew narrative is less about Abraham and more about the timeless heart of God in anguish already emotionally playing out the crucifixion of his own son. It is that last phrase that is a tell; ‘your only son’. God allowed himself to be emotionally present with Abraham, father to father, in the anguish over the sacrifice of his son. To me, the story of Abraham and Isaac is a pre-cursor to the passion week of Christ in the heart of God. (He stands outside of time, one could argue both events had already happened within his own mind, but that leads to a metaphysical discussion I am not smart enough to explain.)
Psalm 22 – ‘My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?’ Without posting the entire Psalm, it describes in vivid detail (arguably) the actual events around the first century AD crucifixion of Christ yet veiled in an emotional reflection of David in his chronological time in history. The reign and life of King David is some 907-837 BCE or so, roughly a thousand years before Christ would step foot into ancient Palestine. Taking out the debated (and I agree) mistranslation of the Hebrew word for ‘lion’ for ‘pierced’ (v. 16) in David’s lament (which appears to be a bit too heavy a messianic interpretive translation) and you still have a chronologically Hebrew echo of the passion of Christ. One could argue, and I am, that this is another example of the anguish of God pouring out through the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures. 900 years before the crucifixion of Christ ever happened in a chronological point in time on this planet, the 3rd rock from the sun, the heart of God was in anguish over our choices away from him. He allowed himself to be broken before he ever actually allowed the blood of his son’s body to be spilled out.
So what? What I am reflecting on as we enter into holy week for the Christian church, is that the events we are remembering in this week are within a context of all of Creation. It is one story, one narrative that finds climax in an empty tomb. It is a reflection of a personal God who doesn’t need to be. His holiness and eternal nature that governs the universe does not need us. It’s just that he chooses to want us. He chooses to anguish over us. He chooses to anguish over you. He’s not angry, he misses us . . . he misses you. I read the Scriptures as a love story, it’s often my interpretive lens. I read the anguish of God as a narrative of the Creator deeply in love with his Creation and wants to make a way for perfect communion again. All is not right with the world, but in the person of Jesus, a way is made for it to be right again. The crucifixion of Christ is an act of the greater story of a Creation being healed. In his anguish, he doesn’t leave us in our brokenness. Rather, he chooses to be vulnerable, chooses to be broken and spilled out for us so that our healing can begin.
The anguish of God is a timeless and troubling thing. Peace to you on your reflections of the wonder of it all.