Friday, December 16, 2005

Memoir: Love & Understanding

A few weeks ago I picked up a crossword puzzle. First, before I go on, it should be known that I hate crossword puzzles. This particular one was vicious it was like the great white shark of crosswords. I looked at each clue for three seconds or so then I went onto the next one—they were impossible clues. When I got done looking through all the clues I only had 5 spaces filled in.

What makes it even worse is that I have an inflated self esteem when it comes to puzzles. It’s a weird paradox I have this deep seeded feeling like I should be really good at them for some reason but my failure is unstoppable—and then there is the headache. It sets in unswervingly. The only metaphor worthy of describing it is vice grips, on your head just squeezing. I know what you are thinking he’s exaggerating but it is the truth. I wouldn’t use hyperbole about getting a one-two punch from worthless puzzle.

My friend Teague and I talk about how Jesus is puzzling sometimes. We will sit down for a cup of coffee and look through the Gospels and observe Jesus challenging common sense--saying things like “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God,” Or, “If any of you wants to gain his life he must lose it for my sake.” Those are puzzles, but not the puzzles that give me a headache. And after thinking about it for a while I came to the conclusion that the Bible is filled with all sorts of puzzles. And I am not talking about apocalyptic puzzles where if you read a verse in Deutronomy backwards you will know the hour that Jesus comes back. Honestly I think that those are kind of hokey and self gratifying—I mean I think people that are in to that doomsday decoding stuff really hate this world and just assume Jesus feels the same way. When I say that the Bible is full of puzzles I mean a different kind of puzzle—a life puzzle. Job’s life is a bit of a puzzle. God never gives him an answer to all his suffering but in it there is no question to God’s existence, or Job’s faith. Judas is another example Why did he betray Jesus?--especially after seeing all the good things Jesus did.

In fact I am convinced that life puzzles are all around us everyday. It may be the neighbor who is a bit out of touch with reality, or the little boy down the street who won’t climb a tree or play with a toy gun. They can be similar to the Judas riddle of betrayal—though perhaps not to the same degree. Or ones about love—how can she love him? In fact I am a kind of puzzle to myself sometimes, “Crap, why did I do that.” My grandfather was a puzzle to my grandmother for a long time. You see he is kind of like a lesser version of “A Beautiful Mind.” He taught medical school at the University of Washington, and he was a brain surgeon—or some type of surgeon. But with all his smarts he can’t manage socially. I’ve been told by some of my family that he has a chemical imbalance. My mom has told me some stories about him while she was growing up too and they aren’t pretty.

He is unnatural in conversation, sometimes he says the most random things, he often comments on my brother’s physical fitness, “My, Patrick you have some nice biceps there,” and that is his menu of conversation. It blew me away a couple weeks ago though; I was talking to my grandmother and she referred to my grandfather as her beloved. Now people don’t just call a person ‘beloved.’ I feel like that is a word reserved for people who are weird or in some type of hyper love. I thought about if for a while and I realized that my grandmother really loved this guy, my grandfather that is. This was the same man that everyone else would talk trash about at Christmas parties and other family get togethers but she loved him, enough to call him her beloved. Through the harder times when my grandfather was less than kind—and perhaps even threatening she loved him. She loved him when he was embarrassing her in public, when he acted out in rage towards his children even. She still loved him.

“Love never fails,” scripture tells us, and that is a hard thing for me to see often with half of marriages ending in divorce and so much superficiality in media, politics, and relationships. If I did not take my faith in Jesus seriously this deep truth about love not failing would be like the worst puzzle of them all. I would want to believe it but the evidence would to seem prove otherwise.

My grandmother—though she is always busy, and on the run with different social work (homeless shelter here, soup kitchen there)—has a mellowness to her, which I think is part of the reason for her success with her husband--my odd old grandfather. I was thinking about it the other day and I’m sure of it, her mellowness helps her understand.

My grandparents have spent time with each other and with time comes understanding, and with understanding love. Love and understanding are bound together, I think it is a deep and holy truth. If you understand someone you are bound to love ‘em. My grandmother with time has come to understand why my grandfather cannot operate socially, and even why he can be down right manipulative and after she came to that understanding of her ‘beloved’ it would seem that she has no option but to love him because she understands him. You see when you understand someone deeply you know their motivations—good or bad—and you see why they have such a motivation, sometimes you can even trace it back to the root like an event in the past or something. Finally, when you see from this perspective it is hard not to love the person because you understand them—in weakness and blessing.

Jesus one time had an interaction with a rich young ruler. He said, ‘you are missing something from your life. Give up what you have, all your riches and come to me.” The rich young ruler couldn’t come—he was too attached to his possessions—and the scripture says, “And Jesus looked on him with love.”

I don’t get it sometimes—‘How can Jesus look on some rich guy with love when the guy is more concerned about saving his money then Jesus saving his soul.’ I was writing in my journal the other day about this theological riddle and I think—strange as it is—my grandparent’s situation helped me to understand this scripture. How can you love someone in their weakness—that is the love that fountains forth from the wellspring of understanding. I believe that is how Jesus loved that rich young guy who was hung up on his money. Think about it, Jesus probably looked at the rich guy and knew that his Father had taught him things like: ‘put yourself number one,’ ‘do anything for a buck.’ Jesus understood the dilemma in the rich guy’s heart and because of that Jesus could “look on him with love.” In fact I believe that is how God loves us all. We all have things we are having a hard time giving to God—just like this young rich guy. And since our lives aren’t puzzles to God, but he knows why we struggle with those things he can start walking us towards healing. I feel that it is how God wants us to love each other too. We are called to love our neighbors with the love that God has for us—the great understanding love of Jesus. Then the life puzzles will be unraveled and put together and the most beautiful picture of person healed by God will be clear as day.


MattMissyKamps said...

Well, I followed the assignment and read the last three entries. The first one would have been a good sermon to share, and maybe someday you will share it. The riddles of scripture aren't threatening to Christianity.

Daniel Longoria the Fat Head said...

Well I read it and let me tell you it was marvelous. I like your writing style and how the scripture is given life through your own exiperences.