To the Misfits of Society- A Man of Sorrows
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
All things, no matter how big or small, have a beginning. This also includes how we see ourselves and defines how we live our lives. From the very beginning of time, there was the problem of pain and brokenness, how man saw himself.
Take, for example, Adam and Eve. They were made perfect in every way by God. And yet through God's ordained purpose, He included the will to chose right from wrong, thereby establishing the fundamental truths where love is born.
Let me contrast something here. When God made Adam, God said Adam was made perfect, in God's image. The maleness of Adam reflected God's nature of unity. Even if God never created Eve, Adam was perfect. But God didn't stop here but said it's not good for Adam to be alone. Why did God say this? Because Adam in and of himself was made perfect but also was made to be partnered.
So God made Adam fall asleep and out of him was made a woman. You will notice that she wasn't made the same way Adam was. This is very significant in how the Bible words this. Adam was made of the dust of the earth. Eve was not. She was made of Adam's flesh signifying the union woman has with man. They are equal because Eve did not come separate but of Adam making them uniquely the same.
What must have been Adam's thoughts when he awakened? Standing before him was this naked woman who was perfect in every way. He probably opened his eyes and then his mouth in shock at what he saw. This woman who was made of his own body was God's gift to him to treasure. Like most men who see a naked woman, he was probably thinking along the lines of sex. There was nothing wrong with it. She was his and in the same way, he was hers. God said be fruitful and multiply. So they probably had a lot of sex that first day. Nakedness and sex was not a shameful thing.
With this, however, was given the choices where love is born from. You cannot have love without the essential element of choice. Without a choice, there is no love. Love is conditioned on choosing and sacrificing. If there is no choice to be made, there is no sacrifice and no idea of love.
In the choosing, God gifted man with this ability by giving a choice with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was put there so that love could exist. Angels never had that option because they weren't allowed a choice. If they did choose, there was an immediate punishment of eternal separation. That isn't a choice where love existed.
Before the world was created, God chose to make man in His image. That means there had to be this element of love for man to be reflective of God. There had to be the option of a choice whether good or evil.
When Eve was deceived and chose to disobey God's laws, unlike the angels who had no choice, God demonstrated His love by not destroying her. Adam ate the fruit next and in his disobedience, his was greater for he was responsible for Eve's sin. He, being the one Eve was made through, was the original human who held more responsibility in God's eyes. There was judgment as must be for a perfect God. But He also demonstrated love in showing mercy and grace.
The act of this disobedience changed the entire dynamics between man and God. There was no longer this freedom shared, this unity of God and man. And in turn, that brokenness was given a name, Shame.
One may argue that it should be "sin". But "sin" in the Bible is used for multiple ideas and should then be seen in the context of what it is used with. This is why shame is used when Adam and Eve knew they had disobeyed.
When we look at creatures of the world, notice how untrusting they are usually towards humans. There is this ingrained fear. The same is placed in us towards God even if we try to hide from its truth. It is ingrained in us to feel broken and unwhole, to feel this fear. It extends towards others, even those who suppose to be the closest to us. This is why when Adam and Eve sinned, the Bible says they were ashamed and knew they were naked. God asks them, who told you you were naked? This affirms that shame and nakedness go hand in hand. It's a vulnerability that is at the core of who we are. And it is the root of sorrows.
Cain killed Able because God was pleased with Able's sacrifice and not Cain's. Why wasn't God pleased with Cain? Because the perfect Law that God holds Himself to, demands the payment of death for the breaking of a perfect law. Cain judged in his pride that his grain offering was sufficient. When God made it clear he was wrong, pride showed up and the shame of being outed must have burned in his heart with hatred. Shame does this. It shows the ugliness of our hearts. It is what killed Able. Instead of taking responsibility for his debt, he allowed self to rule over the truth and killed his brother.
Sorrow is a huge part of humanity's history just as shame is. Shame is a testament to man's guilt. When that shame is erased by means other than forgiveness, it is like a gauge that has gone to the top. It abandons reason and replaces guilt with pride. Pride in all its forms is detestable to God for it is the cause of sin. Pride in it's simplest form is self-glorifying.
Look at it this way. In God's eyes, is there anything we can be proud of apart from Him? When you search through the Bible, there is not one mention of man being good. The reason is that we are not perfect. God judges by the standard of Himself and He is perfect. Anything less cannot even fit on a scale. You are either perfect or you are not and must be destroyed according to the judgment He Himself holds to. This is the scale angels are held to. There is no redemption for a mistake and they're judgment is final. Not one person is good. Pride in our accomplishments mean nothing. It is when we turn that focus outwardly and judge worth by servitude and sacrifice, the basis on which love is birthed, that is when we can say there is worth in my service. In this, our service is not self-seeking or self-praising. God hates that and says it over and over.
How then is love connected to sorrow, even to pain? It seems strange to have love to be unified with these two seemingly opposing ideas. Think back to Genesis and how God created man. What was the catalyst that love is birthed from? In other words, what is sacrifice and why is it considered the greatest love in the Bible?
Look at Israel throughout the Old Testament. God was so mad at them for most of the books. They had disobeyed Him time and again, went after other gods, did evil and at times more evil than any other nation around them. In Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the books are filled with God's judgment on His people for their outright rebellion. And in the midst of this, He says He will not destroy them, not because of anything they did right but because He would make His name great. He held His hand from destroying Israel solely because if He did, the nations around Israel would say how weak He was but because of His promise to Abraham, He would spare a remnant.
For a Holy God who judges by perfection's standard, Israel must have caused great sorrow to God. He says in Isaiah that he wept for them. He says, how long must I suffer you? They caused Him great pain to endure. In the New Testament, Jesus weeps for Israel in their sinful nature. As He hung on the Roman cross, He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." This implies anger from God. It implies pain.
We don't often associate God with this. We look at God and see Him far off doing His judging thing and we are these minuscule creatures who have to figure out how best to please this God so He doesn't strike us down. We can also take the opposite approach which is the trend today and say God is all-loving and all roads lead to Heaven. That is absolute garbage and we find in Revelation, God despises people who claim to believe in Him but uses these false truths for what God said. A divisive person who divides people over the Bible is one God says He wants to vomit out of His mouth. They make Him sick.
When we wrongly look at God, we get many different views that don't show the true nature of reality. God holds sacredness above all else. Because of this and in how He made man in His image, humanity is sacred. He also had to allow suffering, even for Himself, for love to exist for us. Love cost God an enormous amount of pain, more than we will ever understand.
When we think of ourselves and our pain in life, our mishaps, and fears, our hangups, and freakish nerdiness, or just being out of place in society, it will do us good to look at what it cost God to make us.
For myself, I hung my identity on my awkwardness. I never fit in with society's norms. People would walk on by and I hid from their gaze. In my mind's eye, I was a freak of nature, the biggest mistake to ever grace the Earth. I saw my condition as a handicap, something that would forever label me subpar and worthless. I lived in sorrow and self-pity. I lived in shame as it showed my brokenness, of an imperfect body. It colored my vision and despite the many years of attending church and hearing all these sermons on God, my view of God was of a being unapproachable by me. I was the cast out. I was the one person nobody wanted. In sports, I hid behind everyone else because I knew nobody wanted me on their team. I was too goofy, too awkward and would only cause them to lose the game.
My world became the other world, a fantasy where I was somebody else. But even in that world, I couldn't even escape my self-loathing. My person in the dream also had problems though he overcame them and became the hero in the end. I just wished that real life was like that. And knowing it wasn't, I retreated into that other world. Shame told me I was broken. Guilt told me I was to blame. Pride told me to blame everyone else for my pain. I had become Caine. And as Caine, I lived the life of hatred all because of my perception of sorrow and love. I had no idea that the two could co-exist and fit so perfectly together.
To the world, this is blasphemy against an ideal self. And it was for me as well. I saw that quote from C.S Lewis at the beginning of this article and it perfectly explains my predicament growing up. Pain and love did not belong together. I remember staring in the mirror growing up. I would lift my shirt and see the numerous scars from my arms to the hated single long scar down my chest. Inwardly, I would scream at God demanding to know why? Why was I a freak? I would never accept another person's idea of me. I firmly believed that my dad refused to speak to me because I was this mistake. I was my own worst enemy. I believed I was imperfect, therefore I was unworthy of love.
It took me years, even after allowing God to work in me, to write these words. I was filled with so much shame. I saw this ugliness in me and how capable I was of the most heinous of thoughts and deeds. At times, if fear had not stopped me, those thoughts would have become reality, just as Caine did out of hatred for Able. He was the good kid but I'm not? How dare you, God! Pride...
Right after the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus leads them in the night to the garden of Gethsemane. Here, they were told to pray with Him as he went a little off to pray Himself. I don't think they had a clue what was about to happen in those next few hours. But the Bible recounts how when Jesus prayed, his words weren't lightly spoken. In these words were anguish, anxiety, pain, sorrow. He was sweating tears of blood. How much of an ordeal do you have to go through to sweat blood?
We picture Jesus as this happy go lucky guy who is always smiling. However, happy and joyful is not the same thing. Peter was in jail and was singing songs out of the joy of being counted righteous for being persecuted. That was his joy. Happy? Not so much. You're not happy when you're beaten and tortured. Jesus wasn't happy when the authorities took him and beat him. He wasn't happy when he was nailed to the cross and hung there to die. He cried out to the Father in anguish but in His self, that pain wasn't just out of physical feelings. It was out of love for those who nailed Him and cried, "crucify him!"
Love is found in the darkest corners of our existence when we are brought low. It is the state in which God shows up. He brings trials to humble us out of our pride and in the sorrow of our being. After He has chiseled away at our clay form, He brushes us off and smiles at His handiwork. We had no part in this process. Of ourselves, Paul says our hearts are wicked. The flesh is self-serving. It's only of God's love and working on us in the Spirit that any good thing can be said of us when weighed on Heaven's scale.
At our core, we are imperfect beings in need of a Savior. When people say this is only a fairytale I believe in, that this is just nonsense, there is something to be said here as well. We all believe in a virgin birth no matter who we are. For the Christian, it is that of Jesus. For the agnostic and atheist, that birth is the brief spark of humanity in nothingness. Stephen Hawkings even believes in a virgin birth. He just won't admit it. Every theory of origin must begin with an origin. Evolution says we came from the Big Bang. That sounds an awful lot like a virgin birth. So no matter which belief we come from, there is always an element of supernatural explaining existence.
The one thing each of these explanations has in common besides the Christian faith is this. It leaves you without hope or purpose. We all seek to have some kind of purpose, of meaning. Each idea outside of Christ leaves us empty and sad. Some of the smartest people, philosophers and scientists, scholars, they will say that at the end of the day, they have discovered that they are sorrowful and depressed. No amount of knowledge can buy you happiness that lasts.
That can only be found in a historically proven, scholarly studied, evidential proven Jesus. C.S Lewis said this about Jesus' claim to be God.
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
This is the God I worship. I don't pretend to know everything but I know this. Peter said in every circumstance, I am to give a reason for my faith. He began the apologetic Christian. We are to reason out why Jesus is whom He said He is and through the Spirit, come to God humbly, not proud or boastful. He is a God who sacrificed everything, even His perfect universe to make a man who would break everything and cause Him pain. Jesus is called a man of sorrow and through that sorrow, man can understand the most important thing. Only through God can love exist and in that love, He sacrificed everything to give us the heart of God. This is why He is worthy. This is why when someone demands to know why there is death and suffering, this is the answer. Because without it, you would never know what love is.
Isaiah 53Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.