Love crawls. It finds out where you are hiding and it comes looking for you. And when it finds you out of reach from anything sane, from anywhere anyone rational would go, it squeezes into the tight spots, and crawls out on the limb that you’ve hidden on. It will cost love something to get to you, will cost it everything. But it is love – it knows no boundaries. It flies. It soars. It plunges. It dances, sings and weeps.
Jesus. Son of God. Some no longer believe. And at times I have also not believed. So unsure – how could it possibly be true? God torn limb from limb, defending me – so small. Spirited? – yes. But small, lost, fickle – ashamed – a coward – memorable only to a few. How could I believe that if there were one (and only one) God, that he would crawl to me, find me, sit next to me on the branch I had crawled out on and hum a melody that would put my heart at ease?
I’ve come to know that I will carry doubt with me until I die. I will never know for sure what I long to know…for sure. At times I envy those men who are wrapped up in certainty like faithful mummies, staggering around with their arms stretched out before them, doing what mummies do by gut instinct.
And then there’s me. I hear of a youth pastor, a youth pastor’s wife, their unborn child losing their lives so suddenly, leaving their parents in peril…wondering how they’ll go on, and for a moment doubt sidles up next to me, convincing me that love is all a sham.
But then I hear the descant of a cello – the strings being bowed beneath the tragedy of it all and I feel something else. Love crawling out to me. I want to feel nothing. I want death to feel cold. I want tragedy to feel purposeless and futile so I have good reason for doubting love. But every time death appears, I hear the cello bowing a melody that sings to me out on the branch. Tears gather. My heart aches and I feel loved – somehow loved.
In these phases of life that are so cruel, I feel as close as I will ever get to feeling certain. My heart prays in groans, and I look for love – scarred, bruised, beaten and crucified. And it crawls out to me. It sits next to me. It becomes me. It hears the song I never wrote, the bitter lyrics, the minor melody that echos from inside me. It shuts its eyes and listens to my song of pain and doubt as if it has never heard anything more beautiful. And in the aftermath of the evils of this world, my heart is wrapped up like a faithful mummy. It knows not what it does, but it believes in something the rest of me wishes would disappear.
If it could go away. If it could not look me in the eye – not gaze at me as if it has never seen anything so beautiful. If it could NOT crawl out to me on that branch where I sit alone, doing my best to unbelieve for all the bad things that happen in this world, maybe then I could lose my faith for good. Just maybe.
But it won’t leave me. It won’t forsake me. It’s comfortable crawling onto a tree. It has done this before. It puts on its dirty crown, presses it in til blood runs in streams down its own face. It sees me hidden, out on that limb, knees pulled in, face buried low, and it crawls out to me. Sits next to me. Strokes my hair. Expects nothing. Let’s me not believe. Understands my doubt. Apologizes though it’s done nothing wrong, for all my accusations. Promises to stay out on the branch with me, even if I never crawl off. And then… it waits with me. Just sits there – next to me… and looks at me… watches me… sings to me… loves me.
…I believe again.
(Written with sincere compassion and empathy for those amongst the bus accident at Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Indianapolis. Our prayers are with you.)