I think that it is easy for us to chalk up our Lord’s submission to the Passion by appealing to the logic of His divinity or inability not to do the Father’s will. It has always been a struggle in the field of Christology to keep a balance between the humanity and divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus…but that is a subject for another day.
Today, I would like to consider what could have happened in the Garden as His humanity struggled with balancing the fear and potential pain with the desire to do the Father’s will. I believe that during that moment of prayer the Father was encouraging and rooting Him on. I believe that in some way, during this holy abandon of the cross, the Father in a special way, made Himself present which kept the Son pressing forward to our salvation. Why the insight? If you would permit me, let me share a portion of my meditation yesterday while I am vacationing with my family here in Kitty Hawk, NC.
Observing the Pipeline
None of my kids are swimmers. Not that they don’t want to swim but we have never been able to afford the massive pool rates and, mom cannot swim. Anyway, they all love to surf with their Boogie boards. The particular beach we are at has a three-foot drop two feet in and then various sandbars as you wade out into the ocean. About 50 feet out, the sandbar is high enough that you can stand with the water a little above the knees. My oldest teenager has no problem getting out to the bar (while making jokes about my height). My younger two are a different story though (Noah is still small enough to be surf bait). My youngest girl, who is 9, lacks prudential judgment (caution) but makes up for it in living the joy of the present moment – although after being tossed by a wave or two suddenly discovers prudence. My oldest girl (13) has a keen sense of prudential wisdom. She stands back analyzes the situation and makes a decision towards caution- sometimes she appropriately pushes beyond that wisdom and experiences the exhilaration of something new. Neither is better and frankly both are needed for a healthy life.
I observed yesterday something unexpected and unique that was a neat fatherly experience. All the family members (except for the wife that doesn’t do waves which is probably result of me accidentally causing her to be tumbled by a 9-footer on our honeymoon in Hawai’i) continued to encourage the girls to wade out to no avail. Nothing anyone could say could coax them out. Then I entered the surf.
I invited the girls (at separate times) to come out with me. With reckless abandon they came. Of particular interest was my oldest. She looked around and told me that the surf was rough and she was not going to be able to stand up. She was partially correct. I ignored her concerns, told her to keep looking, listening and following me from sandbar to sandbar. And she did. It took a few minutes but with a smile and excitement in her eyes, she came forth. She took a couple shots of waves to the face but nonetheless she enjoyed it. I left the water and suddenly all courage disappeared. What was her return on investment, she was able to hang-ten on several swells (on the East Coast – I guess the four footers is the Pacific equivalent) for some exhilarating rides. And my youngest, she ran into the surf took a beating from the waves and loved it. She learned to negotiate the rip tides and learned how to get in when you are pulled out.
I did nothing in particular except look at them, encourage them and tell them they could do it. When they were knocked down, I did not pick them up. I did stand in front of a wave or two so they could quickly recover after-which I asked how they were. Even with a negative reaction from them I smiled and told them – not asked – to press forward. And they did with great joy. It turned out that no one else in the family could inspire this in them, just dad. I think that it is the same in all children, we need to see dad before us and regardless of the hits we take, we want – maybe even need, to hear the encouragement that can only come from a father figure after a beating in order to continue on.
Where the Cross meets the Beach
I think the Paschal mystery is the same. The Son chose to experience all the human joys and limitations that are inherent with our nature. Even when it came to the Passion He was all in. Not because being stripped of His flesh was a good idea or the crucifixion was a walk in the park but because the Father was ever-present before Him in the Beatific vision. I can conceive that the Father kept encouraging Him and smiled at all the right moments. Pope Benedict XVI in his first volume of Jesus of Nazareth says that when we look to see when God chose to reveal His face, the evidence in Scripture is overwhelmingly bent to those who suffer. There is nothing that conquers pain like a Father’s presence (or a fatherly presence) in our life. He doesn’t take the pain away but His presence is a balm that intuitively tells us that their is something beyond the pain and it is going to be okay.
For those who do not have a father in their life or a father that is spiritually absent in our life, take courage. Scripture speaks of our fathers and mothers in the Lord who, while not being our genetic parents, serve to be that healing and encouraging; disciplining and training; and physical and spiritual presence in our lives. The Lord always provides!
So, next time we meditate on the Passion maybe we should bring the Father more into the reflection. Or, next time life sends a wave that knocks us down, let’s look for the face of the Father encouraging us to get up and come forth out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Postscript: The fractured self-image
Today in society many suffer from a poor self-image. That challenge is actually not with the self-image but with a father’s attention and love. Father’s, especially for the ladies, provide the stability for the development of a healthy self-image. Without his presence and personal attention, the individual becomes narcissistic and self-deprecating at the same time. In fact, in grasping to allow themselves to be a unified person (we all intuitively know what that is supposed to look like) we focus on ourselves – particularly the looks, career or skills, in an effort to compensate.
What does this mean? Fathers, invest in your kids. The ramifications can be devastating. And presence does not mean you are “around”. It means being personally interested and present in their lives. Children of absent fathers (physically, emotionally and spiritually) – cut them a break. Many times they had no clue the effects of their own woundedness and self-interest would have upon you. At the same time, recognize the limitations that they have and find a family (who is older and has experience) to assist you. Healing and redemption is always a family affair (whether it is your own or one that has adopted you) it can never be done alone.
For those who are looking for healing, the Lord provides. Maybe there is a family that will assist you in the razing and then building up of who you are – as God intended you to be. Be patient. If you want healing, then you must be in for the long-haul. Also, encouragement is not the only thing you need. Encouragement by itself only supports a narcissistic or selfish personality. You cannot heal a faulty foundation, a new one must be poured.
May you find the healing that is yours in Christ in order to hang-ten on the waves of life! God Bless from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.