“I recognize how much I’ve lost, but I cannot face the cost, ‘cause I love to be loved”
20 years ago Peter Gabriel released his sixth studio album, Us. On this album Gabriel explored personal pain; his failed first marriage, his new love relationship, and the growing distance between him and his first daughter. His was a look at the world through the eyes of a suffering that longs for restoring relationships that have spun out of control. He longs to reconcile with his estranged daughter, but she won’t talk with him. He longs to move beyond a shallow companionship, but must acknowledge that both he and his companion harbor secret worlds in their hearts. He longs to be genuinely loved, but he will settle for approximates. His longings are unfulfilled. He digs in the dirt of the past, but cannot find forgiveness.
Peter Gabriel’s brilliant lyrics bring us into touch with longings that haunt a Darwinian world without God. Since The Fall, our identity has been mired in non-relational brokenness, authored by the enemy of our souls. In Western culture, we champion rugged individualism. In fact, our view of personhood is of an individual contract-making unit. The very word individual is defined by separation and isolation. Born into this original sin of false-identity, the world of men sinks further and further into loneliness. Nurtured by those occasional relationships and family who do indeed love us, we are nonetheless trapped in a hopelessness of isolation.
In my last post, Two, I spoke of the radical separation between those who love Jesus and those who do not. I have had a few private exchanges with people who were bothered by what I wrote. But there is a part II and I hope to address it here. You see, the radical difference between the two directions would be frightening if it were not for the nature of the solution. God did not design us for this.
We are persons. We are defined by our otherness, our relationships and our freedom to love. We are other. I am not you and you are not me. We are not merely expressions of some God who is in all of us. God made us other. It is an eternal gift. But unlike individualism, otherness thrives within relationship. The very notion of other implies another. I am my father’s son and my son’s father and my wife’s husband and my friend’s friend. These things define more of who I am than any individual trait. I exist among others in relationship and I am free to love them. My very being is a complex network of others. This is as it should be. And its Author is the prototype:
“Let Us make man in Our image.” (Gen 1:26)
At the first Christmas, the Word was made flesh and God came to live among us. He came to reveal the Father to a world that lived in lostness, whether that was religious slavery or Darwinian godlessness. Jesus revealed an eternal relationship known by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three persons in one Being. In their personhood, they have otherness, relationship and love. They have had it eternally and there has never been a time when they have not known it. The communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is Being. When we try to imagine the trinity, we betray our individual brokenness by seeking singularity. This is difficult on our comprehension, but it is not a problem with God. Yes, Father Son and Holy Spirit share omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. This should encourage us, because God has always existed in love. The very nature of God’s being is defined by it. So it was not something He had to create for our consumption. It is who He is. And we were created in His image. And a long time ago in a garden, that it how we lived; other, relational and loving. We were about us. And it was right. And it was perfectly human. And it was fit for eternity…
…until a tempter introduced us to self-focus, individualism and separation. And we bit. And we still do. So this entire fallen world of existence is marked by separation, fear, loneliness and eventually death. Into that world came Jesus. Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, says that Jesus came to Earth and drew a circle around Himself and said “everyone outside the circle is lost.” And so we are, moving blindly towards a certain end we each fear and struggle to avoid. And it has only one direction and it is not good. But Jesus calls out into the darkness of this world and says, “If anyone is thirsty come to Me and drink.” If you are tired of the direction, the sin, the pain, the brokenness, and even your own complicity in it and want out, He says there is a way. All debts are paid, all is forgiven. The enemy has no hold over you if you want to come into the shelter of God’s Kingdom. The admission is free. Surrender your individualism at the door and come into the family for which you were created. It is a rich mosaic of people and generations from every time and place. Come home. Be us.