Please watch this video (link above) before you read the post. I had a profound experience this morning when I watched it and I know I have to share it with some of you who will also be puzzled by the effect it may have on you.
I have learnt through my teachers about the agony of God during the last couple of years and knew the concept was right because love is full of agony and God is love, but I could never really understand it or explain it to anybody. When I watched the video this morning, I felt agony in my solar plexus where I always feel the joy and the pleasure of the Lord. And I realised that I was feeling the agony of God for the first time. Or rather ... that I, for the first time, could connect what I have often felt and did not understand.
Love itself, as we all have learnt through the brokenness of this life, contains both pain and joy. Rejection and acceptance; being ignored and being cherished; feeling cut off and feeling connected; rejecting and accepting; hurting and being forgiven; betrayal and acknowledgment; both anger and tenderness. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that if God is in you, God experiences life through you. God sees life through our eyes and feels it through our skin. Jesus came to show us just how intimately God participates in this life.
What I saw this morning in the incredible contrast in the song and the images in the video, brought this home:
What I was feeling was what God had been feeling all the time since the brokenness intruded into the scene. From that moment, when Adam and Eve learnt that they could give AND withhold love; that they could choose between good and evil, and they chose to withhold affection, and love themselves more than they loved others, the possibility entered that God could experience agony. Their choice led to the first murder for the sake of own interest when Cain killed Abel and countless murders since then to protect and expand self-interest. This war is just such a choice - seemingly by one man who is using everything available to him to justify the means he is using to fulfil the desired self-seeking end. I realised that love can be withheld or shared. That is in essence what the metaphor of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents. When Love is withheld, God suffers and when Love is shared, God rejoices. For that is the essential character of love and God is love. To bring forth blessing; to incarnate the essence of God, love has to be shared ... the essence of God has to be freely shared.
And as it works in the Trinity, everything is about sharing. Withholding anything for self without freely sharing it, is unthinkable. Sharing love, is sharing the life of the Trinity. This kind of sharing may be costly for it requires total vulnerability and unconditional, sacrificial other-centredness. Every time Love is freely shared, God incarnates through that act. With that I mean that the unseen essence of God is made visible. The principle of free sharing and never withholding, that is the essence of the Trinitarian dance, is made visible. You can see and experience that in the beauty of Ukraine and of the things people have created in the video. That is the ecstasy of God. Every time love is withheld, as in the images of what the war has done to the beauty of the countryside and to what was created when love was shared, the image of the ecstasy of the Trinitarian essence is for a moment obscured. The incarnation of Love continues because love’s essence requires opposites to be manifested. It requires the pain of love, the agony of God to be shown. And what we experience, is the agony of God, the agony of love. And only God knows what it has cost God-self since the decision was made to share the Trinitarian essence to make it visible and attainable through creating a universe where the freedom exists to reject its Creator.
What level of humility must have motivated such a decision? The old adage comes to mind: "If you want to know whether a thing loves you, set it free. If it comes back to you, you will know."
Oh! All-vulnerable …
Oh! All-humble One,
Teach us to see the way you see … To be vulnerable and humble, to give without expectation, to share even our last crust of Love. To stand back, to give space to ourselves and one another … even to be wrong, even to reject us, even to kill us.
Teach us too to give till it hurts, to live till life is taken from us, if needed. Teach us to give and give and give. To never sell love, to never expect a return on investment, to be without entitlement and above all to be content in whatever may arise in this life.