And what if … the cycle of life and death and life eternal is not it either? And what if … “salvation” as we define salvation: deliverance, redemption, saving (and all that) isn’t it at all? What if … these are all just words and ideas to help us “get it”? What if … they are the packaging but not the prize? What then …
What then is the bible all about (for me and you today) – what then these stories of an omnipresent God – of an all knowing all healing Jesus – of an all present and indwelling Holy Spirit? What then the Garden, the Cross, the Rising, the baptising, the following?
What then any of “it”?
I have been a son all my life. I had a mother and a father all my life. I called them Mum and Dad. They called me Paul (and a few pet-names along the way). But they were always Mum and Dad to me. And sometimes I would ask Dad for something, but mostly I would ask Mum for something (that needed Dad to say yes to as well). Mum “got it” (whereas Dad wanted to know why). Mum smiled (whereas Dad fired back questions). Mum usually didn’t say no – she used “we’ll see” instead of “no”. Dad was either yes or no.
Dad would build things. Mum would comfort. Dad would go silent when he was mad. Mum would go ballistic. Silence was harder. Dad had a routine for his day and week. Mum might sit up and read all night through if a book caught her attention. The love from both “just was”. I had no need to know why. It just was.
And as I write these memories I realise my memories are mostly behaviours and responses to me. There was laughter and there were cuddles. There was intimacy and there was security and safety. But much as I knew Mum and Dad – they were always “Mum” and” Dad” – they were never “human beings”.
And I never even realised that.
Not until my Dad was three months from dying. I never “even realised that” – even when my Mum died after a short illness (and beat my Dad to his dying). Even then they were just Mum and Dad. And I never realised they were “just” at all. Even then I never realised that I never knew.
Not until I spent three months with our Dad. Supported by the whole family and my own. Day in day out. Week in week out.
As a son I never changed anything in his home. As a Dad he never changed. But as constant companions we both changed. We developed a language others thought “silly”. We became attuned to each other’s changing moods and needs. We did things sons and fathers don’t usually do – that I had never ever done – could never have imagined we ever would do – that He needed. Personal care, pain relief, seeing his fear in mine, seeing his stubbornness in mine, seeing his every moment in mine. We developed our own shorthand. And he “leaned” on me as I had leaned on him. He was safe with me and I with him.
He became a human being who was Dad but wasn’t. And I remained his son but wasn’t. The barrier of “Dad” and “son” lifted. And I never knew until I knew. I never knew that I never knew before.
And I saw that happen in different ways with my brothers and sisters. The “not realising we never knew” lifted for almost all of us. And there were some for whom it didn’t. They wouldn’t allow it.
They wouldn’t allow it.
I saw my Dad grieve that dis-allowing. My Dad loved each of us as always, but with the dis-allowing I saw a sadness in Dad I never realized before. And I never even knew that I hadn’t allowed it my whole life – not until those few short beautiful months.
And then Dad died in front of me and my life stopped as well. Yet my own family wanted me back – my day-job wanted me back – “normality” demanded me that I return. But I had a great big emptiness inside.
And then found I wasn’t empty at all – I found a great big presence inside.
I had the living presence of our love and union within. A Dad I had loved all my life. But never loved like now. A loving of the shell I knew only as Dad – but not the man I now know. This man of presence. This love of knowing. This union of all “that” … “that” is alive today even though he is dead. Our presence is living – our presence is this new knowing of our shared vulnerable intimate private language attuned to every mood.
Imagine that … And I never knew that I didn’t know!
For 5+ decades I never knew that I didn’t know. I knew Dad and that was all I needed to know. I never knew the man because I never needed to know the man. All I needed was to know who to ask – who was more likely to say yes – and that I was loved always (probably). That was all I needed to know – and no one expected me to know more than “just” that.
Not until …
“When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.) “ Luke 7:24-30
What if … “sin” and being “saved” is not the fuel of this faith. What if … knowing what “we never even knew we didn’t know” is? What if … “they wouldn’t allow it” … is? How would that change Christmas?
Thank you Paul. And there was you thinking I had no words for you today – thinking today there was to be no “post” – thinking all sorts of things. Until we shared this moment together. And then you knew what you didn’t know.
Am I allowed a festive … “Ho Ho Ho” … ?