Sunday, October 28, 2018

2010.10.28 Bare Naked Love

We live in a world that sobs for love—not romantic, dutiful, or tough.

I mean sobbing, aching, sundering love—the kind that breaks hearts, even hearts most hardened by wealth or poverty.

“How much many more can we take?” A woman said in church today, her eyes flooding with tears. She was referring specifically to the mass shooting yesterday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tree of Life? How ironic. That is the other tree in Eden, the one we rarely hear about, not the one we humans grab for, prefer, the one that gives them knowledge, both good and evil knowledge. That’s what we grab for.  

“Only eleven people were killed, but still . . .”  the woman went on. Only eleven—only?

How many holocausts must happen before we let go of all our pretenses, our masks, our fears, our reasonable explanations, our religious platitudes, the most clichéd being God is Love, and simply sob.

Most of us look for a leader, a teaching, a solution, a word of wisdom, a path, a hope, a savior, a limb to grab onto as a child grabs the nearest adult leg to hold. This morning’s news reported that President Donald Trump declared that this shooting had ‘little to do’ with gun laws and suggested that the Tree of Life synagogue should have had armed guards. More defensive politics. I wanted heart!

But then . . . he expressed horror at such incomprehensible malice—and during “a baby-naming ceremony at a sacred house of worship on the holy day of Sabbath.”  My heart jumped. Maybe he would drop everything, yes, even in campaign season, and go to Pittsburgh immediately? You know the best, most remembered leaders are the martyrs, the ones who die trying.

But then he said: “We don’t let evil change our life and change our schedule.” My heart broke. We don’t let evil change our life and change our schedule?

To let evil change your life and your schedule is the best definition of Christian behavior I’ve ever heard—or the behavior of any good and true human being. To be a christ you have to let down your guard and sob. You have to see the wound, tend the wound, sob and sob and sob. That’s love—alone or together—no props, no fixes, no doctrines, just naked grief. It’s precarious, delicate, the artistry of a funambulist, a tightrope walker. The Bible says this in every story. So does this poem.

The Highwire of Grief

It’s quite the feat
the funambulism of the newly bereaved.
What a treacherous act it is
to attempt freehand balance without a support point.
Weighed down, paralyzed,
but forced to move anyway.
And press forward
by placing another tentative step
after that last unsteady step
into the thin air
on a fine wire
of twisted memories
stretching from there to here—
and all the while squinting through a salty waterfall.

    by Rabbi Janet Madden
      currently the Rabbi of Providence Saint John’s Health Center
      Santa Monica, California