“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Luke 13:34
There must be grief in God.
Not weariness, not despair, but grief.
A grief of experiencing, seeing, and bearing witness to the human cycle that begins with inspiration, faith, and action, but which all too often ends in rejection, suffering, and death.
We, with God, might very well ask: how can this be?
The story goes something like this: Even though God is deeper, bigger, and beyond what finite human words can capture, certain people throughout history have found themselves caught up in encounters with God—in which they feel the heart of God, see a symbolic vision in a dream, or receive a guiding word. These God-touched people—these prophets—return to their everyday lives with a message about God’s love, God’s justice, God’s wisdom, God’s peace.
The prophet’s message inspires some, infuriates others. New paths are boldly taken, even as heart-hardened opposition mounts resistance. The prophet becomes both the object of veneration and hatred. The prophet is followed and rejected, welcomed and displaced. Too often, killed.
This. This must be the grief in God. Not that God’s ego is so fragile that the Almighty needs the approval and submission of creation. The grief of God must surely be experiencing, seeing, and bearing witness to the rejection and death of God-inspired people, visions, dreams, and guidance—which would otherwise help humanity to flourish, and to flourish abundantly.
It’s like the parent who watches a child reject help and guidance, only to fall into destructive paths. The parent’s grief isn’t about failed obedience; the parent’s grief, when pure, comes from beholding the pain of the child. This too must be the grief of God.
But that’s what love—true love—must often endure: grief. Love does not insist upon its own way. Love empowers, it does not seek to overpower. Love opens its wings like a mother hen seeking to harbor her children from the cold and the storm, but it cannot hold the child who refuses to be held.
And so in this season of Lent, when we consciously reflect on “turning around” from those directions that lead us away from the abundant life of the reign of God, we are invited to listen again for the voice of God—a voice that calls to us like a mother seeking to gather her children. And we must ask ourselves: will we allow ourselves to be held?
Reflection by: The Rev. Dr. Richard McCarty
Artwork: Altar Mosaic at the Dominus Flevit chapel, Jerusalem