November 29, 2011

Theological Thanksgiving

I regularly find the time when one is expected to share what they are thankful for more than a little stilted. Oftentimes (I find this especially true in Christian households) it turns into a competition of theological one-upmanship, seeing who can most creatively be most thankful for Jesus this year.

With this in mind, this year I am without a doubt thankful for love.

I know, I know, you’re already having PTSD flashbacks to the lame Christian Thanksgiving, but hear me out; I’m desperately trying to avoid that.

In particular I am thankful for the love of a specific woman who, while making me remarkably happy, has also revolutionized the way I view God. As a wanna-be Christian theologian love is a profoundly and unavoidably theological concept, and it is unsurprising that I strain life-altering events (such as falling in love) through this Christocentric way of seeing.

I get it now.
This whole “Jesus loves me thing.”
It makes sense.

All of a sudden crucifixion for the sake of another’s wholeness doesn’t seem ridiculous because I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat.

God’s love is radical and irrational; it gives everything up and asks for nothing in return just because. God ceaselessly and recklessly chases after the ones He loves, destroying human conceptions of what “reasonable limits” mean in the pursuit of reconciliation and unity with His beloved.

I get it now.
I get it because it is my life.

It pains me that there are churches which believe this kind of love is destructive, sinful behavior. It pains me to think that this firsthand lesson in love, which I believe is educating me about theology and pastoral care more than any seminary course possibly could, automatically disqualifies me from pursuing ordination in a host of Christian denominations with whom I find a lot of theological accord … minus the gay thing.

Nonetheless I am thankful for the beautiful woman I get to wake up next to, who holds me when I weep and who thinks I am a culinary genius when I make spaghetti. God loves her more and more perfectly than I ever could, and realizing that has made my appreciation for His great love only increase. Recognizing His overwhelming, passionate, jealous love for us colors the way I view everything, including theological realities – e.g. the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection – which have taken on a meaning I could not have imagined prior to this soul-consuming adoration for a woman.

I get it now.
I am thankful for love.

5 comments:

  1. Everything about this post: yes. I think you are already a remarkable theologian, Kate, and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. This is a great piece, Kate.

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  3. This gets to a question I've been thinking a lot about recently. You write:

    "I get it now.
    This whole “Jesus loves me thing.”
    It makes sense."

    You say that this understanding is coming from your "soul-consuming adoration for a woman."

    This idea is something I've been struggling with. Your basic claim seems to be that you understand God's love through the romantic love of/for a woman. Yet, the Christian tradition distinguishes different senses of love. Love may equal love, but eros (romantic love) is not agape (God's love) is not amitia (friendship love). To try to say that experiencing human eros is understanding God's agape seems to confute the two, when they are distinct. After all, we can feel agape for another without feeling eros.

    Perhaps I am skeptical of what I see as the common confutation of eros and agape. With the reality of the fallen world, our eros has a possessive essence not inherent in the agape of Jesus. The modern language of eros seems to be the language of possession ("I want you. Now."). In the Cross, I don't see possession--I see sacrifice. It is so tempting to mistake eros for agape. Eros is comfortable. Eros feels good. But it is written that God is agape. Not that eros is God.

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  4. Still my experience after loving and being loved by an amazing woman for just one week short of 23 years! Keep reflecting as your voice is important.

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  5. To my anonymous friend re: agape:

    Oddly enough I just wrote my girlfriend a letter about this exact word. I was struck by the language of Ephesians 5, where the infamous "wives submit to your husbands" order is given. What really caught my eye in this passage, though, was Paul's use of the word agape to describe men's love towards their wives as Christ loves the Church.

    God is agape, yes, but Paul brings it down to earth in practical, marital matters (this also happens in a practical way in I Corinthians 13, most notably). Now people are fallen and mess up all the time, but I think to say that agape and eros are totally distinct does a disservice to the explicit marital language of God and Israel in the Hebrew Bible and discounts Paul's usage of agape in Ephesians.

    Moreover in recognizing my overwhelming eros for this woman I am struck by God's perfect agape for us. My love is fallen, imperfect, selfish, self-seeking, boastful, etc. Unity, echad-ness, and functional community is indicative of the Trinity, and marriage is a witness to that. It's a broken system because the creatures are rebellious, yes, but originally it was tob me'od.

    I hope this helped.

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