This was originally published in a Godly Play newsletter.
The Passion Of Jesus Christ
And The Passion Of Parenthood
The sacrifice of Christ is pondered in endless books and hymns and works of art. It is a “big story” generating much wonder and wondering. There is at least one part of it that I think I understand. I believe that at the heart of the sacrifice of Jesus is the suffering of rejected love, which the saviour meets with an unswerving passion.
Many years ago I watched a documentary on television about the famous school for emotionally disturbed children run by the now discredited psychiatrist, Bruno Bettleheim. What is not in dispute is that some very sick children went to his school and got better with the help of the young and dedicated therapeutic teachers employed there. The documentary found some of these children now successful as adults and interviewed them and the teachers about their past. I was struck by one story. The man, now a successful broker on Wall Street, recalled how he had been sent to the school because he had as a seven year old tried to kill his mother and sister with a knife. The film cut to a middle-aged woman remembering being a young teacher who read to the children each night before they were to go to bed. One night as she was reading she felt the air stir by hear face and looked up in time to see a knife whiz by her at eye level and stick into the wall next to her. She looked across the room and saw a seven year old boy, the boy she knew had been admitted for trying to kill his mother and sister with a knife standing poised by an open window, ready to jump out. “What did you do?” The interviewer asked. “I didn’t know what to do, so I picked him up and held him. I held him while I finished reading to the group. I held him so tightly it made my arms hurt. I held him while I put the rest of the children to bed and I continued to hold him until we both fell asleep. I continued to hold him for most of the next several days except when it was absolutely impossible for either of us.”
The scene shifts to the stockbroker. “What where you going to do?” I was going to jump out of the window and kill myself.” “What was the effect of being held?” “I can’t remember what I thought but I know it was then that things began to change for me. There is a direct line from that night to my life now, even if I can’t explain it.”
There is a kind of holding that changes things. It is the holding power of love even when love is rejected, even when love is met with hostility. The cross of Jesus Christ is a mystery of unfathomable richness. It is at least this. It is the price of the persevering love of God, of God’s holding of the human race that changes everything. God holds us even though we are God’s enemies and even though we resist God’s love and push the saviour out of our lives and onto the cross. Even so God does not let go and in Christ God hangs onto us even though it costs the saviour the cross. Let us allow ourselves to be grasped by this Passion that we may hold out this love to the children given into our care. Amen.