On this Easter Saturday morning, I listened to this sonnet by Malcolm Guite, based on the 14th Station of the Cross. It is beautiful:
Here at the centre everything is still
Before the stir and movement of our grief
Which bears it's pain with rhythm, ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
Soothing his ruined flesh with tender care,
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal,
With incense scenting only empty air.
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves
And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.
The love that's poured in silence at old graves
Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,
Is never lost. In him all love is found
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.
And when I read those lines, "The love that's poured in silence at old graves/Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,/Is never lost," I could not help but think of my father, pictured above, tenderly tending the graves of my two nephews. This image squeezed my heart, for it reminded me of the intrinsic sweetness of my father (who passed away himself in the summer of '16). Tears drop.
"Gracious words are like a honeycomb,/sweetness to the soul and health to the body," says Proverbs 16:24. My father was a gracious man, and though just a regular human being with warts and all, his words--backed by his eyes and smile and actions like above--brought sweetness to my soul and health to my body.
Prayerfully pondering his poignant sweetness, it dawned on me how too often I quietly suspect that our Heavenly Father is just not quite as sweet as my Dad. There is a streak in me that believes that real tenderness, sweetness, is not His but must somehow be snitched in secret--like sneaking spoonfuls of ice cream from the freezer late at night.
Lingering over Malcolm's sonnet, thoughts of my father, and the nature of Jesus' sacrificial death, I began to know--somehow in a way deeper than before--that my father's sweetness wasn't some exception--ice cream eaten on the down low in the world of a stingy God-host who'd rather we eat gruel. Rather, I realized that my father's sweetness was (and remains) simply a window, letting in the rays of a far richer, brighter and tender-er still sweetness of our Heavenly Father.
In Isaiah 40, Isaiah prophetically declares:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned... (1-2a).
And in Luke 1, Zechariah--filled with God's Spirit--prophesies about his son, John, who will serve as a forerunner for Jesus. John (the Baptist), declares his father, will bring news of salvation, knowledge of God's "tender mercy,...whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high" (1:78).
Because of Jesus' offering, our warfare with God is over; our iniquity is pardoned; the love we've known is never lost. In Him, we are set free to receive the tenderness of the One who never ceases lovingly tending to us. This truth squeezes my heart, too; tears drop--in a good way.
So this Easter, whether your life is in a place of grief or joy, please consider joining me in asking God for a far deeper apprehension of His tender, tending love. And when we wake up tomorrow, may we all realize that the Sunrise has really visited us from on high.