Friday, March 30, 2012

What Love Will Do

"He could have been anything he wanted.  But he chose to stay here."

It has been many years now since the funeral of the elderly bachelor farmer.  He died at 88, well-beloved by the people of the small rural community where he made his home.  I particularly remember how he used to visit his sister, who was an invalid.  Her face would light up whenever he came into the room. 

Between the funeral and the cemetery, a man came up to me and introduced himself.  One of the nephews, I think.  I don't remember that.  But I remember what he said: 

"He could have been anything he wanted.  But he chose to stay here."

Perhaps he looked at me, a city girl transplanted to the country, and thought:  She doesn't really know him.  There's so much she doesn't know about him.  He might have thought that when I looked at this elderly gentleman, I only saw the surface, and I made assumptions.  I saw a man who had lived a small life, in a small community, who never married.  I saw a stoic Norwegian, a man of simple habits and few words.  But he wanted me to know things that I couldn't see, or at least that I couldn't see with my eyes.  He wanted me to know that this man didn't have to stay here.  He had choices.  He could have been an engineer.  He could have been a lawyer.  He could have moved away to the big city.  He could have done anything he wanted, been anything he wanted.  But he chose to stay.  Why?

It's not the success story that we usually hear, that we have grown familiar with:  the story about getting to the top, the story about leaving behind the small life and making it in the big city.  It's not a rags to riches story, not a story about how intelligence, creativity and drive won the day.  But the words still haunt me, "He could have been anything he wanted.  He chose to stay here."

He chose to stay here.  That is the point the apostle Paul is trying to make, in the reading we heard from Philippians.  Here is Jesus, the eternal Son of God, familiar with glory, and power and honor, and yet.... he came here.  He came here, and he stayed here, with us.  He opened his hands and healed people.  He opened his hands and fed people.  He taught and forgive and loved.  He wept with those who wept.  He raised the dead.  He rejoiced.  He walked around.  He felt pain.  He died. 

It came to that. 

It goes in the opposite direction of the success stories that we usually hear.  First, he gave up his power, his glory, to come here.  He came here, and he stayed here.  He stayed so that people could feel his touch, could hear his voice, could be healed, and fed.  He stayed even when sky became dark, and everyone turned away.  He stayed when all that were left were taunters, saying, "He saved others.  He cannot save himself."

It came to that. 

We looked at him but didn't see.  On Palm Sunday it seemed so clear.  He was on his way up, and that was the way it was supposed to be.  But, in reality, he was on his way down, further down, all the way down, all the way down to the depths of human sin, and misery and injustice.  He was on his way down, for the sake of the children and the Pharisees, for the sake of the beautiful and the ugly, for the sake of the successful and the failures.   And no one wanted to go there with him, but he went there with us. 

Because that's what love will do. 

6 comments:

CJWille said...

Much for thought. To live where you are planted? Or to choose to be planted?

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

as always deeply beautiful...

Diane said...

thank you, Hot Cup. means a lot.

Diane said...

thank you, Hot Cup. means a lot.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Some people stay where they are because they don't realize that they have a choice. Others go and then come back to be planted. Others realize that they can bloom where ever they are planted. But you put it so much better.

As one who left the city for very (tiny) small town life, I think that in many ways my life is much richer and my talents more developed than they would have been in a city.

Diane said...

well put, PS.