June 11, 2016 by Nicole
So an interesting question popped into my head the other night while praying my rosary. In the midst of the last decade of the Sorrowful mysteries (The Crucifixion), I wondered. Did God get “schooled?”
Now, I totally get that God teaches us stuff every day, and He gives us as many opportunities as we need to learn. If we consider ourselves to be good Christians, then we spend lots of time trying to be more like Christ. I have read my C.S. Lewis, and I know that God is not only love, but He is holy and perfect. Our human nature causes us to sin, and that makes a rift between us and our Father. But God loved us, and he wanted to bridge that gap, so He sent us His Son to fix what went wrong. God is perfect, and we are not. We need a mediator to stand up for us–someone who has walked a mile in our shoes–to speak on our behalf. Because when it comes down to it, what we deserve and what we have been promised through Christ are two very different things.
So I started to wonder. Before God put skin on and test drove a human body, did He know what it felt like to want a snack? Did he know how refreshing a night’s sleep could be? Or the agony of needing to go to the bathroom and having to hold it because there was nowhere to go? Yeah, I know. These are odd things to wonder about. Then I started to think what it must have felt like to experience the limitations of having to learn things, like how to read and write, or to build something with his hands. But then the thought occurred to me that if Jesus was God and He was fully human, He must have been through all of it, right down to being sweaty on a hot day and having a pebble in his sandal.
After I got about two Hail Marys into that decade, I started to imagine Jesus hanging there on that cross and all the suffering that led up to it. I found myself asking what it was about that experience that made God realize what it meant to be fully human, and what it was about His creation that was absolutely worth dying for. It’s one thing to create some people, give them free will and want them to love you back. I think it’s probably very similar to the way you think about kids when you don’t have any of your own versus what you discover about your capacity to love when you actually bring a child into the world, or like book smarts (of which I have a lot) and street smarts (of which I have none.).
It’s very fascinating to me what God discovered about humans’ capacity to love when He came down here to live among us. There was a first time that He was hugged and kissed by His “mommy.” There was the first time someone told him something so funny that He laughed until his stomach hurt. There was the first time that he experienced having a best friend, and all the fun that goes along with hanging out with your buddies. And along with the good times, there were times when He got angry, exhausted, scared, and irritated. More importantly, he experienced the heartbreak of losing loved ones–his stepfather Joseph, his cousin John, and his friend Lazarus come to mind.
I wondered if the human part of Him ever got–for lack of a better way of saying it–pissed off about the injustice of what happened to Him following Judas’ betrayal. Did He ever feel, even momentarily, sorry for Himself, or angry that He had only done what was right–what God asked Him to do–and ended up being beaten, tortured, humiliated, and then killed by the people He was supposed to be saving? Was there ever a moment, in the midst of all that horror, He was tempted to think, “People who are this cruel and capable of doing so much evil don’t deserve this. They should reap what they sow.”
But then, I pictured His mother Mary standing there with His friend John at the foot of the cross, along with a few of the other women who knew Him. They had the courage to stand by Him through His entire Passion and death. And even though fear caused His closest disciples to run, He knew how much they loved Him and the conviction with which they would undertake His work once he was gone. It reminds me a little of what Gandalf says to Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (My husband will be very proud of my allusion here.) Galadriel, a powerful and immortal elf, asks Gandalf, who himself is of divine origin and possesses great power, why he chose Bilbo–a Halfling–to accompany the dwarves on their dangerous attempt to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Gandalf says, “Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
Through Jesus, God didn’t spend the majority of His time on Earth among men like the heroes of the Old Testament: Jacob, Moses, Daniel, or David. He lived among the “everyday people.” He spent his time ministering to the poor and the powerless, and those people loved Him. They invited Him into their homes and welcomed Him their lives, provided for Him, and befriended Him. And He must have experienced again and again what He loved so much about being the God of His people. Maybe it was because of the people He loved most, and who loved Him most during his life on earth, that God really experienced how deeply and how passionately humans can love not just Him, but the extent to which His capacity to love his creation is reflected in the way we are capable of loving others. And that, I think, is something worth dying for.