Epiphanies. They are wrought through fulfillment of an absence; an internal pit that screams on until it is filled. Here the rescue begins and tears your chest right open; the light inside explodes the sinews and kisses its kin beyond. And wholeness comes. Have you ever felt that tearing? Have you ever seen it in your mind? A chest stripped and ripped only to be left gaping wide in the most beautiful form imaginable? Epiphany.
Most of my adult life has been a vain keeping — keeping pain from loved ones as much as I am able because I hold that it is good to do so. A clutching of grief within my hidden parts where it ought to be. Being nice rather than kind. Do not let the germ touch those around you. I can bear it away. And here’s the kicker; by believing we can be or do something to prevent others’ suffering and affliction of our own volition, we simply water the darkness inside until it vomits out on those very people we were so desperately aiming to protect.
As our reading group finished On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior, I was struck with her chapter on the virtue of kindness, using George Saunders’ story, “The Tenth of December”, as a berth for understanding. And the kindness of Providence gifted me an encore to a personal epiphany.
My brokenness may be a kindness to my kin — when the internal storm upsurges and sprays, and I am found sprinting in panic to catch all the drops before they wet — let the cataract hit my beloved in the face. It is all I can do. It is acceptance of the real. Of the truth.
And then all of that spew is bottled up by the hands of a compassionate God as we offer it up to Him. Offering. Indeed I have this to give. Because of Christ. The incarnate Word. The Epiphany where God enfleshed ripped the tent asunder so that the second Adam, made manifest in Ultimate Kindness, bore His flesh wide open, bleeding fountains over dead and gone humanity. Curtain torn in two. Three days dead. Resurrected.
The ultimate blood-deluge of suffering and forsakenness would actually heal us all?
Yes, in the name of The Christ – Kindness tethered to the Truth. This is the most beautiful, the most glorious business. Hebrews tells us Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, yet despising the shame.
Joy and shame braided together to create a cord of hope for humanity.
In the Old Testament, Boaz speaks of Ruth offering him the greater kindness when she sits at his feet and asks him to take her as his bride. She was asking him for help at a great cost to himself. And Boaz called it kindness. Ruth was redeemed and Boaz was given joy-manifest.
An excerpt in Prior’s book taken from Saunders’ story reads,
Why should he not do or say weird things or look strange or disgusting? Why should the s—— not run down his legs? Why should those he loved not lift and bend and feed and wipe him, when he would gladly do the same for them?
It is not pleasant or agreeable, but it is a statement of truth, of realizing the beauty of kindness going both ways. In “The Tenth of December”, Saunders displays this; a boy is given the epiphany that living in his imaginative pursuit maybe was not as beautiful as life itself; and the old man’s epiphany saved his life. Joy claimed the corners where his grieving once lied. Epiphany.
- Ilya Repin, A Shy Peasant (1877), The State Art Museum, Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia