I keep a book of quotations. It looks exactly like any other journal, but it’s for a different kind of journaling. Journaling with the words of other writers, if you will. Here I scribble down quotations from all kinds of books: poetry, theology, memoir, literary theory, fiction, you name it. I write down anything I want to remember.
Sometimes I use these quotations later, in my own writing or maybe just in conversation. But, it isn’t really about utility. It’s about beauty. Language can be so beautiful it stuns. However, I am generally reading so much, so quickly that I need a way to hold on to those beautiful bits that I just can’t bear to let wash down the stream of words, words, words.
During our recent vacation, I read Ian Morgan Cron’s Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts.
It fully lives up to its title. Which means that the story it tells is crazy and beautiful, wise and, frequently, very, very funny.
Toward the end of his story, Cron describes the life-changing moment when he hears (or thinks he hears) the voice of Jesus asking him, Cron, for forgiveness. These words heal an ugly wound in Cron’s heart, but they puzzle him too.
He knows in his head that Jesus is perfect. Knows that there can never be any reason why He would need to ask for forgiveness.
When asked, theologians, pastors, and priests consistently fail to unravel this apparent contradiction. Finally, a woman named Miss Annie, a woman with no seminary training, does exactly that. She tells Cron, “Why wouldn’t Jesus humble himself and tell a boy he was sorry for letting him down if he knew it would heal his heart?” Cron interrupts with what he knows: “But if Jesus is perfect?”
“Miss Annie ambled the five or six feet that separated us and took my hand. ‘Son,’ she said, rubbing my knuckles with her thumb, ‘love always stoops.’”
Since finishing the book, I’ve been considering the truth of Miss Annie’s words. I can remember years where the things I knew about God seemed to stand like a wall between me and His love. Learn just a little bit about God’s power, his glory, his holiness . . . do that, and it can be hard to fit your own miserable, tiny little self into the picture.
Maybe there are those who can hear a Sunday School lesson on God’s love and then feel it in their bones. All I really know is that it didn’t work that way for me. Perhaps my head and my heart are farther apart than they should be.
I will always be grateful that Love stooped down and came looking for me. Like Miss Annie said, Love humbles itself, Love stoops, and what this means to me is that Love pursues. Love chases. Love makes itself small enough for even our short-sighted, human eyeballs.
Love searches desperately for one lost sheep, and love keeps on searching until that sheep is safe, until that sheep knows and feels that she is loved.