The other day we went for a drive toward Mount Hood. I was feeling sick, so I stayed in the car when the family got out to explore the woods in the snow. But they were gone a long time, so I got out to sit under a tree in the sun.
I was thinking about Jesus, half praying, and the words “My God” were floating through my mind, half a song, when suddenly this image flashed into me: Jesus hung on the cross calling, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
A sudden tragedy, the idea that he had never expected this. Jesus, this visionary, walking around with this graced life, this special connection to heaven, immune to all these regular fears and problems: the guy who’s always got the wise word for people. That guy. And maybe he had this expectation for how his life would go — and then there’s this. This shocking, grating experience, not theoretical at all but real, bringing his life from 60 to zero in a grind that he did not see coming.
“Inconceivable, inconceivable that one blow could cause such pain! … Never, for any reason on earth, could you wish for an increase of pain. Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. … In the face of pain there are no heroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed on the floor, clutching uselessly at his disabled left arm” (Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part III, Chapter I).
Of course the sticklers will say, he did too see it coming because what about the garden of Gethsemane, and also: son of God. I know all that. What I’m saying doesn’t align with the text. Still, this is what struck me under the tree that day with such a shock of pain.