The sky appeared streaked and stained, layered and lush with glory, it was the golden hour, sunrise, the dawn of a new day, but my heart was as dark as the midnight hour. Hurt does that. What do I know of hurt? Compared to this hurting world I know nothing.
But I know something of it. I tried to dismiss it, discount it, but it only grew worse.
I hadn’t thought of Lillian Hellman in over a decade, and of all things to think of at that moment, her story came back to me, the story I had watched as a child and never forgot—The Children’s Hour—about intolerance and hatred, tragedy and betrayal.
Betrayal can be like a double death. When you lose someone whom you’ve loved and had loved you in return, their love continues to live on in you. Betrayal robs you of that. Betrayal leaves you with one-sided love. Yours alone, you aren’t loved back. You have a choice then, to hold on to love or move toward hate. There’s not much of an option, so wounded are you. But hate destroys, you know this. Even when it seems to win physically, you fail spiritually.
And then I thought of the betrayal of Judas. He had been Jesus’ longtime co-worker, comrade and friend. I had never wondered if Jesus loved Judas, but suddenly I wondered. Jesus still called Judas “friend” after Judas had turned him in then had the nerve to kiss him. It was the last human touch Jesus received before torture, night had fallen.
In Lillian Hellman’s story; Mary Tillford, the young woman in the all-girls boarding school wanted to have things her way. She went to great lengths to get it and ended up destroying careers, opportunities for others, and an entire school. She destroyed lives. Judas wanted his own way. Greed, pride, and jealousy drove him. His choices led him to the destruction of the One who loved him.
Who stirs up trouble? Is it you? Is it me? Or do we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of the stirring and don’t have enough sense to ask for help out of the pot. Mary Tillford whined and bullied her way forward when she didn’t get her way, betraying the very ones who had cared for her. Then guilt and despair caused Mary Tillford’s teacher, Martha, to take her own life.
When Judas betrayed his longtime friend and companion, it was love and forgiveness that caused Jesus to give his life. Jesus said to love each other, he modeled it, but how can we really, really do that when our hearts are beaten and broken, bruised and betrayed?
I look out over the streaked, stained, painted picture, lush and layered in shadowy textures all filtered in light, and try to imagine what we all came from out there somewhere at the heart of space and time and eternity.
I think how God came to this planet that I’m now standing on, looking up, and somehow know, there is a love which can overcome hatred and destroy death. I wanted to understand Jesus’ love for the one who had betrayed him. Then I realized, if he didn’t love Judas, why would he love any of us?
The loveliness of God comes in the midst of pain. There in the midst of our own hurting hearts, comes the sensation of the saving grace of a Savior, stained and streaked, layered and lush with glory, who died and rose and overcame so we could too.