January 6, 2012

Such Love

I sat sobbing as the credits rolled, overwhelmed by the story I had just seen, the love of a devoted wife that had stuck with her man through thick and thin, through insanity and paranoia—true genius gone amuck. She was beautiful and committed, her man’s salvation. And here was her reward--as he stood at the podium in his latter years receiving the Nobel Prize for his accomplishments long years before—he attributed his success to the woman who had stuck with him through it all. I wept.

I don’t think the kids quite knew why Mom was crying…maybe they haven’t lived long enough to appreciate such rare love. The movie was a tribute to true love’s redemptive effect; I cried because I too have known such love. Why me? Why should I be beneficiary to the love of a good man devoted unrelentingly to my success, let alone the God of the universe pledged to bless me now and forever. Such love.

I wept too for the thought of such loneliness, such isolation as diseases of the mind create. I thought of my own father in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, unable to know or be known by those he loves most, alone in a labyrinth of confusion…but for God, this God who loves still, this God from whose love nothing can separate us, not life, not death, nor any of the things in between…

And admittedly, I wept a little for fear of such aloneness coming to me. Life is lonely at its core even in the best of times. We are known and loved in such a limited way by flesh and blood. Noone knows us as we wish to be known—and should disease impair our minds, what then? And yet, there is no fear in love--this genuine all-surpassing kind of Love that we are lavished with in Christ. We are fully known and fully loved. This too is awesome. And with credits rolling and soundtrack playing ,  (“All Love Can Be” –Charlotte Church*) I sobbed in wonder of it all… The mental illness had not vanished but love had triumphed.

Is this not a picture of life as we know it? Even as believers, as ‘called out’ ones, as ‘holy and beloved’ ones, we suffer—bound to the hope of things yet to come. Redeemed and yet waiting for redemption. And it is only God’s love poured into our hearts that holds us together in the meantime (Rom.5:3-5).  Despite trouble, trial, heartbreak, disappointment, tragedy… we are declared to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” (Rom.8:37)

The movie we had watched was “A Beautiful Mind”. It is roughly based on the true story of a man named John Forbes Nash, a mathematical genius whose theories would impact such diverse fields of knowledge as economics, biology, accounting, and politics. He was portrayed as not only brilliant but arrogant in his student days. The diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia began a long painful process by which he was forced to face his weaknesses and learn to live dependent on others to confirm what is real and what is not. Through the love and commitment of wife and colleagues he eventually returns to the academic world a far humbler and wiser man. The movie was exceptional.  (and to think that he studied and still lives very near my own hometown…)

As is so often the case in movies, this one was too good to be entirely true. I am something of a tortured romantic. I watch the occasional movie to live for just a bit in a world that is better than real life. But I can’t seem to leave off the analysis afterward—was that true? And generally, I am disappointed. So, the morning after the movie I did a bit of research… Yes, these people were quite human. Their good points were exaggerated. Their bad points minimized. Their love imperfect. Sigh. But having pushed past the initial disappointment, still I am inspired by the story, for it smacks of one that is true. Real love does redeem and ennoble and transform. And that’s for real. Those who know how well-loved they are, give witness by their lives to love’s redemptive glory. Those who haven’t realized the extent of God’s love for them have a good thing coming… Me? I’m somewhere in between. But I like what I see!

To know the reaches of God’s love which lie beyond our ability to fathom, (Eph.3:16-18) this is a worthy pursuit for a lifetime. To reflect that love (“Love one another as I have loved you” -- Jn.15:12) is a daunting calling! Who is sufficient for these things?! But every time we see glimmers of the real thing happening, whether in movies, or in real-life, there’s reason to call attention to it and stand in awe of the God who is the author of such love. The subject is inexhaustible! I guess that’s why there are SO many songs extolling love’s virtues. The first that comes to mind is this one, found scribbled on the wall of an insane asylum when the inmate died:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”

They say these words were not original but derived from an ancient Hebrew poem which was later amended with two additional verses (Frederich M. Lehman--1917) to comprise the hymn we know today as “The Love of God”.

One blogger has fittingly called its opening lines his “Blogger’s Acknowledgment”: The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. He explains:

In this kingdom of the blog world we have a seemingly unlimited sky of parchment on which to write and everyone does appear to be a scribe by trade. Each keyboard is certainly the stalk and quill utilized by every scribe and according to the "Google Blogger" we will not even come close to draining dry their hard drive….So whether with ink, quill and parchment or keyboard, mouse and cyberspace [these] words… express the inexhaustible and ineffable nature of God’s love towards His people. I’ve called our inadequacy to exhaust the expressions of His love through writing: ‘This Blogger’s Acknowledgment’ (Dave Van).

As for my blogger’s tribute, I will leave you a little collection of better words than mine, on this great love...

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

--George Matheson 1842-1906

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!”

--Samuel T. Francis 1834-1925


And lastly, my confession, taken from Laura Story’s lyrics in “Faithful God”

All I am and all I’ll ever be, is all because [God] loves so faithfully…Ahhh… such love.


“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Rom.5:3-5


* James Horner is the composer and conductor of “The Beautiful Mind” soundtrack.

The lyrics of the closing song to this soundtrack are as follows. They hold a more profound meaning when viewed from the vantage point of one loved by God…

All that Love Can Be

I will watch you in the darkness,
Show you love will see you through.
When the bad dreams wake you crying,
I'll show you all love can do -
All love can do.
I will watch through the night,
Hold you in my arms,
Give you dreams where love will be.
I will watch through the dark
Till the morning comes
All the light I'll take you
Through the night to see -
Our light, showing us all love can be.
I will guard you with my bright wings,
Stay till your heart learns to see
All love can be.

--Will Jennings


Bernis said...

Excellent PBS documentary on John Forbes Nash is posted at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/a-brilliant-madness-john-nash/

Linda said...

Thanks for pointing me to this film Bernis. I've just watched it... when all is said, it is still a triumphant story, and a powerful lesson re: pride I think. Thanks.