the kingdom of heaven is a spike in the back of my head
I had planned to talk about how weird it is that they have all these earth-friendly, natural products like organic yogurt and all-natural toothpaste, but that no one seems to be noting the irony in the fact that these products are being packaged in miniature, plasticized portions.
Before I could write this, I went to pick my three-year-old son up at his jiu-jitsu lesson. I was lying there on the mat taking some pictures of him and his teacher/uncle when he ran over, plopped down beside me, and spontaneously reached up to kiss me on the cheek. It was perfect. Picture perfect. Then someone came into the dojo behind me. My son turned and the aforementioned spike plunged deep into my cranial space as I heard him say, excitedly, "That's my step-dad!"
Less than two days since I learned my ex-wife has decided to re-marry. Less than two days, and I heard those four innocently-spoken words no father should ever have to hear.
The air around me became perfectly still, charged with tremendous import as the axis of the world shifted, just a bit. I had this brief moment where I thought, "This is it. This is where I ball up and roll, screaming, towards the abyss." Instead, I felt nothing. A vice clamped down on my chest, sure, but not the tearing-ripping-rending I would have expected. Numbness echoed through the hollow void, and, suddenly, it did not matter. Nothing mattered... nothing. Why should I care about some stupid plastic products? Why should I care if no one cares enough to invent a frickin' bamboo toothbrush with a frickin' screw-on, removable head? Why should I care if all the people in all the world get together and burn themselves down to a black, stinking, misshapen, toxic blob? Why should anything at all matter to me, when all I wanted in that moment was to be annihilated - to have my wreck-of-a-life wiped from the memory of God?
But then I remembered the kiss.
I remembered a son's unreserved love, a love that knew no bounds and cared nothing at all for the torn mess we adults have all made of our relationships. I remembered that my boy also loves a man who is not his father, because as a child he lives in the reality of his moment - not in the wish-was, and might-have-been. I remembered Jesus, who told his pretentious followers to let the little children come to him and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
This world may be a crap-hole. I may not want to live in it. But it is also a joy-veined mystery. The kingdom of heaven is NOW, in the kiss of a little boy.
I think of him growing, as I once did. Losing his innocence. Hurting, and being hurt. Breaking, and being broken. I look at all this plastic, and all these wars, and nuclear reactors built on fault lines, and genocidal maniacs with machetes, and I look at me, a man who hurts men and especially women, just for a little release. And I think,
"God, damn us all!"
"Look at what we are doing to this jewel of a planet! Look at what we are doing to this angel... my child! God, damn us all! And me, God, damn me first"
But then I remember the kiss.
I remember the kiss, and I beg instead for a little more mercy, a little more time to get it right - to stop poisoning our home in the name of convenience and selfish pride. I beg for the grace to love my son's new step-dad, just the way he does; to forget the pain of a put-upon name and just love. I beg for the hope I do not have. I beg, again, for love.