Sometimes, life gets so squeezed and narrow that it seems small enough to shove into a tiny, dark tomb. This smallness takes a million forms, because there are a million ways we mess ourselves up, a million ways we screw each other over. Pay attention: narrowness is squeezing people into oblivion all around you. You don't need me to name the ways; you know all too well what they are.
The passage from John 10 has been haunting me for months, now. Jesus tells the Pharisees, who have been scoffing about his healing of the blind man, that he is the sheep gate. I don't exactly know what that means, but what it sounds like to me is that Jesus - after proving himself a healer of bodies and souls - explains to the doubting religious leaders how that is true: I am God, incarnate. I am no wizard or trickster or demon, I am God, come to be with you and live this human existence. I came through the gate, born of a woman, nourished at her breast and in the temple, grown up on the same flatbread and olives you fed your own children, suffered through puberty and growing pains, family arguments and hangnails. I am fully human, fully present here with you. And I am God.
God got small. Imagine the squeezing narrowness that took, disregarding divinity, emptying himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. If ever a thing felt constricting, if ever a circumstance felt unending, if ever a being felt as if she were being prevented from living out her potential…God must have felt claustrophobic.
Not to mention that anytime he tried to explain himself, his very best friends and most loyal followers looked back at him with dumb expressions of incomprehension.
God got small. God GETS small. And still, even in those claustrophobic years, we know that God found potential, possibility, that God made ways, that God made waves. Got got small, and lived like a human being. And even though no one could believe it, he still acted like who he was, constantly shifting expectations and bringing unexpected newness from dead-certain circumstances. Water turned to wine, sick made well, demons cast out, outcasts brought in, empires upturned, stories untold.
God got small, and experienced all those ways we narrow ourselves. And, at the end, God died from all the smallness, suffocated from the narrow-mindedness, crucified by dearth of wonder.
We should really stop skipping over that part. God died. God got small, and turned things in our tiny world upside down, and those openings and possibilities and augmentations got God in trouble. God got small, tried to tell us how to be bigger, and we killed him for it.
It's holy Saturday, and God is dead. Our smallness killed him, kills him still. Shrinking violets that we are, we can't even imagine a way out. And I suppose that is why we avoid this day, this day when God is dead: because we don't really believe that our smallness can be overcome. We don't really believe that if we do allow for death, that there can ever be anything bigger. We think this is the end.
And, well, isn't it?