Wednesday, April 13, 2005

You've Made a Fool of Everyone

I just finished reading a novel for my book group (The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini) which I felt dragged to, kicking and screaming. I'm not normally drawn to books of that sort, but once begun, I was swept into its universality and spat out at the end knowing I am much more like the protagonist than I'd like to admit. He, Amir, spent his early life being jealous of, vindictive to, and failing to protect the innocent who would have died for him (Hassan). "For you a thousand times over," his servant/friend/brother told him. And though betrayed again and again by the one he loved, Hassan never stopped loving, never ceased believing, never gave up the hope that good would prevail. As the heroes in the "Hall of Faith" of Hebrews 11, he" died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar." Hassan set his love upon Amir and deemed him worthy of that love, regardless of whether Amir's actions, words or feelings lived up to his devotion. Another interesting facet of the story is the meaning of the character's names. Amir means prince. How little like a true prince among people Amir acted, and yet how much like a prince often truly is (e.g. Charles in charge): spoiled and selfish. Hassan means handsome. An ironic name to give to a hare-lipped Hazara. And yet, he was handsome in his unselfish devotion to everyone is his life, especially Amir. That type of devotion is often thought of and portrayed in literature and film as weakness. We mock those whose hearts are pure, who are willing to look beyond the faults, to turn the other cheek. We see ourselves as superior to them, more highly evolved. We nudge, nudge, wink, wink with droll irony. Picture Jesus at his trial and crucifixion. He didn't defend himself, he (like Hassan) was willing to suffer pain and degradation for his friends. To the spectators he was the ultimate wimp. Like Amir, perhaps we assent intellectually to unconditional love, but when it comes our way, we turn uncomfortably. Is it because to be unconditionally loved reveals us for what we are--imperfect, in need of an affection that sees us for who we really are and still cares? Our pride gets in the way. How dare that person love me in spite of my faults? What faults? What's more, it never seems to be the one we want the love from who loves us. Amir didn't desire Hassan's love; he wanted his father's. Are we not the same? It's never quite right. God loves me? That's nice, but I want so-and-so to love me. I'm the Amir: give me what I want. But in the darkness of night or the haggard face of the early morning mirror, we long for someone to know our true selves and not turn in horror, the love Hassan had for Amir. He knew that Amir knew his secret, he knew Amir betrayed him, and yet felt somehow he was at fault for not loving Amir enough. He forgave even when the forgiveness wasn't desired. In the end, he was the one who lived with joy amid the poverty and pain because he was handsome--in his soul. Amir finally learned to receive the love that had been offered to him his whole life, and the novel ends hopefully. We, too, must learn that being loved unconditionally is not the bondage we deceive ourselves into believing it is, but rather the freedom we so desperately seek. Accepting the love that loves who we really are and hopes for who we can be brings solace to our hurts and repairs our brokenness. When we learn that God's love--accepted and embraced by loving His Son--is what we need, we actually reveal to be fools those who still seek their hearts yearnings in everything but the Love that Will Not Let Us Go.


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