Tuesday, May 12, 2009

If only ... (John 11)

A friend and co-worker of mine checked out early a few years ago. He introduced me to the sport of century riding,[1] and helped me work through problems with my bicycle, or the bizarre software we used to create technical manuals. Then, nearly a year after I'd moved on from that job, we saw his face and name in the obituary column. The fact that no one wanted to talk about the cause of death pretty well confirmed the cause of death. He'd been depressed for a long time, laid off from his job, and apparently could not recover his equilibrium.

People who commit suicide, according to a study I read about many years ago, often have a recursive perspective on time. Rather than looking ahead, they obsessively loop back to some landmark moment, usually painful, in their lives. "If only ..." is a lethal phrase that can crash your mental and emotional programming. Yet, Jesus heard it, too.
Joh 11:32 Meryem İsa'nın bulunduğu yere vardı. O'nu görünce ayaklarına kapanarak, "Ya Rab" dedi, "Burada olsaydın, kardeşim ölmezdi."
Joh 11:33 Meryem'in ve onunla gelen Yahudiler'in ağladığını gören İsa'nın ruhunu hüzün kapladı, yüreğizladı.
Joh 11:34 "Onu nereye koydunuz?" diye sordu. O'na, "Ya Rab, gel gör" dediler.
Joh 11:35 İsa ağladı.
Joh 11:36 Yahudiler, "Bakın, onu ne kadar seviyormuş!" dediler.
Joh 11:37 Ama içlerinden bazıları, "Körün gözlerini açan bu kişi, Lazar'ın ölümünü de önleyemez miydi?" dediler.
And, let's look at a few phrases:
  • Burada olsaydın, kardeşim ölmezdi -- At here / if you had been / my brother / would not have died. (interesting how it takes English speakers four words and four syllables to convey a thought a Turk can package in a single three-syllable word.)
  • İsa ağladı. -- Shortest verse in the Bible.
  • Bakın, onu ne kadar seviyormuş! -- Behold / him / how much / he (apparently, seems to have) loved. The syllable muş refers to things the speaker does not know first-hand. It's called the "dubitative" or "narrative" marker.
  • Körün gözlerini açan bu kişi, Lazar'ın ölümünü de önleyemez miydi? -- The blind person's / eyes / opened / this one / Lazarus's / death / but / could he not have prevented?
It is unfair to judge past selves by present insights. We, and those we love, did the best we could at the time with the level of maturity and insight we had at that point. In a world fraught with ignorance, operating personalities which each have their own blind spots, we are going to blunder, sometimes catastrophically. It is comforting to note that God grieves with us over our losses -- but also goes on to offer miraculous redemption.

We will need to wait for the next life to see how God will resolve some of the conundrums in our lives. Meanwhile, knowing that His character is made visible through the life, words, and deeds of Jesus makes it easier to walk in faith. To look ahead. To avoid the death spiral of looping[2] thinking.

[1] A few hundred happy people, most in sleek spandex outfits, get on bicycles and ride for 100 km (63.n miles -- a metric century) or 100 miles (English century). Usually, some charitable organization sponsors the ride as a fund raising event. Every 15 or 20 miles, the riders can stop for snacks, Gator Ade, and to visit the portapotty. A "sag wagon" follows the cyclists, offering repairs as needed, or rides to the finish line for those who "hit the wall."

[2] "Structured programming" was a philosophy of software design that eschewed loops. Real programmers often sneered at BASIC (Beginner's All-Purpose Simplified Instructional Code) because it include the GO TO command, and at PASCAL, since it made loops impossible. Grace Hopper, "The world's second programmer on the world's first electronic computer," referred to PASCAL as "an 'elegant' language," and made it plain that, in this context, "elegant" was a pejorative. PASCAL was designed for academic, not for real-world, use.

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