Last Thursday evening, I was on my way down to Livingston, Texas. I minister to a gentleman on Texas’ death row and I was headed to the state prison. Somewhere along a lonely highway, I received a phone call. My mother informed me that my grandfather was dead. I cried softly. Later, one of my church members asked, “What do you believe in at this moment?” “Absence,” I replied.
I am not interested in speaking like a minister at this moment. You see in this moment of darkness, I dare to speak like a human being. We can speak of God and religious things all that we want, but we fail to love our neighbor as our self if we don’t acknowledge the pain that comes with absence.
In the midst of the pain, I didn’t need verses of scripture…I just needed to remember a story or a version of it I read in a book by Peter Rollins.
There was a point in history where a woman named Regina, at just 30 years of age, made the decision to translate the Word of God into the obscure native language of her people. Regina saved her money to hire the scholars to translate and printers to print the copies. After 20 years, Regina finally had enough money…then an earthquake hit her small island. People were desperate for food and shelter. Regina spent all the money that she had raised on providing for the hurting. Regina fed the hungry and provided shelter for the homeless. It took everything she had to help the people and wiped out all of her savings. Desperate to translate the Word of God, Regina started over. Over the next 20 years, Regina worked odd jobs and strained for every ounce of wealth she could muster. Then, just as she was finally to the point where she could translate the Word of God, a plague hit her small island. People were lying out in the streets crying out for help. There weren’t enough doctors or facilities. Regina spent all of the money she saved up to help the people receive the treatment they needed. Regina saved many lives. Once again, it took everything she had to help those around here. Now, Regina was 70 years old. Desperate to finish her life’s ambition, Regina began to work again harder than ever before. Finally after another 20 years, Regina had collected the resources to translate the Word of God. Before she died at 91, she got to see the Word of God translated into the language of her people. It has been said that although Regina only translated the Word of God on paper once, she also translated it two other times for the people of her island.
This little story asks us to expand our minds as to what might be the Word of God. The truth is that sometimes the answers are not found in books. The truth is that books are only as useful as how they push us to live and love those around us. The Word of God is intended to be incarnated here with us. The truth is that everything that Jesus touches begins the process of becoming the incarnated Word of God until the restoration is complete. There are moments where we become the Word of God for others. Where we become the incarnation.
For me, my grandfather has consistently been the incarnation of the Word of God.
When I have wondered what the unconditional love of Jesus looks like, I didn’t turn to a book…I turned to my grandfather. I ponder what it means to be married and devoted to someone for 72 years. I think about nursing staff having to ask my elderly grandfather to leave my grandmother in the hospital and him adamantly refusing. I allow my mind to imagine my 88-year-old grandmother sitting there night after night over the last few weeks of my grandfather’s life…singing and telling him how much she loves him and simply not wanting to let go. The last words my grandfather ever spoke on this earth were to tell my grandmother that he loved her. I don’t need a book to talk to me about unconditional love. I watched it lived. I watched two people love each other in ways I never thought possible. This is the incarnation of the Word of God for me.
When I have wondered what the generosity of Jesus was like, I didn’t turn to a book…I turned to my grandfather. This is a man who loved everyone. Those the world called strange, my grandfather sought to love and touch. Those who needed a lift, my grandfather sought to pick them up. Those who were judged, my grandfather sought to save and love. My grandfather was changed by those he encountered and those he encountered were changed by him. This is the incarnation of the Word of God for me.
When I have wondered what the determination of Jesus looked like, I didn’t turn to a book…I turned to my grandfather. From sun up to sun down, my grandfather worked on the farm and at the body shop. He worked hard to provide for my grandmother and his family. When he got sick over and over again, my grandfather pushed to survive. When he knew that the end of his life was approaching, he pushed to get out those final I love yous. My grandfather never gave up the fight. Even in the midst of death, my grandfather remained defiant. Love was always bigger than any obstacle or even death. This is the incarnation of the Word of God for me.
My grandfather was the incarnation of the Word of God for me.
John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Those pieces of my grandfather that I saw…that I hold on to and speak about today…are the incarnated Word of God. Nothing my grandfather did right or well happened apart from the Word that is the incarnated God. I know that my grandfather has been restored and transformed to where he was in the beginning. I know that when my grandfather looked past my grandmother and out the window at the moment of his death…he met the Word and became the Word.
My grandfather was the Word of God in my life.
May we all become the incarnated Word of God in the lives of others.
May we be the translation that the world so desperately needs.