I can recall hundreds of incidents and episodes in my mind where I've been invariably caught off guard and beckoned to behold all of the wonderful things that I find captivating about life. What are they? Well, that would be telling! They vary from sunsets to stars, dreams to dances and words to walks. But, they all have one thing in common... They each possess the ability to entice and fill with joy. They are the producer of the memories which make you smile as you walk in to work, laugh when no one is around, and bring an overriding sense of comfort; a sense of well-being and inexplicable peace. It is as though transcendent arms are reaching down into creation and wrapping themselves around you.
Have you ever thought about what those things are for you? They could be places, music, kind words. They could even be people! Now there's a question... Who is the most captivating person you've ever met and why? Discuss.
Hmmm... I've had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people in my life. I've shared a bag of crisps with Dermot O'Leary, had the poet Benjamin Zephaniah pour over some of my writing, and even, yes even, had my photo taken with likes of Michael Ball when he was performing in Hairspray in London's West End, and had dinner with Ellen McArthur! But, these are not really the wonderful people who have left an indelible impression on me and my life. Though they are great, they are not the people I've had the pleasure of sharing life alongside and see them as they respond to the deepest of hurts and greatest of joys. The people I think of are those that have shown considerable patience and love in times of adversity; people who eminate life, where praise is never far from their lips and help is at hand when you need someone and everyone else scatters.
Who are those people for you? I have often thought about why it is that these people are so enticing, so compelling, so... captivating. Is it because they are so unlike the people we are used to encountering that they stand out a little? That their sheer presence in and of itself makes things just a little bit brighter? Why do people like this exist? In such dark times, what or who are they reflecting?
When things are so broken, how is it retained? I want what they have got. Not a quick-fix, take this and you'll be instantly radiant, but the possession and expression of life. Real life.
I have a confession to make. That is, I have found it. I'm captivated by a person. A person who has given me life. A life that though my body will die, the 'I' that I am will survive and be forever united with life itself. A life that is not a 'force', an impersonal source of energy that needs to be tapped into or channeled, but a person. I have a relationship with the creator of the cosmos, all because of a man named Jesus of Nazareth. A man who definitely had it going on! A man who was the life and soul of every party he went to, a man who in a busy world took the time to listen, a man who deeply mourned the loss of his friends, a man who loved to spend his time on mountaintops, and a man who possessed such life that he gave life to others. He healed the sick and he rose people from the grave (!), a man who with a word silenced storms and with one look could plumb the depths of your heart and still love you. Time and space is hinged upon him, he was there in the beginning and he will be there at the very end.
He provided the universe with the solution.
He said that something more was needed, that life was to be found in giving, and is ultimately found in forgiving. He said that we need to forgive people, that we need to free them from the burden of their guilt and shame and no longer hold what they have done against them. But, he also said that we too need to be equally forgiven by the one who consciously or not, humanity commits each offence against; God himself. What is the offence? It is a disease, it is something we have been born into and it is terminal. Committed long ago, the offence is still alive and well, living through us today. It is acting upon that voice that says 'Don't worry, no one is looking, do it.. they'll never know. Besides, you'll feel better afterwards'. It is that condition and willful allegiance to everything that destroys, everything that distorts and everything that produces death. It is lying, it is stealing, it is saying 'no' when you know you should have said 'yes', it is acting in a way that is unbecoming of one who was created to fully and beautifully bear the image of God. It is a much deeper problem though than how we act, though it is evidenced in action, it is our hearts themselves that actually want to do it. So, we cannot.
We cannot live up to any expectations, holy or otherwise, because we are wholly incapable.
No matter how hard we try, we will be never be good enough. That is why Jesus said forgiveness is something that we need to receive, as it cannot be conjured up from within ourselves. That would be unfair. It needs to be granted, but it comes at a price, and it is steep. The wages of sin is death, and it needs to be collected, or the debt is never fully removed. Afterall, we know that one cannot be half slave and half free. You are either in or you are out.
This is what makes Jesus so compelling, not only was he a man, but to write off the debt that we each owe against himself (God), he paid it for us, knowing that we never could; he was able to pay it because he is God. He shows us unfathomable love and forgiveness by choosing to die in our place, so that we can be united with him and God the Father who sent him, and the Spirit that is sent from him and God the Father so that we can have that life, that real life that is available in high definition, multi-colour, surround sound. A life that is never lived in vein. A life that is not inadequate, demeaning or unsuccessful, no matter how tough things get. No, it is a life that is valuable and has worth and meaning beyond comprehension to the one who lovingly crafted it and willed it to be. All we need to do is say that we are sorry and receive the gift of life from Jesus.
Is that not a life worth living for?
Is he not captivating?
"I believe that that the sun has risen, not because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else"
- C.S.Lewis (1898-1963), Professor of Medieval and Rennaisance English at Cambridge University.