A word. I need a word. A word for how it feels to be punched in the gut, hit by a train, to survey the devastation of an explosion. I need a word that I can use without sin, without offense. I need a word for loss.
You will say I am being obtuse. There are many words for loss. But if you begin to list them for me I will know you do not understand my meaning. I know these words. Confusion. Grief. Pain. Loneliness. Wandering. Anger. Bewilderment. Helplessness. Fear. NIghtmare. Each I have given its own sentence for two reasons. First, they must be kept apart because they are too powerful together. Second they are entities, with the force of dark deity. They almost rule the human world. Almost.
C.S. Lewis hinted at my need in the “deplorable word,” so strong that its utterance is a massive destructive wind. But I neither need nor desire a word that hurts. I need one that articulates the pain of destruction. A word that could fold itself neatly next to the griever and abide, silent but fierce.
Most of the words we send in the place of this word are “bad words”-profanity, obscenity, offense. We use these because we all know we need this other word, we have failed to find it, but the pain finds us and we exclaim obscenity and offense instead of the word. The word I need.
Hell and damnation are close, the inevitable companions of violence; but not enough. Years ago I learned a lot from Sartre. He was an existentialist, an atheist, and yet in his play No Exit he furnishes us with a vision of the minimum requirements for hell-ourselves alone, no hope, no God to save us. We are so shocked by talk of eternal flames we miss the quiet dread of eternal loneliness and unquenchable loss. What beyond the loss of Love Himself will ever equal Hell?
But we are not scared. For us, the physician’s wry maxim “all bleeding stops” and its nursery corollary, “all crying stops” constrains our imagination. If we are to approach this word I am looking for we must see into the eternity of humans unchecked by justice or truth-Hitler endlessly smashing through Europe, Stalin free to smash his little kingdoms forever; each man, each monster in a rictus of pain, but monstrous still in the eternal reenactment of suffering and warring evil. That is hell and we have seen it from the moment when Cain viewed the carnage of his brother’s murder.
But still where is the word?
The word is the only word that has ever mattered-Jesus, God Saves. He does not just abide with all grievers, He becomes the embodiment of sorrow. He does not just pronounce or encounter the invective of Hell, He smashes its gates, He breaks its brute force.
When I hear people who do not know Him use His name as casual exclamation I know they do not understand Who He is; but no one can ultimately avoid the truth of either His name or His story.
God on the Cross pays with His life and breaks the gates of hell. He becomes our crime so He can be our redemption.
The Word. Jesus.