Onion with Christ

I am not a doodler. (I remember as a kid watching my mom talk on the phone and seeing her doodle the most elaborate arrows in the corners of paper, going over and over them until they were so dark they almost broke the paper. Marc is also a doodler. I bought him a box with small nine drawers once for him to place all of the papers that he would otherwise leave loose on the computer desk . At some point after we moved into our second house, he went through the drawers, I’m pretty sure about 20 notepad pages with nothing but Marc Vandersluys doodled on it made the move.) I am not a doodler. But I doodled on my class notes last week in theology class. The title of the section was “Union with Christ” and I added a very small curve — going over it enough times to match the thickness — and made “Onion with Christ.” I amused myself.

I was out for lunch with a friend today. We were visiting and studying. Our studying kept getting interrupted by our visiting, and so I reread the same sentence in my text twice. I misread the sentence twice, as well. Both times I read, “We are like helpless prawns in a chess game and God is making all the moves.” I mentioned this little mix-up to my friend and then told her about how I made “Onion with Christ.” (Come to think of it, if I misread some pasta and a sauce, I could have a delicious meal!)

My friend, referring to the onion with Christ, said something along the lines of “all those layers to peel back…”

I am currently working on a theology paper that looks at how reconciliation may be a fitting metaphor for God’s work of salvation in our post-modern society. One of my friends suggested I look at The Mediation of Christ by Thomas Torrance, and am I ever glad I did! That book is a gold-mine! I felt like I should quote every other sentence in the chapter on reconciliation!

But here’s what stuck out to me most: God didn’t reconcile humanity just at the surface with the social or political or economic fixes we so often look for, instead,

“by striking beneath them all into the ontological depths of Israel’s existence where man, and Israel representing all mankind, had become estranged from God, and there within those ontological depths of human being … forge[d] a bond of union and communion between man and God in himself which can never be undone.”

Torrance spends a good deal of time talking about how God made human sin and estrangement the very means by which he bound humanity to him:

“… the passion of Christ, not as something for the holy but precisely for the sinner. It was their sin, their betrayal, their shame, their unworthiness, which became in the inexplicable love of God the material he laid hold of and turned into the bond that bound them to the crucified Messiah, to the salvation and love of God forever.”

So, union with Christ begins with the onion with Christ, where we peel back the many layers of ourselves to find who we ultimately are. This isn’t even a Christian concept, lots of other ideologies hold to this notion of knowing yourself, becoming self-actualized, etc.

It is a life-long process to know who you really are — all of the hurts, hopes, fears, motivations, interactions, what are the lies and what are the truths about who we are. So many layers to peel away. And it is not an easy process. But unless it is done, there is always the fear  — conscious or unconscious — that we will find something in ourselves that we just can’t handle.

That’s why Torrance’s words struck me. Christ has plumbed the ontological depths of human being — he knows the deepest, darkest parts of myself and has bound them forever to his love. There really is nothing to fear after that… when the one who knows — the only one who could ever know — truly knows and has made it truly right. To be loved as you are (even the “are” you aren’t aware of!)… that is hope, indeed.

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