Even at my most faithful, I never really could deal with Yahweh, Abraham and Isaac. It was always one of the hardest Sunday school stories to swallow. Why would a God make a test so extreme? Satan was allowed to torment Job, but that was, at worst, negligence. Not nearly as troubling as the source of all goodness personally abusing an old man Himself, like some child playing with the lives of His toy soldiers. Worse than the Problem of Evil: the Problem of Love! How are we allowed to connect with each other when we know that we always have to come apart?
The other day, I saw my grandmother for the last time. It was not easy. She was lying down, pale and weak, her speechless mouth hanging open. I told her I was there to see her, and that I loved her. I had to leave shortly though, for her sake as much as mine. What good would it do for her to see her grandson at a time when he was afraid to even look at her? I was scared of the potential for the horror to compound, and I was scared of watching a preview of what my own series finale might look like, assuming I’m not prematurely canceled. I can’t imagine how my grandfather feels, being there next to her the whole time, holding her hand, looking at her eyes, telling her (and himself) that everything is going to be all right. But in a strange, sublime way, the thought is beautiful to me. This is a thing that happens, this is a desperate moment that defines all of our lifetimes, and during the infinity waiting, sitting on the edge of that pit, his bravery is all of us at our best. It’s the feeling you get when you’re crying, and it’s true despair, and you have a moment where it just feels good, because you let go of yourself or everyone else or because you haven’t felt alive in a very long time.
I won’t claim to understand any of this, or that I even have a guess toward the sacred question. I will claim that Carey’s voice in this song is a reminder that everyone feels this way, and that this might be okay. Singing from beyond all the fathers he has wrestled with in songs before, taking on the voice of the Father of Fathers, he makes a song that ascends as far as it can go and when it reaches the peak it can’t go any further, because none of us can, because the Lord provided a lamb. It’s a conclusion that gives me a feeling in my chest and stomach that I’m not equipped to describe, leaves me with a peace that I know could very well be nothing but a comfortable lie but I still hold onto it, as tight as I can. All we have are the stories we tell ourselves.
WHY: I still haven’t cried yet, dammit.