On Compensation

From Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping:

“There would be a general reclaiming of fallen buttons and misplaced spectacles, of neighbors and kin, till time and error and accident were undone, and the world became comprehensible and whole. . . . It was perhaps only from watching gulls fly like sparks up the face of clouds that dragged rain the length of the lake that I imagined such an enterprise might succeed. Or it was from watching gnats sail out of the grass, or from watching some discarded leaf gleaming at the top of the wind. Ascension seemed at such times a natural law. If one added to it a law of completion–that everything must finally be made comprehensible–then some general rescue of the sort . . . would be inevitable. For why do our thoughts turn to some gesture of a hand, the fall of a sleeve, some corner of a room on a particular anonymous afternoon, even when we are asleep, and even when we are so old that our thoughts have abandoned other business? What are all these fragments for, if not to be knit up finally?”

I believe in an atonement that compensates us for every loss. I believe that when we do all we can do (in our hearts and in our hands), all these fragments–these injustices, questions, missed opportunities–someday will be knitted up and folded and put away, and we, in return, will be sealed whole. Though we may not find meaning in all our aching, we will learn what it means to be lifted–to be carried up into perfect healing and belonging and happiness so thick every hole, every gap and space in our bodies and hearts will be filled up and over.

I believe in the atonement of Jehovah:

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth. (Isaiah 25:8)

Being human, with all its inconsistencies and losses, requires hope of that which is yet to come,  which will come–a restoration of that which has been lost, a compensation for that which has tried and tired every part of us. To lose hope, I think, is the hardest thing. The scariest thing. Because hope isn’t just something made up; it is real, literally; it is necessary–a requirement to pull us. It is human perseverance in all its perfection–to lose it is to lose the godliness within us.


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