I Feel What You Feel

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“I am your voice – It was tied in you – In me it begins to talk.

I celebrate myself to celebrate every man and woman alive;

I loosen the tongue that was tied in them,

It begins to talk out of my mouth.”

-          Walt Whitman Song of Myself


This poem brought me to tears last week. The more I think about it the more I believe this poem truly captures the essence of what poetry does. It is exactly what the band Kings Kaleidoscope has done in my own life. The song “Prayer” off of their album Beyond Control brings me to tears every time I hear it. Not every time I listen but every time I hear and recently a question my son asked me added another dimension and a new depth to the beauty of this song and particularly the line “I feel what you feel.” He asked if God had to come to earth in order to know what it was like to be human. I had never really thought about it. I had just assumed that it wasn’t until the incarnation that God truly understood the perspective of human beings. I have come to believe that was a terrible mistake and I cannot think of a better example to describe why than the movie Split.

Kevin, the films antagonist played by James McAvoy, kidnaps three young girls from a shopping mall parking lot and holds them captive in the basement where he works. As the plot unfolds we discover that Kevin is seeing a psychiatrist for multiple personality disorder stemming from a tremendous amount of suffering he experienced as a child. Kevin believes the pain he went through led to an evolution in his psyche and that this evolution is the next step in the development of the human race. He wants to initiate or speed up this change by hurting people he thinks have lived comfortable lives and hence the motivation for the kidnapping. Okay, I won’t give away any more spoilers but this movie is truly a great thriller and beyond that wrestles with the deepest concepts of what it means to be human.

The Old Testament often talks about God hearing the cries of His people and growing up I think those passages subconsciously gave me the impression that God was somewhere else but that if our cries were loud enough they might reach him. As a minister that works primarily with young people I see this all the time. If I ask ten kids where God is, ten of them will say heaven, and if I ask them where heaven is, almost every time they will point to the sky. I have come to believe that God knows our pain. Every time a child is hurt God knows/experiences the pain of the child and the pain of the parent. I’m sure many theologians out there are already shaking their heads thinking that this contradicts the doctrine of immutability, but let me offer a thought. The incarnation didn’t allow God to know or feel something He had never known or felt before. It visibly united the divine nature/experience with the human nature/experience. This is the underlying power of the solidarity view of the atonement. And when we do this by uniting ourselves with the painful experiences of others there is an actual evolution in our personal and communal nature.