Interlude: Shalom

During my year at IMPACT, we discussed at various points the concept of this thing called shalom. I think that Rob Bell also touches on it in one of his earlier books, but basically the way I've come to understand it is that shalom happens when something about a fallen, broken world is made right. (As the Wikipedia article puts it, "Shalom, as term and message, seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world;" and also, "Literally translated, shalam signals to a state of safety, but figuratively it points to completeness. In its use in Scripture, shalom describes the actions that lead to a state of soundness, or better yet wholeness. So to say, shalom seems not to merely speak of a state of affairs, but describes a process, an activity, a movement towards fullness.")

A peculiar dialectic surfaces throughout the New Testament: the Kingdom of God (the ultimate shalom) is both already and not yet. I suppose you could say that it is, but it is also becoming that which it is. Shalom is this thing, I think, where we're moving and working, seeing small progresses but never the whole picture, but always ultimately growing towards the final proclamation of Revelation 21:

"Behold, I make all things new." 

Words that bring tears to my eyes. Because isn't that one of our deepest desires? Maybe it's not something that you think of right away, but you just have to cast it in a different light. Take illness, for example. You probably know someone who has been affected by anything from multiple sclerosis to Down's syndrome to ALS, someone who "doesn't deserve this." We somehow recognize it as an injustice, and we want desperately for it to be otherwise. Maybe it's a grandparent or a mentor or your best friend from college who is in the prime of life, and how can they be facing cancer now? What we want is some kind of fairness, that these beautiful people should attract more of that which is beautiful and not that which is twisted and ugly.

At the risk of sounding a little strange, that is what I was thinking about when I read this blogpost: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/06/13/154924715/surgery-restores-sexual-function-in-women-with-genital-mutilation

The thing is, something horrible has happened to these women. Their personhood was violated in a cruel way that goes beyond sexual pleasure and orgasms. They have been made into objects by means of mutilation, transformed into passive vehicles for the satisfaction of another person's desire. And while it's true that this happens even to women (and men and children) who have not been physically mutilated, it is yet one more thing that enforces the inhumanity of what has been done to them.

The surgery that Foldes and other doctors are performing, that right there is shalom.  Restoration of what has been lost to the robbed and broken. And no, it's not perfect. It's not 100% effective. But that's the already and not yet, the messy, strange, and beautiful glimpses of what might be, like holes through which we may catch a sight of heaven and come away brightened and transformed by hope.

Maybe it's not what we're used to hearing: that God could care about women like that and that His shalom is manifested just as much in a reconstructed clitoris (I bet you never thought you'd hear the words "God" and "clitoris" in the same sentence either) as it is in a bowl of food given to a hungry child. But maybe that's because we have limited Him. Thankfully, He hasn't limited Himself. We just, like Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, have to say the spell that makes invisible things visible, so that our eyes are open to see that wherever there is restoration, there also is He.

No comments:

Post a Comment