Saturday, February 26, 2011
The Arrest: Illness Unbidden (Corrected)
I read in Solzhenitsyn of the inimitable horrors of "The Arrest," the first chapter of The Gulag Archipelago. A scant ten pages in, and I had to stop reading. Imaging that kind of world was too unsettling. Although I live in America, I felt some pangs of paranoia. Might I be so arrested, taken as a political prisoner? Innocent civilians could be arrested at any time--even during an operation, even while taken on a date by a supposed suitor--and for any (or no) reason. This is how communism works: pure tyranny and pure terror. One's entire life, way of being, could be arrested, nullified--by that ruthless and heartless State playing God (and thus aping Satan).
Then, in light of the chronic suffering of several loved ones, I realized that illness is an "arrest." One is taken away from the familiar, the taken-for-granted way of life. We presuppose health as a condition for being: for walking, sleeping, even thinking. Then...we are arrested by illness--and often without warning, often during the best of times, or, at least, when our fears of this arrest have waned. The arrest comes unbidden: a loud and rude rap on the door in the middle of the night; as an interruption of a pleasant event--when we least expect the suddenness and sadness of it.
To where are we being dragged away? We know we are taken from the familiar, the usual, our homes, our loves, our likes, our boredoms. But to where? What will the prison will like? Who are the guards? What are the terms of release--if any? What will be left of my ties to friends, family, strangers, work, rest?
One have been arrested, and arrests are never pleasant or polite. They are rude, rough, unsettling--full of dread. One is taken captive, passive, yet required to do all manner of new and unmannerly things--tests, treatments, long sentences of waiting for test results, therapies that may bring more pain than relief, which may cause new symptoms, new maladies.
This arrest--the arrest of illness--is not accompanied by thugs of the state, as was Solzhenitsyn's arrest. No; loved ones try to offer help and hope. But they, too, have been arrested (I have been thus arrested), for their lives with the afflicted will not be the same. Routines change; hopes are deferred or will die; plans are scattered; the future stares back with opaque malignity.
Jesus Christ was arrested. He was arrested only after he healed the sick of manifold ills, raised the dead, loved the most unlovely, and preached the truth of good news of God's grace, forgiveness, and restoration--and the bad news of God's inescapable judgment of the unrepentant. This rebel with no weapons, this dissident with no death squads, was arrested, ripped away from his disciples, by a clutch of thugs led by a traitor in his midst, whom he had loved. He was taken away, to be punished for crimes he did not commit, to be spit upon, struck, and mocked by creatures he had himself created. He was tried without reason and sentenced without evidence. But that was the least of it. This arrest, trial, and conviction was unto a Cross, a torture stake: the cruelest invention of man's sadistic mind.
Yet he came to be arrested, taken away to injustice, torture, torment, and death. It was no surprise to him. It was foreordained for him to be forsaken, betrayed, rejected, sickened, dejected, desolated.
Our arrests come unbidden. His did not. While he absorbed the pain and despised the shame, he did it for those who authorized his arrest. This blood-work was wrought from eternity and endures for posterity.
Let all who are arrested by illness (or any of life's all-too-varied tragedies) remember that arrest, that prisoner, that Cross-bearer...who while taken down dead from the Cross, rose alive from the dead, scars remaining, but with life unending. The lamb who was slain has begun to reign: a more arresting thought cannot be thought.