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Thinking on Tony Snow and Life

When the news hit the wire that Tony Snow--a well respected news journalist and former White House spokesman--had died from complications of his cancer, I flipped through the major cable news channels and happened upon a replay of some interviews he did with CNN after the doctors had found cancer in his liver (he had been in remission for colon cancer). I was struck by his strength and outlook in the face of cancer, and I must admit I teared up as he talked about his conversations with his son, especially when he smiled through his own tears as he reflected how wonderful it is to love people so much. This was a man, I realized, who knew the joy of love, who saw opportunity and the beauty of life even in the shadow of death. It was a moving and inspiring thing to see.

The coverage I watched on CNN and other outlets didn't mention if Snow was a religious man or not, but I couldn't help but wonder. Today, I ran across this post by Mollie over at GetReligion, who explores the lack of coverage of Snow's faith in the media, but also highlights those outlets that get at it. As I read through Mollie's coverage, I was struck by a couple of quotes from Snow, both from an essay he wrote for Christianity Today last year. The first is in the context of how we get past the anxiety we feel in the face of death:
To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away.
And then this, from the same piece:
The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs and epiphanies. . . .

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us - that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God’s love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. . . .
Snow seems to be one of those folks for whom God's truth has become his experience. I love how he gets at the nature of God's offer of Life, that it is a gift that can't be taken away and that it is a wild and intense walk in a teeming and living Kingdom. And how the bottom line in that Kingdom Life is Love. Being loved by Love itself and sharing in God's Love for others.

It's paradoxical, this finding of joy in suffering, Life and Love in death. It's as if it is a moment when Kingdom-come bursts through into Kingdom-coming. As if the end of the Story has broken through into the middle of the Story.*

And that isn't lost on folks. As Mollie notes, William Kristol noticed:
His deep Christian faith combined with his natural exuberance to give him an upbeat world view. Watching him, and so admiring his remarkable strength of character in the last phase of his life, I came to wonder: Could it be that a stance of faith-grounded optimism is in fact superior to one of worldly pessimism or sophisticated fatalism?
"Faith-grounded optimism." "A world shorn of fearful caution." Living as if Kingdom-come. Living Light in broken-yet-new vessels. Snow's life is a witness to this Life that is available to us all. God is always inviting us to let his truth become our experience, his Life and Love to become the air we breathe and exhale. To be Kingdom-come in a world that is Kingdom-coming.

And I find that amazing.

*I stumbled across this concept awhile back when reading a Next-Wave article about Lost that includes a summary of Jurgen Moltmann's eschatology, who (as far as my meager mind can understand it) suggests there are two timelines: conventional time we experience and God's, which has already culminated in the future. According to Moltmann, there are moments when God's timeline breaks through into ours, like Jesus' resurrection and his appearances afterwards when he is not bound by the conventional timeline any longer. This is an intriguing concept to me, because it helps me grasp a little more the paradoxical moments we experience here-and-now: that there appear to be moments that are best explained as the Kingdom-already-come breaking through into the middle of Story, the Kingdom-coming.

(Image: Public domain via Wikipedia)