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TV Snapshot: Learning to love above the line

In the “Harbingers in the Fountain” episode of Bones, FBI Agent Seeley Booth and forensic scientist Dr. Temperance Brennan have been working with psychic Avalon after she told them about a group of bodies buried by a fountain (among them her sister). Throughout the episode, Avalon has observed that the relationship between Booth and Bones runs deeper than either of them care or want to admit. Near the end of the episode, Avalon confronts Brennan about her life.

Avalon: All riddles are solvable to you—except for one.

Brennan: Yes, the riddle of how you knew where your sister was buried.

Avalon: No, the riddle you can’t solve is how somebody could love you.

Brennan laughs, albeit, a little too self-consciously.

Brenan: Well, I’m beautiful and very intelligent.

Avalon: The answer to the question you are afraid to say out loud is: Yes, he knows the truth of you. And he’s dazzled by that truth.
There aren’t many of us who don’t desire to be loved by someone who knows how broken we are but is still dazzled by the truth of who we are. When Avalon speaks those last few sentences, I have to admit that I was moved—not only because of what it meant to Brennan to hear those words in the context of her story but also because of a deeper truth I’ve come to experience in the last few years and the challenge that experience presents in how I approach others.

For years, I had head knowledge of God’s love but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really began to experience that love. It began as God rented my world with images of his love. Especially that image of a father gazing down a road every day, longing for his prodigal son. Who rushes to meet his longed-for boy while he was yet a long way down the road. The unbridled child running to a love-brimmed father. A swirl of strong arms enveloping abandoned joy. Love. Acceptance. Right-ness. Oh-so-indescribable and abounding grace.

It still floors me to realize that God sees us like that son—that this is the truth of who we are. That we can run him like that. That all’s right, forgiven, bold and beautiful, right and pure, perfect and righteous. What it means that we call him Abba, that we live and belong in wide open spaces of his grace and glory, that we are new and free and loved beyond measure.

This scene from Bones reminds me of all that. It reminds me that we all carry the echoes of who we were created to be at the beginning of the Story—that we were good. And it reminds me that God, who knows better than all how broken we are, also knows and loves the truth of who we are. And that kind of love changes everything.

This truth deepened awhile back when I ran across Dan Stone’s concept of living above or below the line, a helpful articulation on the difference between how God sees us and how we experience ourselves using a concept based on 2 Corinthians 4:18: “… while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Stone draws a proverbial line between the seen and unseen, with above line being the unseen and eternal and below the seen and temporary. Above the line, we are new (Colossians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Col. 1:22).” Below the line, “we are in the process of being sanctified. We have needs. Our emotions fluctuate. Our behavior changes. We experience growth.”

Our problem comes, says Stone, in where we get our identity. Do we get it above the line or below? Do we get it below the line—where we fail, sin and fall short—or do we get it above the line “in our spirit” where we find “the identity God gave us at our new birth”? We must focus above the line, says Stone:

In God’s economy, in the seen realm we become because in the unseen realm we already are. As we know and rest in unseen and eternal truth, God manifests that truth in the visible realm. ‘For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.’ In the unseen and eternal realm, God has already perfected us. In the seen and temporal realm, God is bringing that perfection, or completion, into view.

That’s why we can say we are complete and a new creation while simultaneously, in the seen and temporal realm, a process is going on. From God’s point of view, in the unseen and eternal realm, we are a finished product. At the same time, in the seen and temporal, He is continuing to work the truth deeper into us and conform us to His image.

This is the truth of who we are—and when the truth of that begins to sink in, it is no less than dazzling. Living in that truth and being loved like that changes your life. It’s definitely changing mine.

And it’s also changing how I understand, view and approach those with whom I cross paths. John tells us we love because God first loved us. I’ve come to see this less as a command than an explanation or natural cause-and-effect aspect of who we are. When we experience that love, we will love. As we begin to allow the truth of God’s love to sink into us, we will also begin to love others as we are loved. We will see the brokenness of others but we also will see the truth of others as God sees the truth of us—and we’ll be dazzled by it.

Of course, just as it takes some effort to learn to live above the line, it also takes effort to learn to see the above-the-line truth in others. Just as we work and cooperate with God to allow that truth of how much we are loved seep in and change the way we think about ourselves, it will take effort to change the way we think about others, too.

We are enabled to love others as God loves us, and as we work with God in allowing that truth to sink deeper into us so that we can live as we were created to, we'll not only learn how to live above the line but love about the line as well.
(Image: Fox via Hulu)


Anonymous said…
I always love it when you talk about your images of how God loves us, that God is dazzled by our broken selves. "And I shall rejoice over you with singing." It is a gift and joy to be dazzled by the beauty in those around us.
Anonymous said…
Lately I have been noticing more and more how beautiful all the people I know are. They are all dazzling. And it bothers me a little bit that I see this because there is this worry in the back of my mind that I am theologically incorrect, that in anybody's flesh dwells no good thing. How do you put those two ideas together?
xo, Susie
Carmen Andres said…
i hold onto the truth that we aren't only flesh but also and crucially spirit. and i also look at Jesus. he loved and was even dazzled by the people around him; and remember, they had not yet received the new life/Spirit that would come at Pentecost. and john's record of Jesus' articulation of God's motivation for it all (*love*), even though we all were so desperately broken. God knows who we are (below the line) as well as who we were created to be (above the line), and he loves us--so we can look at others, knowing who they were created to be and love them. like the father of the prodigal son who never stopped loving and being dazzled by his youngest son, even as that son slept and ate with pigs.

and, just as God refuses to leave us broken, we should refuse to leave others (or ourselves) broken--not that we set out to "fix" people, but that our love be saturated with the same longing and desperateness to see the other (and ourselves) as we are created and enabled to be. for Jesus, this played out most dramatically in sacrifice. maybe it should be so with us as well?