Mr. Robot & Big Sadness
I attended an event this week at The Hatchery in Redondo Beach that focused around a series of lectures given by Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann. Besides making my head spin every five minutes, his framework for understanding Old Testament “voices from elsewhere” provided helpful terminology for a starving Church that has a difficult time understanding that the ways of yesteryear can no longer work in today’s reality.
It feels like disruption because it is a disruption.
But rather than scramble around the kitchen trying to collect and reconfigure the shards of broken glass, we must recognize the broken and start anew. Experiences, beliefs, narratives that we have told ourselves for so long may no longer have space or usefulness in our lives. Our former ideas of God or religion may also not integrate or reconcile with our experience, leaving us feeling isolated and longing for more.
It feels like sadness because it is a sadness.
At the end of season one of the TV thriller Mr. Robot, the strange and brilliant computer hacker, Elliot, pulls off the crime of the century by freeing millions of people from their debts. However, this disruption of a broken and unjust market economy does not quite result in the freedom that was once envisioned. In the opening of scenes of season two, Elliot is completely offline, himself disrupted and on the verge of total collapse. Still unable to cope with the voices that control his reality, his sadness leads to disengagement. Elliot’s condition parallels the Church’s moment of disruption. These moments of collapse can be considered what Brueggemann calls, “big sadness.”
“So, how does the God of harsh termination become the God of inexplicable new beginnings?”
We find a severe moment of disruption in Hosea 2. God lashes out against Israel and disowns them for being unfaithful. There is “big sadness” for thirteen verses until, in a moment of divine clarity, God realizes this space is one in which there is a possibility for greater love.
There is no verse to tell us what happens in this silence between v. 13 and v. 14. Yet, it is from this empty space, somewhere in the final hours of “big sadness,” that the inexplicable capacity for new beginnings is realized.
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.”
When our denial is shattered, when our relationships tattered, when we have a season of constant disruptions, when we feel the days of old fleeing us…This is the space within our experiences from which new realities are possible.
May we return to the blank page, and may we be expecting from the decay of our “big sadness” to begin the process of new life.