What does it mean to love, or more importantly what does it mean to be loved? If I had to move around the office and present the same question to my colleagues I can guarantee that every one of them would have a unique and different perspective. This is understandable as our interpretations of critical issues are influenced by the things we see and experience. Reality is nothing more than our interpretation of life experiences.
Ask an abused teenager what love is, how love should be manifested and you may hear a distorted and disturbing analysis. Ask a baby whose mother left her on the church steps what it means to be loved or the prostitute at the docks what love and intimacy mean. Love has many faces and even more interpretations. As time passes the descriptions of love become more distorted, obscure and terrifying.
A few months ago I was contacted by a friend who asked me to help a young woman who appeared to be caught up in a human trafficking ring. She was a high-class prostitute who made more money in a night than I made in a month. She was addicted to cocaine and living a seditious duplicitous lifestyle. She had garnered a large amount of debt and owed money to some very dangerous dealers.
In an attempt to escape, she headed across the country to a man whose name she didn’t know. After a lengthy night of our begging, pleading and asking her to return – she came home. I met her at a garage. We spent a few hours as she relayed the story of her life. She was mixed up in threesomes and acts which defy nature. This beautiful woman was used, abused and exploited in every way imaginable. She had two children, was busy divorcing her husband whom she had already left and was entangled in a horrible custody battle. There was nothing good about anything she told me and I felt my heart would break.
As her family arrived to collect her, she sat in her car and cried like a baby. She was wailing from the pit of her stomach. All I could do amidst screaming and shouting was kneel beside her car and whisper while she wept. “Kelly, I know your heart is breaking and you feel misunderstood and alone, but you don’t weep alone: There is someone I know who has been crying for you for a very long time”. She calmed down from her crying, “I ran away from God a long time ago and I don’t know how to get back,” she whispered.
For this young woman, love had a myriad of interpretations, but none of those offered her consolation, comfort or security. To understand love, she would have to understand God. Where she was right now, God was misunderstood because He appeared angry and disappointed. He didn’t want to know her. God was more like the devil, instead of a loving father. She saw God as an entity that could not be reached or approached. A God with horns instead of a shining halo.
I once saw a sculpture of Moses — completed by Michelangelo — and what fascinated me most was that Moses had two small horns protruding from his head. For several years I had pondered the reason for this and was amazed when I finally found out. When Moses climbed the mountain at Sinai and saw God face-to-face, his countenance changed. The people were afraid of him because his face shone with the glory of God. However, the Hebrew translation allows for two interpretations and meanings; it could mean that his face glowed brightly as a ray of light or it could mean that he now had horns on his head. Michelangelo used the second interpretation — horns.
And such is life, the things we see often have dual meanings and our interpretation is generally influenced by circumstances and experiences. This is the greatest dilemma facing mankind. When God says I love you, what does he mean and what do you see? Do you see a God whose face shines like the sun or have your experiences and circumstances influenced your vision that all you can see is a God with horns who seems more like the devil than a loving Father?
Today the world has no idea of what God is like or what real love looks like, the picture is so distorted that the world prefers the idea of no God than a God with horns or glory. The world is collapsing on itself, there is violence, murder and natural disasters. With poor eyesight, it is easy to understand why the world sees horns on God instead of His glowing glory.
When I was in the seminary a young man once brought up the issue of God’s love. He said it was cruel and yet kind, rough — yet gentle and at times impossible to understand. I remember how that statement was answered by an old priest. He said love is sometimes like a mountain, sharp and jagged and sometimes it may be as light as a cloud. He said God’s love was like the mountain, you can sometimes cut your foot on it or even fall and injure yourself, but the cloud, as it blows against the mountain, is parted. Man’s love is like a cloud — soft, futile and temporary. Jesus bruised more than just a heel on the mountain of God’s love, but that mountain of love stands firm for you and me. All other loves that are soft as the clouds part in time and fade away. Real love involves risk and real love is a risky business.
Perhaps part of the problem is that we look at things the wrong way. We sit and watch the play of life but don’t understand what we see. Truth be told, there is a lot more to the interpretation of God than a glowing face and prospective horns. Horns are synonymous with goats and sheep and so when we refer to the Lamb of God, perhaps horns are not such a bad thing, but that depends on what you see or rather what you want to see.
All I can say is that when I look at God, I do see horns but I also see thorns from a crown He wore two thousand years ago; a crown He wore willingly as He took his position as the lamb of God. As the lamb of God, He may very well have horns, but they are definitely not the horns of the devil that the world claims to see, they are the ultimate horns of a sacrificial lamb: The horns of love.
When you look at God, you may see His Glory, but depending where you stand, you may see horns and that is ok. Because to see His Glory, you first need to see His horns as the lamb of God. After all, He has the Glory because of the horns. They are intertwined and inseparable and the one has its existence because of the other. It’s who He is, and He is both.
Since that meeting at the garage, I haven’t seen Kelly again. Now and then I see pictures of this stunning woman on social media, dolled up and gorgeous. We talk now and again but she keeps the conversations superficial. She has sought love in scandalous places with horrible people, all in the name of desperation and love. From hotel rooms to the drug havens. She has learned that love has a sinister look on its face, it has horns. Perhaps in time, Kelly will realise that the horns of love are those of a lamb, slaughtered before the foundation of the world, all because God loved her and couldn’t stand to live without her. If only she could see that.