I’ll admit it: I cried when I read this chapter. The gut-wrenching anguish was so well captured, the raw grief so real. The enduring agony that lurks behind those few words: “she refuses to be comforted”.
But what got me most was not the death of the baby, nor Rachel’s inconsolable mourning. It was her reluctant affinity with the murderer of her child. The sneaking suspicion that he too was feeling as empty and numb and lost as she was.
It takes an enormous effort to see the humanity of those who hurt us, even in matters far smaller than the murder of a child. It’s a sacrificial effort, the giving up of the exclusive right to be the wronged party, the hurting one, the victim. It is a costly acknowledgement of the humanity of the Other.
Perhaps it is in such extreme situations that the challenge to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, pray for those who persecute us, becomes just that – a real challenge. Maybe even impossible-seeming at times. I wonder whether Rachel ever prayed for the man who killed her son? I can’t imagine the words.
And yet somehow we have to see the humanity, the frailty, the image of God in one another. And most of all we have to look for it where we least expect to see it. In those people we do not want to acknowledge as our brothers and sisters.
I wonder where we fail to catch the glimpse of God in the Other?
I wonder who we choose to de-humanise rather than face the terrifying truth of our interconnectedness?
I wonder how we can start to seek out the divine spark in even the most unlikely people and places?