In the second season, we watched as Jim's flirting became more obvious and as the attraction between the two became undeniable. The tension reached a culmination in the final episode, as - in a moment of emotion and courage that every teenage boy can remember - Jim declared his feelings for Pam and initiated the couple's first, prolonged, passionate kiss.
That kiss captured the hearts and imaginations of many devoted fans, with online responses, YouTube reactions and fan-fiction all being inspired by their secret smooch. Yet what made this kiss all the better was the reaction afterwards - only silence. No exposition, no interruptions, no awkward joke - just the silence of two people after engaging in intimacy.
Kissing A Communist
Stories of the first kiss abound, with some painful, some hilarious and some eye-wateringly romantic. Whether a smooch bravely snatched on a beach walk, a passionate peck after an amazing date, or a Knievel-Kiss grabbed whilst driving a car - each first kiss is a unique and heavy moment which words struggle to capture.
The Communist Party attempted to define the kiss, and described it as, "The approach and reproach of two pairs of lips, with the reciprocal transmission of saliva and bacteria". Regardless of your thoughts about Communism, their definition is fairly succinct and accurate.
You could not say that it was wrong. Yet - at the same time - their definition is totally accurate, but totally wrong. Their is no magic, no humanity, no love in their definition. It is lifeless, and has killed the very essence of a kiss. Two lips meeting has become a mere act, rather than an intimate and exciting expression.
A Theological Anxiety
I have a witnessed a similar movement amongst many young adults in the church today, as they engage in discussions about theology and faith. So many of us are concerned about being 'right' and having read the 'right' books, that we miss the mystery and wonder of the God we are talking about. The wealth of articles and books that are now available for our consumption can create something of a "Theological Anxiety", in which we frantically quote C.S Lewis, fill blog-posts with N.T. Wright and memorise John Piper so that our ideas will sound solid and impress others.
Reading good theology is a good discipline to engage in, and does help guide us in our journey of faith. When that theology incites pride or anxiety within us, however, we have given their words the kiss of death and created definitions which are accurate, yet wrong. When we read, write and speak for our own glory, the words become hollow and empty, and have no more meaning than a stage-kiss.
Alan de Botton, in his critical examination of anxiety in the contemporary world, said "The attentions of others matter to us because we are afflicted by a congenital uncertainty as to our own value, as a result of which affliction we tend to allow others' appraisals to play a determining role in how we see ourselves. Our sense of identity is held captive by the judgments of those we live among."
Poetry of the Pash
When life is running fine, our empty words can keep up the masquerade but when the wheels fall off, we crave words that are full of life, that guide us to the One who gives life. When I was blindsided by the sudden end of a relationship, I found that so much of my reading about God had been merely "puffing me up". I didn't want words about God - I wanted God. Through a period of soul-searching and look walks at night, I rediscovered the incredible mystery of God that defies definition - and learnt that all along, this is what the writers I read had been desiring to guide me to.
In Eugene Peterson's reflection on Ecclesiastes, he states "The people who pose religious questions are sincere enough. But they are also, very often, only peripherally interested in God. Information about God? Yes. Useful insights derivative from God? Yes. But God? No. They sidestep the biblical knowledge that always involves intimacy and commitment".
I am learning that growing in faith and discovering intimacy with God has much of the mystery of a first kiss. You can read about it, sing songs about the kiss, devour poetry of the pash - and probably study guides on it. All these may be helpful, but they are not the kiss itself, anymore than a recipe is a cake, or that theology is God.
In The Footsteps of Giants
As I continue in my journey, I discover that I am walking in the footsteps of giants who can help guide me to a new place of intimacy with my maker. I think of Karl Barth, who described the angels laughing at his theological writings, "as though the Almighty could be captured in books". I think of of Blaise Pascal, and his experience of God that he carried as a poem with him - written in such simple language for such a profound thinker - yet of eternally more value to him than any of his lengthier musings. I think of Aquinas, refusing to write at the end of his life as "all that I have written seems to me so much straw".
Finally, I think of Paul as he writes his treatise of faith to the Romans, full of lengthy argument and logical prose. Yet, at one stage, the awe and wonder of God overcomes him, so he writes,
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."
As you read and learn, as you write and speak, continue to ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? Am I trying to pin this God down, so I can appear smarter? Or is this driven by love and a desire for deeper intimacy?".
Because, like a kiss, time with God is often sweetest when you can't quite describe it, and when there's no-one around to watch.
Jeremy Suisted is a full-time theology and management student, part-time Creative Consultant and has swimming abilities described as "brick-like" by his old High School P.E. teacher.
Jeremy Suisted previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-suisted.html