Heavy Armor and Heavenly Love
May 7, 2014
I love Mister Rogers. I had the good fortune to hear him give a commencement address many years ago at which he told us, “The space between us is holy ground.” That’s part of what I see in this brief clip of an interview Mister Rogers did with (of all people) Joan Rivers on the Tonight Show.
But the thing I keep coming back to in this video is to ask myself, how does Mister Rogers manage to get past Joan Rivers’ defenses – and offenses, come to that. Every time she mocks or deflects he gives no indication of defensiveness in his turn, but only a desire to connect, to share, to respond with love.
Joan Rivers is a woman who has built up an incredibly thick shell, impervious to assault through insult or mockery over years in an industry loaded with hard knocks. Yet in one minute, by telling her he sees “the way down deep inside you,” Mister Rogers has her hiding under the sweater he had given her and that she had joked about earlier in the interview.
What this teaches me is that the way to penetrate the heaviest armor is not with even heavier artillery, but with extreme tenderness and gentleness. Mister Rogers knew in a deep and remarkable way that to reach Joan Rivers, and to reach anyone, he didn’t need to resort to tricks. Instead, he needed to enter that holy ground between us, palms open and defenseless, seeing beyond the armor to the actual woman, man, child in front of him. And in being defenseless himself, somehow he managed to disarm everyone around him. That seems like an Easter message to me.
How can you practice gentleness towards someone who seems armed against you? How can you allow Jesus to be gentle towards you?