He took everything away from me—all the obstructions, all the accretions, all the cataracts and clothes and scales-- everything but the truth. And revealing it; raising it high enough even for me to see, I finally seeI am hanging naked on a cross. The place I have always been.
The sight explaining so much: explaining the ache in my hands and feet; explaining the stretching rack in my shoulders; explaining the piercing in my chest; explaining the tired collapse of my unbroken bones; explaining the bitter aftertaste of every drink; explaining everything and everything and everything.
And I cry with relief, “It is finished!"
I am ready to go home. I am ready to be free. I am ready to let go of this cursed tree and leap into the air. And if ever again I land, I will land in a new life. I will love this world like Christ. I will walk through the petrified forest of crosses shouldering my own as I go. I will lay my hand on every bloody trunk. I will set up my cross and willingly scale to the top. I will hang there again, yet this time helping thieves see and understand and live. Thank you Father for letting me see the whole world!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
The modern Christian man’s delight in a 9 year-old child’s “decision for Christ” and the associated “baptism”—and I claim this, not as theology; nor any other kind of “-ology;” I only claim it as a human being—is a feeling less like delight and more like relief. The relief of something finally finished rather than finally begun. The relief of catching a child just before he tumbles out of the golden arms of paradise into the painful rationality of adulthood, rather than the delight of letting a child go; of watching him fly brightly on his own; plotting his course courageously and with spirit across a jagged landscape. There seems a desperate relief in this strange “decision”—a finality. It reveals something about us, below what we can see. Perhaps, having ourselves forgotten the way back, it is our unconscious, last ditch effort to trap the child in the sinless land. Perhaps, although too frightening to ponder maybe, perhaps we are welcoming him with open arms into the trap in which we ourselves stepped. Or possibly it is a vain, blind, inverted attempt to scrape the last vestiges of golden light into his pocket; maybe one day to find again and gain his way back.
“Enjoy your cake!”
"A warm welcome!"
--In reality, freezing the child before he steps out of the Kingdom of God rather than into it.
All the anxious adults ply the children with axioms written on the ancient door that separates them. Axioms written in runes the adults themselves no longer understand and no longer speak. This door, at which all have gathered yet none understand—the children on one side, the adults on the other— opens upon the broken kingdom of religious rationality, rather than the Kingdom of God. And the parents, the grandparents, the prophets, and the priests lean close, whispering to the children through the door, “Can you hear me? I know you’re in there! I can feel you just about to come out! Do you trust me? You do? Then, just say the words. Did you say the words? You did? Well then, you made it!” And as the children, now “accountable,” step into dusty and fearful arms, the exit from Paradise clangs shut. And the words “NO WAY BACK” glow briefly in the moonlight before fading into inexplicable symbols once again. With strange relief, the family turns and walks away.
When you’re in the zone...
which is the proper mode of being...
which is the mode of Christ’s being...
...the target is huge. The bullseye enlarges to encompass all of you. You suddenly stand at the center of the magical fire. You can’t miss. Shoot.
Jeremiah 29:8 ff
“Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
They are prophesying lies to you in my name.”
We who are in exile, hear what we want to hear...and then call that a message sent from God. But it’s not God’s message, it’s ours. The case is exactly this:
We mail a letter addressed to ourselves, then open it and are so amazed it says exactly what we were thinking that we say it must be from God.
But this is a lie.
God says, “I didn’t send that letter. You did."
Here is my message:
“Learn to live where you are now, in your exile, not the promised land where you think you should be. It is by always looking towards what you want instead of what is at your feet that you lost the promised land in the first place. When you shift what you should have into what you already have, you discover that any plans for the future do not do much for the man with no capacity for enjoying life right now, because when his tree finally bears fruit, he is unable to see it, eat it, or taste it. He can't even enjoy the fruit of his own labor. Because although he is there, he is no￼ longer there. He is already worrying about what to eat as his fruit rots on the ground around his feet.
If you really want to find me, I will be found.
The only way to find your way home is by accepting that you’ve lost it, because otherwise you won’t listen. It is the first step in discovering that the home of your imagination—the home your ego experiences (yes, even that actual address on the mailbox) is just a concept and not really home at all. It can be a hell-hole, a heaven, a haven, just one more frustration to bear, a way-station, a limbo, a hidey-hole...anything. If you can accept you have somehow lost your way home as you stand at your own mailbox, you begin to see finding your way back home is the point—that seeking your destination IS your destiny. In the same way, you can find me only when you accept you’ve lost me. Because then there is no more wasted energy on what you think is going on and what should be done about it. You will seek me with all your heart; in every nook and cranny; under every bush and behind every blade of grass; in every corner of the house; in every human face. And maybe you will discover along the way where it is you actually lost me.
Live first, plan second. Choose life—not your plan for life. You are not the plan maker. I am. I am the only one who understands how plans work and I know the plans I have for you.”
Apocatastasis: starting over; restoration of an initial state.
Jesus is the alpha and the omega--the omega and the alpha.
The Redeemer bends the straight line of time and experienced reality into a circle or a horseshoe. In this reality, the end and the beginning actually look at each other. They are the closest to each other. And it is the figure of Christ which crosses that divide. It is the rebirth. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “I know how to get where you want to go, but you can’t start from here. Anywhere you are on this circle is further from the place I am, and the place you should be. The closest place to the end is the beginning.”
Except ye become as little children.
The past is a cloud. A memory. A collection of thoughts and ideas as immaterially vast as it is materially insubstantial. An eternal memorial whose sole purpose is to help me live in the present. It is NOT a place I should live or even can live. For who can live in the sky?
My past permeates the heavens, looking down to inform my present; but it is not my present. In the same way my reflection on my experience, is not my experience: it is a reflection.
The “great cloud of witnesses” in the Book of Hebrews is a list of great and awful acts of faith from the past. It is both my personal and collective cloud. An "I" cloud. A storehouse. Not a dead and dusty one. No, it is a living storehouse on whose contents I may gaze and to whose clamor I may listen. But only if I lift my eyes and listen honestly, with the proper attitude--with my feet firmly on the ground of today--does this great cloud of yesterday look down and proclaim: judging each act of my faith. It floats above my ever-present life: praising and condemning. This cloud is a thriving witness of my life—not the other way around. I am not to drift upwards and away, bearing witness to yesterday's artifacts while turning my back on today. Otherwise my vast and light cloud condenses and ossifies. Then I become trapped in my cloud-turned-sarcophagus; and together we plunge into the sea.
I am not the past. I am alive.
The most damnable condemnation handed down to me by this immense shouting, screaming, bloody, struggling, joyously cheering cloud of witnesses from the past was this:
That I failed to recognize my present.
I was the brood of vipers to whom Jesus proclaimed: “The Ninevites will condemn this generation!" Jesus stood directly in front of me; but I could not see him.
To live in the past, to be defined by the past, was to become stuck and stagnant—to become memorialized. It is to become incased in stone, instead of contemplating the terrible and marvelous monuments of the past while shouldering the cross in the present.
But miraculously I, paralyzed in the past, was able to shoulder my mat and walk home. A miracle of strength only made possible by the Forgiveness of Jesus. The man-child fish who swam to the bottom of my soul and set me free.
"Christianity" is not a Life 360 app (in the same way a parent is not an "all-seeing eye"). It is not an “application”—an external thing that applies only when you open it up. If so, then it is just one more technically complex hieroglyph to interpret incorrectly, view sporadically, and then use tyrannically. If so, it only increases anxiety and mistrust.
Christianity IS life; in the same way "to parent" is to bring forth life--rather than inspect, or suspect it. It courses through every fiber. To fully utilize this marvel; you can not simply turn it on and check on other’s locations compared to your own—and then call that true, and right, and safe, and good—THAT’S WRONG! Believing that WHERE someone is, has ANYTHING to do with WHO someone is: that is a lie; and one everybody begins to believe. That my position relative to you, tells me who I am and where I am relative to God? That’s the exact trap Moses laid for himself: a stranger herding sheep that weren’t his own. You must go. You must journey to Egypt and do battle. You must uncover the Rosetta Stone engraved upon the heart! The secret stone which interprets all hieroglyphs, all complexities. That stone—that key— is what you give your children. It goes inside and turns locks. It works inside out—not outside in. It fills every crevasse of their world; reaching into places you can never go; telling them who they are no matter where they are.
“Where does your amazing strength come from to defeat the enemy?”
Samson replies, “Alright, alright. You keep nagging me and I keep telling little lies about myself, but here is the real truth. My strength lies in my hair.”
NO! WRONG! Samson’ strength was a gift from God. The hair was a gift—a symbol—gifted; given—but still just a material thing. Anything that is given comes from a source. Where the gift comes from—who the gift comes from—the “relationship” to the source—is what infuses it with power. And the source is what replenishes the gift with the power to defeat the enemy—as long as you remain mindful of—have a relationship with— the source. It is just the same with any relationship. The “gift of strength” does not reside in the thing itself. It is a terrible mistake to confuse symbols for the actual treasures—abstractions for the actual gifts, for power. To confuse this, is to disconnect, to shear, to “let a hand touch your head.” And when this disastrous mistake occurs; the symbol is gone, and with it, the gift. Delilah did not trick Samson. Samson was the one playing tricks. And like all tricksters, he relied on distraction, confusion, and lack of attention. Samson tricked himself. Samson betrayed God, and in doing so, betrayed himself. He became blind. Only when he grew the strength of character to talk to the Lord again and ask one last chance to change—to make things right—did he reveal his understanding of who his real enemy was. Samson is the one who had to go—to die. It is the last place anyone wants to look—it is dark, deep, lonely. It was in the filth, in the dust, in the dirt, at the bottom, in the belly of the beast, that he found what he needed most. When Samson finally discovered who was the true enemy, the true betrayer, he knew what to do. “And in his death he defeated more enemies than when ‘he’ was alive.”
I remember feeling like Dorothy waking up at the end of Oz, in her bed with her family surrounding her, for the first time with joy in her heart. The great lesson of “The Wizard of Oz” is not that the source of power resides in the ruby slippers (Dorothy had those on right from the start). The great lesson is that the power to get home springs from one’s deep understanding and admission after defeating the enemies within, that “there’s no place like home.”
Dorothy wakes up and says, “you were there, and you were there! And you! You were scared. You were stuck. And you were broken! And I was lost. But we found each other and went in search for answers—looking for a way back home. And we found that what we were looking for was right within us the whole time!”
And the joyful faces all around the bed of the just-waking child say, “Yes, Dorothy, we were so worried about you. We saw you running away from home. We saw the terrible storm coming. We knew you were at great risk of dying, but there was nothing we could do! And then you were badly hurt and fell asleep—It was as if you were dead.
But you woke up! You came back! And now, even though we were here all along, it’s as if we are seeing each for the first time!”
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
No matter how far I travel, no matter all my striving, looking and searching; I find myself no further along and without answers. A sudden burst of speed only means my circle is smaller. I am stuck in a hamster wheel eating my own flesh. Drinking my own decay. Stuck only with myself, I drag entire solar systems along wherever I go. How far must I travel to discover new life—to find what I truly seek? To Mars I go. On a rocket ship--on my quest for...what? Knowledge? Gain? Peace? Yet, even there, I am alone in a flimsy tent; distastefully ingesting the products of my own feces and urine—trapped in a death cycle. Where am I going?
In the most desolate place in the universe, I discover what all who travel to that distant planet and scour its surface discover: Life is not on Mars. But it is precisely within that emptiness, that I stumble upon what I need most. A most precious treasure. I discover I must be willing to die--to live. I discover I must lose myself to find myself—to make it back home—to find the new life I so desperately want.
To escape gravity I must necessarily forego my attachment to this world—sever myself from the heaviest burden: the idea that reality is rational, objective, external; that it consists of me and “not” me. I must overcome the idea that I as a subject am separate from object—the two separated by action. And that when a subject acts upon an object—when I cross that great gulf—I do so by my will alone. I must wake up and realize that to have my entire worldview constrained by an insubstantial sentence makes me Marley's ghost tangled in my own causal chain—when I could be a living, breathing story. To think of my life as a sentence, or even a sequence of sentences, is to think of a cathedral as a series of bricks, or the Mona Lisa as strokes of oil paint. Those strokes, those bricks, those sentences have purpose. I must understand their place. They sit within--they serve--a story. That at any moment my action upon the world exists is one thing—that it leaves behind a story is another. Story is paramount. It is what remains. A sentence disappears. Life is a story served by sentences, not chained by them. Inverted, I will see existence as an endless sequence of drab somethings to strive against, through, and over—something “other”—always beyond.
Come with me. All you who have travelled far, searching the cosmos. Come here to the water's edge. Look. Lean over and gaze into the red Martian water far from home:
That Martian—that alien—that new life you seek… is staring you right in the face.