My relationship with God is complicated. Characterized on my part by neglect. Maybe God is waiting. Maybe he's working. I don't know. It's hard to see through the smoke. There was a time when I went to church three times a week. I would have gone more but it wasn't open that much. Bible study. Couldn't get enough. I never mistook it for spirituality. It was just me, looking for truth, for meaning. I did find it. Didn't do much with it. Much that was meaningful, I mean.
Like the parable of the man who sells everything that he might own the pearl of great price. When you have the pearl, what do you do with it? Look at it? Polish it? I own the pearl. I've never figured out what to do with it. What good are pearls? Their good is in their beauty, and the joy that beauty brings. I have very little joy. It must be a small pearl. Or maybe I didn't sell everything I had, to own it. Apparently the pearl gets bigger if the box you keep it in is empty.
I keep my box full of pain, of memories and fear and anger. My heart is broken, and I keep the pieces there. There's blood on my pearl. I want to blame God for that. He didn't protect me. He didn't protect the ones that I loved. He allowed suffering more than I could bear. He must have misjudged me. I only look big. Funny that he could make that mistake. Does he think that we can bear the pain of this world? Did he learn nothing from the suffering of the Cross? Did he get into the habit of forsaking us? Is anguish the only tool he uses to call us to him? Is there any gentleness in his patience? Or is patience just a countdown to wrath.
Worthiness has nothing to do with it. We stake our hope on his promises. He'll love us when we are unlovable. Like me. How my heart yearns for comfort, some comfort other than that false drugged indifference of avoidance and neglect and emotional stupor. Maybe there's something that God doesn't know. We need to be saved more than once.
I am so tired of this world. If there were some way out of it I'd like to know. Other than the obvious, I mean. But everything is death. What, a shipwreck? -- with bodies in the water and survivors clutching onto debris? And the cold and fatigue and thirst and the sharks and despair claim us, one after the other? Because no one gets away alive. The only rescuing we can ever suppose there is would be spiritual. That would be no small thing, since it's all there can be, but it seems only to be a theoretical comfort. Faith floats, and it will keep us warm, and it answers our thirst, I'm told -- but it attracts sharks. And everyone drowns.
I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago. I don't recall how the subject came up -- probably just rose out of my soul's yearning to find light -- but I mentioned that my son would be coming home in not too many weeks. And the realization flooded over me, that life was always only loss, and that everything we love goes away, and that this was the first time that anything was coming back to me. And I wept. Publicly. For just a moment. I don't pretend to be hard. I'm soft.
I know what it all means, and I know why. My great learning has not driven me mad. It's kept me from succumbing to my madness. There's a way that this is a good thing. But it is not pleasing to God. He wants me broken. I don't trust him to hold me together. How can I trust God? He's so hard. I take his forgiveness as granted. I have no quibble with his grace. But his mercy is so implacable. He thinks our suffering teaches us something, and he thinks we'll turn to him when we've had enough. I don't care about God's compassion, the feeling he has and why he does things. How would that be my business? I want a miracle, to be rescued from myself. There are things, though, that we can do and God cannot. I don't believe that anyone gets saved from their body of death. I think that if you're surrounded by a body of death, you die. Tell me where you think I'm wrong, and I'll refer you to the sharks.
I was thinking about how easy it is to love little children, and how unfortunate it is that they become like adults. Apparently innocence past a certain point is just stupidity. Does God look at us, in our depravity, and see us as we see little children? That would be sweet, and a comfort. But a dark realization haunts such an understanding. Not all children are loved. I see myself sometimes as small, and lost, and wretched. What kind of a man is that? I see myself as foolish and useless and as a joke. Poor little me.
If I ask who could love me, well, wouldn't it be arrogant to suppose that I'm not loved? It's just that in such an imperfect world, no matter how bright love starts out, it arrives dim. The world is filled with smoke. There is fire on the water. Something else to regret.
I can't end there, though. My knowledge won't let me, for all the darkness of my heart. Because I know the answer. I wish it would do me some good. Here's the answer. Since we're in the water, we should be pearl divers. We should risk the depths, that something beautiful might be found and brought up. There's light enough to see the beauty. That's what the fire is for, if we dare the flames.
Jesus, Jesus, come get me again. Reach down and pluck me up from the deep. It's been so long since I could breathe, and darkness twists me so I don't know up from down. I'm hard to love, but pity my wretchedness. Your humanity is my only claim on you.