Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Loving Father, Loving Son

How do we learn love? Experience.

What is a father? Good question.

Everyone talks about God as our heavenly Father, as if this is something wonderful, but what does it mean? Also, what does it mean to be a son of God? That's what he calls us: his children.

Children have a tough time. They're expected to grow up into convenient adults as soon as this can be manage, but like hothouse flowers they tend to fall apart under pressure. DDT kills plants by forcing them to grow faster than they should; the result is distorted and ugly.

If you didn't learn to be a child the first time around, God gives you another chance. Nay, he requires it. Go back, learn to be a child, then perhaps we can learn to be good adults.

It's embarrassing, is what it is. I never wanted to be a child in the first place. Having to learn it as an adult really shakes my whole world. I'm afraid things will fall off, although God has promised to hold things together.

Being a son... what does a son do? Run around, fall down, get hurt. For me, it stops there. I go find my own bandage and refuse to cry. Love is a myth that's very expensive.

What should a son do? Run around, fall down, get hurt. Run to Father, he kisses the wound, puts on the bandage and shows me the scar where he banged the same knee on a rock years ago. Nice image. I wish I could believe it. God is pretty well determined that I start to believe it, and as you might expect we have a difference of opinion.

I'm trying for survival, and love doesn't fit the picture. It's not on the list of requirements for survival; all I really have to do is duck my head and hold on. But that way lies oblivion: what, really, is the point? God is trying for love and life, head up, looking around, alive to what's happening. He is working on awareness, awareness of his love. Can I allow myself to feel loved?

That may sound like a silly question to you, but believe me. It shakes the very foundation of my being. Love has been so rare that I just don't want to need it. The potential for addiction is much too high. I've seen the results of that addiction: people who will do anything for even the thinnest simulacrum of love. I don't want to go there. It's all my mind is filled with when God presents himself and I know there is nothing to fear, that he will never leave.

And yet I remember. All those stories of long, dark nights of the soul people write about, their long desert sojourns when God seemed father away than Arcturus. How do I, simple, direct attempting-to-follow-Jesus-person that I am, survive such a thing? If God leaves me I will fall apart and drop into the abyss whose shore I've skated along all of my life. Well, maybe God has already left.

Perceptually, perhaps. Factually, I just don't buy it. What if those long, dark nights of the soul are more the soul turning its back on God than God actually departing for the better weather and more cooperative people around Arcturus? I'm highly trained in selective awareness, and when I'm really upset I can select out just about anything. Even God.

He never feels distant to me, but he often does feel inaccessible, and that, I believe, is my choice. I choose to close door after door to reduce the radiance that would otherwise skewer me and transform me. That old survival instinct again: do nothing to upset the status quo. Any earthquake is dangerous.

Well, just as the Pharisees learned, Jesus is the Earthquake Man. They fought him to maintain their whited sepulchre status, just as I fight to stay within the binding cloths I use for protection.

Protection is necessary. The problem is that mine is so inflexible. The more the Holy Spirit teaches me to bend, to be porous because he will protect me from harm, the more I fight him off because I just don't trust him. All that Christian imagery of the Angry God, tapping his foot, waiting for me to grow up already so I can do the work he's waiting for.

Hold me together, Jesus, but don't change me. It sounds absurd, but it's real. But to touch Jesus in any real way is to be changed. That radiance works its way into the soul and turns into rain. Plants grow in what was desert and the scorched wildlife comes out to play.

Threat to survival! How will I survive? Lock it down. Human being against Jesus, and I can win. Love requires freedom, and stops at the barred door. But His love has no surface tension. It seeks any tiny crack, and He is very, very patient. Love transforms, and he will wait until I become more like a son.

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