Thursday, August 15, 2013
Toward Freedom XVIII
I was 19. Having no real alternative, I assumed I knew--or could figure out--everything I needed to know. How does one prepare for a meeting with the Living God? How does an almost-man who trusts only his intellect come to any kind of understanding of the spirit? I thought I could see something out there, beyond the fog of daily life, represented in the early spring shoots of dark green daffodil leaves against late snow, the rainbow of mist around a mountain waterfall, the feel of a long wind through my fingers. All of these marvels whispered of another reality.
There were other hints, seen even more dimly. People could transcend the hard-edged intellectual understanding and allow more fluid feelings. I'd seen it occasionally and longed for it.
I quit wrestling with the philosophy of becoming a Christian on October 18, after chasing my figurative tail round and round for two weeks. I'd been presented with Christianity as a package. You open it up and poof. I couldn't do that, with any honesty, which is what I said to God. Logic aided me here. God is said to be omnipresent so he could hear me anywhere. "Except you come as a child..." I told God what was on my mind and he seemed to accept the deal. "God, I don't know if you're out there, but the only way I'm going to find out is to look."
Who knows, when they set out, what they will find? Leading up to that start was a confusing summer. I'd been excused from further attendance at Colorado University--good autodidact, lousy student--but went to Europe that summer with my brother for a foreign-study program in Vienna. I had no idea what would happen when I got back; being there pretty much drove everything else out. My grandfather died while we were over there and we went straight to Salina for the service. I went on to Colorado to pick up my grandfather's car, so I could drive it to Nebraska for my brother.
Weather intervened. I invited Craig up while I got things sorted out in Estes Park and he arrived at the beginning of a surprise late-September snowstorm. It was the kind with lots of big slow flakes, hour after hour, warm snow that built up. Craig had intended to stay for a day but we were hilariously snowbound. We ran around outside or sat inside by the fire, marvelling. No cars could move. After a couple of days the snow stopped and autumn reasserted itself. One day we were able to get Craig's car out, and he drove away.
I'm familiar with emotions in the abstract. The last time I cried I was 12 years old, after my father died, which surprised me and really distressed everyone else. I was told to stop it. I stood in the warming snow, watching Craig's old white car fade into the white world, and nearly cried. Nearly. Control.
By that time I had forgotten that my father cried as we left the house one day. I don't remember why I was in the car, but he was on his way to Texas and heart surgery. and I didn't understand what he was showing. It was so strange I thought it was a joke. Only much later, after he died during recovery, did I make the connection.
What happens when control no longer works? How can one learn who God is while being so controlled? The question wouldn't leave me, which is why I made the deal with God. Teach me. I'll do my best to follow.
What is the essence of obedience to God? I'm leery of book answers, having been lied to too many times for me to trust anyone. Go and find out for myself. The next day I sent off a casette-letter to Craig in which I told him of my sort-of conversion. Nascent conversion, perhaps; we are, after all, said to be reborn.
Craig's vocal response was nearly ecstatic. Included with his cassette was a ring, black stone with a superimposed cross. I've never worn jewellery; it seems to be something one gets used to and I'd never done it, so the few attempts I made just felt odd. I looked at this piece and noticed, inscribed inside the band, "The three of us." This piece, I wore.
Turning to Jesus didn't really still the ferment in my mind. What is this all about? I bought a bible and attended a few church services. I hit a bump right away. Everyone in the church was asking God for forgiveness. My reading and understanding indicated that we're forgiven as soon as we turn to Jesus. Move on to other things. I decided the church Craig was attending in Colorado was a better bet, and a couple of weeks later I showed up on his doorstep.
How much of this was emotion? How much was obedience to the Holy Spirit I didn't know at all? How much was just not wanting to be in Kansas on a job treadmill? I was 19. I wanted magic, even if I couldn't articulate it, and Craig was about as close to magic as I'd ever seen. However it was done, the decision was made and the smoke of burning bridges faded behind me.
"The three of us." We moved into that old trailer. I got an idea and went at it straightforwardly. I bought a plate of silver and sawed a cross out of it. I used a fine file to smooth the edges, and then took it to a jeweller to have "The three of us" engraved. I also bought a chain, epoxied a loop to the top, and gave it to Craig. Anything was possible.
Forty-one years later, there's a small package from Carol in my mailbox. The silver chimes in memory, "The three of us," and resonates with last year's heart-shaped stones. God is unafraid of emotion. I still tend to run but I go more slowly now. One person's obedience is to go to the mountains and raise a family. Another's might be to run and turn, run and turn. How else to prove truth to the untrusting and bring freedom to one who has no real idea nor feeling for freedom?
What am I to do with this? I have no idea if Craig ever wore it. It's still a concentrated bit of memory. The chain does fit over my head.
2013 August 15