If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to My breast.

-George Herbert

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Long Journey

Reader, the journey into God is the longest journey. And yet, of course, we aren't going anywhere, because there isn't anyplace where God is not already present, is not already waiting for us.

I was born and baptized in the Episcopal Church; but when I was still a small child, my parents were converted to a repressive, coercive, quasi-Christian sect which taught that there was only one rather uncomfortable way, and that everyone who chose another was merely fuel for the fire, never mind best intentions. When I returned as a young man to the Church and the faith, it was with a deep spiritual hunger and thirst for God. But my experience left me skeptical that one religion could convey the fullness of divine truth. And my uncertainties and fears made me desperate to discover that truth. I felt compelled, therefore, to travel many byways, to explore all sorts of cramped intellectual alleys, to torment myself with unanswerable questions, often needlessly. Every journey, however, led me back to the person of Jesus, and back to Christian faith.

I had thought, twenty years ago when first I began to keep a disciplined rule of prayer, that a time would come when the answers would be clear, when the path would become level. That has never happened. I still struggle every day for understanding, for fidelity, and every day I meet with confusion.

I do think I can say a couple of helpful words, nevertheless. The first is that no system, no philosophy, no religion can give us all we seek, and if it claims to, then take care! We each have a question for which there is nothing our rational minds would term an answer. Yet the eternal God and the destiny of the whole creation are revealed in the figure of Christ incarnate, crucified and resurrected; and in that figure are answers that run deeper than logic or thought itself.

Second, we are on a path to the cross. There's no escape from that, run where you will. Your only choice is this: will you play the role of the good thief or the bad thief? I mean the ones who were crucified to the left and right of Jesus. If you think you've got a more glamorous part to play, you're kidding yourself. Will you to the very last call upon the God who suffers with you and for you to take you down from your cross, to relieve you of the consequences of your brokenness; or will you cry, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!"? (Re-member me: put me together again.) When one finally accepts that there is no detour around the road to Golgotha, then the tremendous energy one expends on evasion, escape and denial is liberated, and strangely, the pain of the Cross is eased by the peace which passeth understanding. "Truly I tell you, TODAY you will be with me in paradise."

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