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Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Voice

“I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.” – G. K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"

I have been a Christian for 22 years, and in spite of the daily drudgery and difficulties of life, it has been a beautiful, otherworldly journey. Over the years, on many occasions, my faith has been challenged. Because I read a lot, I am exposed to a great many other belief systems and world-views. Many are appealing, many go a long way in debunking Christianity, and many is the night I have lain in bed wondering if I’m just kidding myself. Get real, there is no God. Right?

Then, when I least expect it, He speaks to me. I call it “The Voice,” this gentle prodding somewhere inside of me, sometimes a feeling, sometimes actual words, both of which are absolutely distinct from the inner-voice of self. The last couple of years, since we moved to Alaska, I have heard The Voice a lot more.

Over the years, my political or religious beliefs have morphed and changed as I learn more about the world and its history. Every few months, it seems, I have a spiritual crisis – a point at which I am sure my faith has been irrevocably shaken.

And then, when I least expect it, when I am drowning in doubt, a strange thing happens. The Voice whispers. It’s a difficult thing to describe, but it is as if a breeze were clearing a way through the fog, and for a moment there is absolute certainty in a real God that exists both in and outside the violent cartoon of daily reality. In the face of this certainty, the fog vanishes. But only for a moment, for it is this world I live in and am so deeply a part of. But I find that I cannot forget that breeze – the memory of it stays with me.

Imagine for a moment that God is REALLY real; really who He says He is. That doesn’t mean you have like Him, or agree with His ways. But imagine how knowing absolutely that God is real would change your life. Don’t you think it would? In the same way, glimpse by glimpse, my life is being changed.

There is something liberating and wonderful about really getting a taste of that reality. I have been liberated from the need to conform to a particular view of the world (including the modern church’s). I can get a tattoo, get my nose pierced, be a communist, swear like a sailor, and it doesn’t much matter. I am a delight to God here and now, even when I get drunk, enjoy a raunchy novel, or wish ill upon an annoying acquaintance.

Anyone who lives out their faith inside an emotional prison (as many do), or tries to drag others into that prison, is not only missing the boat, but completely misrepresenting God. That, at least, is my opinion.

Writers like Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Madeleine L’Engle, G. K. Chesterton, and C. S. Lewis have blown my socks off – people who are melancholy, filled with self-loathing, have bad habits and carnal appetites. They are also people passionately embrace a God who passionately embraces them back.

However, the one aspect of the Christian faith that I can’t seem to fully accept is that of heaven, eternal life.

That probably sounds like a strange admission, considering many people profess their belief in Jesus in the hope that they will live forever. It’s like heaven is the only real reason anyone would be religious. Agnostics argue that people choose religious belief out of fear of death. Well, I am as afraid of death as the next person, and my initial reasons for believing may have had something to do with fear, but that’s not why I believe now.

In all this time, I still have a difficult time believing in heaven. It just makes so much more sense to me that when we die, that’s it. Yes, God is the Master Creator of the universe and all that, but I guess, that is good enough for me. The idea that there is more – I can’t wrap my mind around that – it’s too good to be true. And you know what they say…

Critics of Christianity wonder, how fun could heaven be? Eternity is a long time to play harps and sing hosannas. (I agree.) Don’t we need a little bit of bad just to remember how joy and happiness feels? If heaven truly has no more sorrow or tears, then how will we know we’re happy?

As far as I can tell, the Bible doesn’t say all that much about heaven. Ultimately, we’re probably not meant to know a whole lot – perhaps God doesn’t want that to be the basis for our believing in Him.

In any case, there are, out in the world, a great many books about heaven. I have only read a few, most notably “The Great Divorce,” by C. S. Lewis, “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Journey to Heaven,” by Mark Twain, and “Phantastes,” by George MacDonald. Now, if you’re familiar with any of these books, you’ll know all of them are fictional fantasies, allegorical, and in Twain’s case, very tongue-in-cheek. Probably not the kind of books one should use as bases for a doctrine of the afterlife.

Oddly, when I read these books, there were things that jumped out at me, things that seemed achingly familiar. It felt a bit like déjà vu. Certain images and pictures had a certain “rightness” about them. I have never had this experience reading anything else. I’m not sure what it means, but I am tickled with an impossible hope.

Perhaps, somewhere deep in our minds, God has woven memories of a place we have never seen, but for which we have been imagined. It is but the merest thread, tiny blurred pieces of a massive mosaic, but nonetheless, a promise. My conscious, thinking mind cannot conceive of heaven, but somewhere, in a place inside of me that exists beyond my conscious control, there is understanding.

The Voice stirs the sediment of my mind, breathing understanding into my deep parts; an understanding beyond words, invoking a rest that is supernatural.
I’ll end this monologue with a question that surfaced after reading Lewis’ “The Great Divorce.” It will probably raise an uproar, but I am curious for input. Where exactly – and I mean specifically, spelled-out – does it say in the Bible that you have to be ALIVE to accept Jesus Christ as savior?


At 1:24 PM, Blogger fatmammajamma said...


At 12:06 AM, Blogger Linda said...

Wow, what? Come on! I wanna know!

At 12:56 PM, Blogger fatmammajamma said...

Not bad wow, just wow. You're very deep and very eloquent. I enjoy your blogs.


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