When I was in high school, I was still on speaking terms with G-d. I would stand ‘straight and tall’ with toes over the edge of the worn brick steps of our broad front porch and converse on the regular with G-d, Who was always accessible somewhere up in the dark shadowed branches of the live oak tree that covered the front yard.
The Way was published around that time and my favorite books were what I now know are referred to as The Wisdom Books, especially Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. I prayed fervently to attain this Wisdom that was so highly praised and valued in those books. (I was also by this time a seasoned ‘fixer’ and prayed for “a mastery of words” so that I could heal the pain and suffering of others in the world. I have to smile now because I also recall feeling a bit long-suffering in church because when the minister boomed about our being sinners…and Presbyterians are all about guilt and shame…I felt it was my duty to sit quietly and listen but couldn’t see how I was a sinner; it just wasn’t true.)
Anyway, years (and much sin) later in college, after my relationship with G-d turned south, and many times since, I have felt not only the intense yearning but actually being beckoned. I recall several times going into a book store and feeling intensely that what I needed was in there somewhere … if I could just find it. Like siren song, I was being called out to but I couldn’t find where it was coming from.
I felt almost a secret filthy pleasure when I registered for the only religion course offered at The College but The History of the Christian Church did not satisfy. The dear old professor recognized the hunger in the eyes of all of us students and commented at the beginning of the course, “You will not find what you are looking for here.”
There were times of almost manic breakdown when a dizzying frenzy of confusion would force me to run from bookstores; what I so desperately desired was there…close…but I could not find it. It never occurred to me to look within. Within was dark and vacuous.
I remember feeling taunted, when learning this poem:
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.
No. I felt that not only was G-d NOT hounding me, NOT seeking me, but that I had pissed Him off to the point of turning me eternally away. It did not dawn on me that the yearning and calling I felt was G-d, wanting me back.
At that time, life, the world, all of the knowledge and experience laying out before me seemed huge enough that anything was possible and the G-d of my live oak tree seemed small. Now, I see that it could not have been anything other than G-d.
I may not be home yet, but I know I am on my street.
I know you’re out there somewhere
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you…
…the words that I remember
From my childhood still are true
That there’s none so blind
As those who will not see
And to those who lack the courage
And say it’s dangerous to try
Well they just don’t know
That love eternal will not be denied
— Moody Blues
(The Way is a 1972 publication of The Living Bible.)
(The other poetry is from The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson.)