The Nature of God – Part 5
[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]
Life continued while I kicked my way through it, thankfully without God. After all, that’s the way I wanted it.
I’d just had my project car’s engine rebuilt. I installed it, put on the cylinder heads, and bent a valve because I misadjusted one of the lifters during final setup. And that damaged the cylinder bore, too. Damn. Printed instructions aren’t always enough. That and other things were starting to go wrong because of my utter inexperience, and one evening as I stopped work, I once again took a last look at the car from the doorway and tried to picture it done and ready to drive (to keep my motivation up). Envision success! And…done! As I began to close the door to go upstairs, a strange, intrusive thought seemed to pop into my head out of the blue, saying “What is it worth?” I hadn’t thought about a hobby car in terms of dollar value, and the question sort of surprised me. The thought of selling it had never occurred to me. Why on earth did I think that? Where did that come from? But I considered it and answered, “Oh, about $1,800 or so,” and went upstairs, thinking no more about it. Whatever.
A few weeks later, same scenario except that the car was continuing to go more seriously wrong. I stopped and took my usual “picture success” gaze at it, and then that same quiet but intrusively foreign thought then asked, “What is it worth?” I was no less surprised than before, but I thought back, “Well, maybe about $1,500.” I was just beginning to get a little unsettled. This line of thought was ruining my “envision success” moments. I don’t do this kind of thing to myself, ever. Too demotivating. You have to persist in the face of difficulty, one step at a time, and keep a positive mindset going, and what did its street value have to do with that? It’s a hobby. Nonsensical. My thoughts went with the flow, and if thoughts could have a volume, they were at volume three. This intrusive thought was more like volume five, and interrupted the flow. It was annoying and disruptive to success.
Well, the re-rebuilt engine was soon audibly pounding a main bearing with a deep boom, and I realized I was out of luck, out of my league, and finally out of the money, energy and determination needed to keep going on it. It was time to give up and dump it. The foreign thought came to me yet again as I was about to close the door, this time without my usual motivating gaze. “What is it worth?” came through more quietly than before, though it was no less annoying. Kick a guy when he’s down. I was trying to put together a realistic figure for this sudden junkheap when I realized that the question was not and had never been about money. It was about this car’s real importance in my life, or the significance of the weight I could rest on it to get me through life. This sudden realization of the meaning of the question was not of my own brilliance. The nuances of the way in which the question was asked made the true meaning painfully clear. Even I couldn’t miss it. I was using this work as an escape valve after having the hard truth driven home once more that my romanticized sense of loyalty and deep trust in the love of my life had been inappropriately placed. An isolated incident had emerged as a trend. The car was an emotional fallback. I had just lost my second crutch, and down I went. I let the car become someone else’s problem.
As time went on, I began to wonder what was significant in life, and what I could count on. I had observed that even a very comfortable stockpile of money could completely disappear with one illness, accident or other mishap. Concentrating my life around gathering money was useless. I thought of those local commercial buildings that had someone’s name carved over the entrances. A proud accomplishment at one time, now they were impersonalized mysteries that no one gave a thought to. Hmmm, Stanton Building …Whatever. Nothing more than a name carved in just ahead of the wrecking ball, with the person being long gone and as unremembered as a welshing drug dealer buried in the desert outside Vegas. How does one make one’s life significant or meaningful? Why do we even seek significance, or justice, meaningfulness, purpose, or any of the other common values? Why do some give that up, and live with less depth of conscience than the family cat? Why do some seek the fleeting, hollow acknowledgement of fame? In what should I invest my life? What could I lean my weight on that would not weaken and collapse in the long run? I thought hard and long, but I could think of nothing.
About this time, some Mormon missionaries appeared, since my wife had had a Mormon upbringing. Aiming at me, they rattled off personal testimonies, strung Bible verses together in the confident, practiced patter of a Ginsu knife spokesman, and dumped the Mormon version of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price on me during weekly visits. No, I didn’t saw my way through everything, but what I did read seemed fascinating and truly bizarre. I tried to keep an open mind though, because who knew where God was? I read and read. When that moment of the missionary-led “is this the one?” prayer finally came, there was no inward blip of sensing an affirmation, and no “burning in my heart” which they expected as I mouthed the words they wanted me to. Nada. This surprised them, because I appeared to be open and seriously considering what they had to say – since I actually was seeking God by that time. They eventually gave up and left me in peace. No harm, no foul – except of course for their logical perception that I must be destined to be lost for all eternity. I was not to be one of the Chosen Ones. I kept reading the Mormon literature now and then after that just to make sure, and eventually hit teachings that I would be afraid to whisper on a golf course during a thunderstorm. I knew precious little of God, but I knew that wanting to earn eventual godhood oneself was “inappropriate behavior”, however wonderfully virtuous a light to the world I might become. Besides, I knew I could never be a god myself, which would resemble giving a loaded pistol with a hair-trigger to a mischievous child suffering muscle spasms. I dropped my interest in Mormonism as quickly as I had stopped laying curses on unfair high school teachers.
I eventually started to wonder about God Himself. Remember, desperate men do desperate things. I had largely forgotten that he had healed my throat earlier, one-on-one. I simply recalled in my gut that He existed, and with the more recent reminders in and around the garage, knew that He still existed. I was coming around to wanting something from Him. It felt like there was something missing or askew in me that nothing could seem to fix. Like a warped picture frame, nothing seemed to fit properly, or seat fully.
Never one to take the simple approach, I bought a paperback book called 52 Religions, which briefly described each one on its list. God, the unexpected Being that I had sporadically encountered, surely had to be in there somewhere. It was kind of a spiritual Russian roulette. Nothing really floated my boat or lit up brighter than any other. As I read, I kept asking God which one was my path to get to Him. There were so many interesting, defined options. What avenue did He work through? Which belief system? Which philosophy? Which church or organization? Couldn’t tell. Oh, there was “Mormon” again. Prayed about that. Nothing. There was even “Christian” described too, of course. I figured that must be a slam-dunk, right? Prayed about that, though I was a bit afraid of winding up having to endure more Methodist church services. Nothing. Bummer. Maybe God had lost interest because I’d told Him to forget it before. Maybe none of these cooly-canned descriptions really represented the roadmap to find Him, at least for me. I had no idea what was wrong and was at a loss, but He had to be in there somewhere.
But, He wasn’t. Not for me. I put my search on pause, then gave up and tried to hold my ground against the current of difficulties that swirled unrelentingly around me. It would be a long couple of years before I found what I needed, but wasn’t looking for.
In retrospect, another selected segment from Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven:
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!