And three dares
Mine is the God of James Baldwin, Hafiz1, Julian of Norwich2, Brother Lawrence3, Madeleine L’Engel4, George MacDonald5, and Madame Jeanne Guyon6. Of this One, Baldwin wrote: “To be with God is really to be involved with some enormous, overwhelming desire, and joy, and power which you cannot control, which controls you. I conceive of my own life as a journey toward something I do not understand, which in the going toward, makes me better. I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others.”7
When I first read these writers, I was surprised to see that they had arrived at some of the same conclusions that I had worked out privately and on my own—but they had gotten there seven hundred years, or sixty years, before me. (Then, of course, they led me further.) The great difficulty with Christianity in the past thousand years has been the overwhelming number of people who claim to represent Christ without ever having met him, known him, walked with him, much less wrestled with him until dawn8; who fashion God in their own image, or in the image of a specific man, and worship that; who lust for earthly power; who control and persecute other Christians, especially women. They sow widespread bitterness and distrust.
You have to give the Deceiver credit; it is a very effective trick.
So I name those whom I see further down the same path that I am on, whose words lighted lampposts for me, and did not set snares.
I have no interest in convincing anyone that God exists. To me, arguing about the existence of God seems as unhelpful as arguing about the existence of water. If someone has not personally seen water, any description sounds ridiculous. It covers most of the earth, falls from the sky, constitutes most of your body, holds whales, rises into waterspouts, floods and drowns and gives life, tastes like nothing, freezes into continents…
What is needed is direct experience. Nothing else will do.
So if you like, tell the universe (silently or aloud—both are heard): God, if you exist, I dare you to make yourself known to me, clearly and unmistakably.
Disclaimer: The author shall not be legally liable for any indirect, incidental, special, consequential or punitive damages, or any loss of profits or revenues or employment, or any loss of goodwill, relationships, blissful ignorance, or other intangible losses resulting from praying the above prayer and/or subsequent and related acts of God.
That’s it. If you don’t hear back, you’re in the clear. Who could fault you? You opened the door—no one was there.
When you do hear back, please refer to the above disclaimer.
Then try: God, if you love me, prove it. Show me.
Disclaimer: The previous disclaimer applies doubly here. Also, if you live in the author’s vicinity, it would be appreciated if you advised the author in advance of your attempt, so the author can put on a helmet and padded armor and/or take a short trip out of the area. The author
remembers the series of events subsequent to praying this in the winter of 2016.
The observant reader may notice that I have a somewhat adversarial relationship to God.9 That reader might also note that I am still standing, if singed. God has a sense of humor; Q.E.D.
Once you have the proof that you’ve asked for, and have been lightened by the loss of what is not meant for you; once you have learned to listen to the stillness under everything, where there is peace that surpasses understanding; once joy spreads its cotelydons in the wreckage of what was—one question knocks at the door of the heart.
God, what do you want me to do or say, right now, in this moment?
It is a question to live in and breathe out, in one’s coming and going. One discovers, little by little, an artistic collaborator of immeasurable worth.
In more quiet moments, add:
What do you want me to ask for?
Listen carefully. Then do, speak, ask; or be still and know.
See what unfolds.
“Small Monsters,” my first novelette-length story, should be available at Tor.com by the time you read this sentence.
Now that it’s out, here’s Stars Between. It’s the first twenty-minute opera in the linked recording, and I hope you’ll give it a listen if you haven’t already.
From my colleague at work: Free Women Writers is raising funds for Etilaat Roz in Afghanistan. Donations are tax-deductible and likely eligible for employer matching.
I’ve previously discussed the business of writing for paying subscribers. A more accessible resource (though on different topics) is this free & public lecture series on financial literacy from the Authors Guild. If you’re a writer, I recommend it.
Next paid essay will be on cannibalism and the 21st-century alienation of much of humanity from craft and creation; next free essay will contrive some excuse to show off at least one of the fungal microscopy photos I took this weekend.
“The Seed Cracked Open” in Ladinsky’s suspiciously loose translation, which I can’t find the original of; but also poem 63 in the Divan.
The Complete Julian of Norwich, ed. John Julian (Paraclete Press, 2009). If I get a period of quiet, however, I’ll be trying to work through the Jenkins and Watson Middle English edition (Penn State UP, 2006), because I saw “for unknowing of love” glossed in the Paraclete and immediately wanted the original.
Walking on Water (1972).
Best known as the author of The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, Lilith, etc., but here I refer to Unspoken Sermons. C.S. Lewis wrote of MacDonald: “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.”
Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ (Jacksonville, FL: Seedsowers, 1975)—this specific translation. The church authorities accused Mme Guyon of heresy after she published this book in 1685. They imprisoned her in the Bastille for eight years, where she wrote the poem “A Little Bird I Am,” still sung three hundred years after her death—and perhaps more, last year, than ever before.
From “In Search of a Majority,” in The Price of the Ticket (NY: St. Martin’s, 1985), p234.