For the second Sunday in a row, I went to bed thinking this would be the week that I had nothing to say.
Turns out that just like last week, there might be something after all. I still don’t have much to say to you. But I have a question. I’m going to try to find the words for my question, and then I’m going to try to listen for your reply.
I woke up this morning before 4:00. I often do.
Usually, I head to the kitchen, try my best not to step on Haley when I make coffee, then come back into the office to write. Write emails to people. Try to get curious. With them. With myself. Often not succeeding. Often just letting the internal dialogue spill out of my head and into the email, not taking the time to do much editing, and just hitting send. I’m fortunate that I have people who are willing to receive these notes kindly. To see past the blather. To know better than I what I was trying to say, or should have been trying to say. Thank God for these people..
People like you.
But today, instead of going right to the laptop, I pulled out the book I’ve been reading for the last few days.
I’m a little embarrassed even to tell you what the book is. Do you know how some things and some people become so successful that they transform into something they are not? Instead of the beautiful or sublime or breathtaking, they become shorthand for something worthy of derision. They become a caricature of the excess of the beautiful or sublime or breathtaking. They become their own punchline.
And everyone believes they know that something. But they do not. They know the joke. They know the punchline. But not the thing itself.
So it is with this book.
I am reading Eat. Pray. Love.
Nate calls it the Nickleback of memoirs. How perfect is that?
I doubt you’ve ever read it, but I want you to. Or maybe talk to somebody. Someone who actually knows about it, and who can get past the shorthand. Someone who has done the work.
I’m nearing the end of the Pray section. And when I woke this morning, I picked up where I left off as I was falling asleep last night. Elizabeth is coming to the end of her time at the Ashram. She has found herself as the butt of a hilarious joke - perpetrated by God or Swamiji or someone or something. She’s decided to become silent. To seek God in silence, and she is utterly denied her choice. I’m not going to repeat the whole story. I’m only telling you to get you oriented. I opened to chapter 64. But you should start at 62 or 63 for the full context of the joke.
(I have no idea if this particular section even made it to the movie. I’ve never seen it. I think I’m glad of that.)
And after reading, I had this idea that I want to bounce off of you. And maybe I’m finally getting back to the discussion that you and I started about God on our way up to Fredericksburg to meet Kylie just before First Descents. I think so.
(And I hope we can continue this conversation in the coming weeks. I refer to it as The Dangling Conversation. The one that you and I never quite finished, because I did not know how. Still don’t know. But I feel like I left you hanging, and I don’t like that.)
As I read, I keep asking. Why do we resist God so hard?
To be honest, that question is partly what the book is about - at least this particular section, and probably the whole thing. So my question really isn’t all that original. But it keeps coming back to me. I can’t get past it. And you thought Eat Pray Love was about an incredibly selfish woman who just says, To hell with everything! Then sets out to find herself? So did I. It is not. See what I mean?)
Why do we resist God so hard?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested that there are only two real motivating emotions. Love or Fear. She acknowledged there may be some derivative emotions that seem to nudge us toward one choice over another, but even those can trace their ancestry back to one of these two. Like Fear and Love are to emotions what Adam and Eve are to the human race.
I think there is something to this. I love simple when simple is right. I love going all the way back to the beginnings of things. Love or fear feel simple and right, and absolutely feel like the beginning of things. So I’m going with it for now.
So why do we resist God so hard?
I mean, if we accept the idea of a loving and compassionate God, what is there to resist? Why would we resist, at all? ,
Love seems to be out of the question. Which leaves us with this.
Because we’re afraid. Afraid that:
We will leave those we love behind, or they will walk away from us, and we’ll be left alone. Alone with God. And somehow, that feels absolutely terrifying. What would we even talk about? What if he doesn’t like us?
We might find out that our ideas of God were wrong to begin with. That God is not quite so compassionate and loving as we believed. And by resisting, by playing it cool, we keep enough distance so that we never become the butt of the world’s cruelest practical joke. A wasted life. Or a life devoted to the wrong God.
Even if we have the right God, we are not worthy of him in the first place.
Maybe these are all the same thing, actually. We’re afraid that God will reject us, or that He’s not there to begin with. Sure, God may ask an incredibly high price of us. That we give up so much of what we hold onto in order to meet Him where He is.
But we’re talking about God here.
You know. The maker of the universe and all its galaxies. The creator of life.
Or however you choose to define Him. But if God is who we think He is, and He tells us that we might need to let go of a thing or two in order to commune with Him, to commune with Pure Love, is there any reason we would resist other than fear?
The fear that God won’t come through on His end of the bargain.
So that’s the question, Abi. It’s fear, isn’t it? And this fear, in particular. Right? What do you think?
I’ll take your answer off-line. But I’ll be looking for it, just the same.
I’ll be looking for it this week in the books I read and the people I meet and in the sounds of the surf. I’ll be looking for it in the color of the sunsets or the odors of the coffee shop at 7:00 in the morning. I’ll be looking for it everywhere, actually, and I’m feeling pretty confident that you’ll have something for me.
And if you think I’m onto something, maybe you can give me a little suggestion of what to do with that fear. And maybe even release it and give the alternative a chance to weigh in.
Now that’s a big ask. Bigger than yours, I think. Are you up for it?
I love you, and you know who you are,
There’s a reason we refer to “leaps of faith”—because the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable, and I don’t care how diligently scholars of every religion will try to sit you down with their stacks of books and prove to you through scripture that their faith is indeed rational; it isn’t. If faith were rational, it wouldn’t be—by definition—faith. Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be…a prudent insurance policy.