Tag Archives: God

For the Faithful Fail

Q: What does it take for evil to prevail?

A: For the good to do nothing.

Q: What, then, happens to the good?…

Psalms 12:1-2

  1. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

 

They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

How much of what you deal with every day is truth and how much is error and deception? When we hear something over and over, from different sources in different places, we tend to take it as reality, without really thinking about it ourselves. Have the different sources just been repeating what they heard without thinking for themselves, likewise? Take, for example, religion.

Going to church

Perhaps, you have heard that church is for sinners – this from God-believing people who don’t feel the need to attend a church. My great-aunt Gini told me this several times. At first, I tried to rebuke her statement because she was trying to use it to prove that attendance of worship services should not be an integral, or required, part of faith. But, I soon saw my error. She was saying something very true: Church, or church attendance, or religion itself, is for sinners. And every human being is a sinner, because no human being lives up to the fullness of his or her potential every moment of every day.

Accepting the truth

To be a sinner is not to be damned to Hell for eternity. To be a sinner is to be a fallen human – and we are all fallen. To recognize and acknowledge oneself as a sinner is to understand the divide between human and divine, between temporal love and eternal love, between partial beauty and goodness and the fullness of beauty and goodness. This doesn’t mean that the divide is impossible to traverse – we, as humans, do not possess the inherent ability, but God grants us the ability through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully divine. Through his life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension and through our acceptance and reception of the divine mercy and love that pours forth from this Paschal Mystery through Christ’s Mystical Body, we are saved, we are redeemed.

Listening and understanding

See? You might hear and repeat that “church is for sinners” and think that you don’t need to go to worship service – but you don’t understand what a sinner is or what church is. As goodhearted a person as you may be, you will be dealing in errors and lies. After realizing this, I responded to my aunt’s statement by saying, “Yep. That’s why I go to church. Because I’m a sinner.” I didn’t point fingers at her – I pointed them at me.

“God is for sissies”

Or, perhaps you have heard that religion itself – that the worship of God – is for the frightened and weak-minded, the elderly, the suffering, the disabled, and the poor. This false idea is much harder to rebut in the world, though it must be rebuked if we are to live in the truth. The belief in and worship of God, or religion as I will call it here, is not merely a comforting mythology to keep the less-endowed people from feeling the sorrow of their pathetic lives. How arrogant and deceitful a thought!

Prove it

Yet, how do we convince the self-deceived liars about the truth of religion?

Well, we certainly can’t do it by living in lies and errors ourselves. We can’t demonstrate to the world the profound and universal power of religion for good, for beauty, for justice and for love if we gossip after church about all the things that we think other people are doing wrong in their lives, gossiping in lowered voices lest those other people hear us.

We can’t prove to the world the transcendent and imminent presence of God who loves every human being infinitely and intimately if we pass by panhandlers on the street with shameful looks, wondering what drug addiction those beggars are trying to use our money to fill, or if we respond to other calls for charitable donations with a closed, cautious wallet, stating that we can’t afford to help – and then open our wallets at Starbucks or for a third, fifth, 27th (?) pair of shoes.

We can’t show the deep and abiding need for God and God’s mercy in every human being, even the richest and most successful, if we do not ourselves allow God’s mercy to flower in us so that we may forgive those who have hurt us, or even just irritated us, and be healed by that forgiving.

Good people

I just watched the movie Philomena. Although I would not use it specifically as Catholic apologetics, I would share with you the “little old Irish woman” as she is portrayed in the film as an example of a healthy Catholic response of truth in a world full of deception, anger, shamed secrets, and lies. She is a devoutly believing Catholic and, it would seem, a very simple human being. She is certainly not well-educated or well-versed, and she is not going to be able to rebut her atheist, fallen-away Catholic companion with well-reasoned arguments or clever repartée.

But, she is very straightforward and humble. She is not afraid to be a sinner – because she knows that everyone is – and, so, too, she is not afraid of sinners. She is horribly wronged, wounded, betrayed, and deceived by nuns who profess the faith that she loves. And she is angry. So angry that, even though she seeks the healing of the Sacraments of her Church, she passes by them, so overcome with emotions is she. In the end, however, she is able to do something that the witty, atheistic reporter accompanying her cannot: she can forgive.

Forgiving the nuns is hard for her, one of the hardest things that she’s ever done, but it is how she lives. Forgiveness is how she lives because she has been living deep and true belief in and worship of God all of her life. While some Catholics, like the reporter, have been swayed by their own disappointments, failures, cynicism, and the clever deceptions of the world to deny their faith and deny God, Philomena has remained true. And he, the reporter, is smart enough to see the amazing and powerful value of Philomena’s faith.

Blessed are the poor – not because they can be easily fooled into believing comforting and valuable fairytales, oh no. Blessed are the poor because they are not easily fooled into believing that God, who is the source of all existence and the truth of every loving life, is nothing but trivial nonsense.

© 2014 Christina Chase

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Tell the Stars

Do I believe?

Genesis 15:3-6

  1. And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

  2. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

  3. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

  4. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… You who fear him, trust in the Lord… God’s ways are above man’s ways… The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?… Fear not, for I am with you always….

Great stuff. As one who holds the Bible as Sacred Scripture, what do I do with these words? Do I hold them as sacred, as the most powerful and significant meaning of and for my life? If so, then I surely would not be suffering from a paralyzing phobia. But, I do have a phobia – a very serious one.

My particular “persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”[1] is a fear of not being heard. I realize that this may seem to have some cosmic, mystic overtones, but I don’t mean it that way. I am literally afraid that nobody will hear me when I call out for assistance. Being completely physically disabled by a motor neuron disease, and, therefore, utterly dependent on others for every physical need – I cannot even scratch my own cheek – I have been told that my fear is reasonable. But, it isn’t. The phobic panic begins when my mother is simply vacuuming in the next room. Every time I hear an outside door open, my insides jump and I call out to make sure that someone is staying in the house with me. My parents know my phobia very well and they would never intentionally leave me alone to suffer. But, mistakes can happen, I know and I tell them – but I very much would like to trust them more. And, even if they are human and fallible – at least, I should trust God that nothing bad would happen to me even if no other human could hear me for 10 minutes or even an hour. God’s grace can surely even calm a panic attack. Right?

Is this a matter of a lack of faith? A priest, whom I greatly respect and admire, has told me that it is not. This is, obviously, a psychological problem. Maybe I need to go see a therapist. But, it does raise serious questions about human fears and how the faithful trust in the Lord.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me…”[2].

Abram believed God when he was told that God would change his lot. Abram believed in the power of God to work miracles and to make the impossible possible. And Abram put all of his trust, all of this faith – all of his heart – in the LORD. “I believe” or “credo” means to give one’s heart. Abram followed God with utter trust, even though it meant leaving everything that he knew behind him. His leap of faith was a life-changing experience – it was even a name changing experience. This man did not merely believe, in an intellectual kind of way, that the words spoken to him by God were true. He believed in God. He was willing to give over everything to the One in whom he believed, the one to whom he had given his heart. Even when he didn’t understand. Even when he sorrowed over it. And God counted it as righteousness in him – Abraham was exactly who he was supposed to be.

But, we humans crave certainty. We want to know for sure. We want proof. But… Where there is proof, where is trust? Because there is no dead certainty in the life of faith (no, there is nothing dead in God) people are often uncomfortable in it. They turn to concrete matters and science for answers and guidance. If something cannot be methodically tested and, therefore, scientifically verified, then it is dismissed. But, by doing this, we miss out on the fullness of life. For there is something beyond certainty that is precious and powerful. There is something more beautiful and profound in the leap of faith than there ever can be in sure knowledge.

Am I sure?…

I am a messy, mixed up human being. And I am in love… and I am believing…

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phobia

[2] Jeremiah 29:11-14

Peace Himself Give

Careful what you wish for…

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

Peace by all means.

There are two groups of people fighting against each other, destroying property and killing. It looks as though they will never get along with each other and the fighting won’t end, the warring won’t stop, until one group has completely annihilated the other. We could say that there will be no peace until one side is dead. But, is that peace? Or is it merely the cessation of fighting?

A third group might get involved in the fight, before that terminally decisive end, and try to find a way to bring about a cease-fire without the annihilation of a people. That third group will come into the fight with their own weapons and tools, their own fighting, and beat the two groups into submission, forcing them to make peace with one another. But – is this really peace? Or is it merely the putting down of guns?

If peace is defined by the absence of war, then peace is only a mediocre, lukewarm kind of state, with nothing truly noble in it. It would be akin to defining the absence of hate as apathy. The absence of love can also be defined as apathy. Do we want an apathetic world?

I’ve often thought that the cooling down of violence in Ireland has not been brought about by wondrous peacemakers and and a true acceptance of each other’s differences, a true love of one another. No. I think that the growing “peace” in Ireland is a result of cultural and religious apathy. The economic situation in Ireland has improved, and, so, people are enjoying more jobs and more money. The focus is on the increased availability of wealth and the things that it can do – not on love of neighbor. If an Irishman doesn’t have to compete with his neighbor over a limited number of jobs or resources, then there’s no reason to fight. Because, really, the reason for the violence wasn’t so much cultural or religious – it was always about finances. The great cause for which the young willingly gave their lives, for which countless civilians were killed – this great cause was not of the heart, or of the soul, or even of the mind, it was always of the wallet.

And it is easy to think (rather cynically, I admit) the same about every war in every region, across the world, throughout history. If the belly is full and the senses are sufficiently entertained, then the people are at peace. It’s the “bread and circus” mentality of life. We can see the truth of it when we examine the unrest caused by the desperation of the poor or the reckless boredom of the rich – but it is much more difficult to see when we are in the midst of this bread and circus peace.

We, of the middle class, who can pay our budget-wise bills without worry and still have enough for big-screen TVs, take out, and twice yearly vacations, with the occasional bungee jump and impulse purchase thrown in – we have no cause to amass a militia and start a war. Hungry, desperately poor people who are that way because they are being seriously oppressed may have cause to start war – but no one else. The crazy people in civilized countries who do that sort of thing are, well, crazy. They’re either zealous nuts who believe in the rapture, or Armageddon, or seven virgins in Paradise, or some other superstitious drivel like that. Or, they are ruthless power mongers, monstrous villains, bent on world domination. Or they are seriously mentally ill. Perhaps they are combination of all three. If only someone could calm them down by enlightening them away from religion, getting them to talk to a trained therapist, or making sure that they are well medicated, then, maybe, we could have peace. Make sure everyone has enough to eat and that premium cable channels, antidepressants and cosmetic surgery are available to everyone and then we will live in a civilized and peaceful world. [Insert your sarcastic and cynical take here. Well, actually, at the bottom of this post.]

The problem is, of course, that human beings will always long for something more. Not just more food, more money, more pleasure, and more fun – but also more… How many humans have asked themselves, and anyone listening, the timeless question: “Is this all there is?” Not, “is this all the chicken there is?” or “is this all the bonus pay?” or “is this all the orgasm?” or “is this all the tequila?” or “is this all the comedy?” Well, yes, people ask those questions, too. But, these are finite things and, so, naturally, they are limited in supply. They are also limited in results. Chicken, bonuses, orgasms, tequila, and comedic acts can only do so much for the human person. The purpose of life is not to amass as much as possible so that there are no gaps or lapses. No, in fact, if one is able to live one’s life this way, then one will always be stuffed and entertained and, therefore, oblivious to want. And the absence of want is not joy. The absence of want is not plenty.

When I was little (and sometimes still, now) I would ask my father for something by saying that I wanted or would like it. To which he would respond with two alternate phrases: “Now you know what it’s like to want,” and, “It’s good to want.” I always thought he was just being annoying for the fun of pushing my buttons. And, yes, in a way, he was. But, he was also right. If I had everything that I ever wanted before I could even ask for it – before I even knew that I wanted it – then I wouldn’t be happy. I would be surviving very easily and perpetually entertained, but I wouldn’t know satisfaction and I wouldn’t know joy.

Now, I’m not saying that the poor are blessed because they wake up every morning with hungry stomachs and go to bed every night with their stomachs still wanting. No. But, when anyone wakes up with a hungry stomach, that first bite of food is extra delicious, isn’t it? In strictly financial terms, a good or service gains no appreciation in value if there is an overabundance of supply of that good or service. In fact, if supply is low and demand is high, then that is good or service has great value. Appreciation grows when there is want. So, yes, it was good for me, as a child, to want something to eat or to want a toy – for, then, my appreciation for that food and that toy grew.

What am I trying to say with all of this?… What am I trying to say with all of this…? The very fact that we can imagine the infinite opens up our longing for it. Finite goods and services – no matter how wanted or how plentifully received – can not give us the ultimate fullness of joy. It is good to feed the body. And it is good to feed the mind. And it is also very good to feed the heart and soul. Material things aren’t bad. In truth, material things are good. But… What do we do with them? If we use material things to numb us to the fullness of reality – to blind and deafen us to spiritual things – then we are making very bad choices. We’re getting it all wrong. Think of the arrogance, the patronizing condescension of those high and mighty rulers who planned bread and circus to keep their people “at peace.” Do we really think that God is like one of them? He hears us wishing and praying for material things, for material comforts and material pleasures, and He does not turn away in hoity-toity disgust. No, God understands our material needs – better than we even do ourselves. God does not want a child to starve to death. God sees the overfeeding of one child’s belly and the under feeding of another’s, and the solution to the problem should be obvious to us. But it’s not. Because we’re blinded by bread and circus. God wants to give us good things and for us to use those good things well in loving service to ourselves and to our neighbors, to all of our fellow human beings. And God also knows that the best thing is no thing. God did not make us solely for the material. God also made us for the spiritual, for the eternal and the infinite. God made us for… God.

God wants us to be fully satisfied and fully joyful – and God knows bread and circus won’t cut it. God hears us pray for peace and knows that true peace is not merely the absence of wanting. Sometimes, in order for us to know true peace we have to have our eyes and ears opened wide, opened wide with wanting, with sorrow and grief. It is in the stillness and the silence that we are able to be open and receive the infinite goodness that God is pouring down on to us. If we are too stuffed and occupied here and now on this earth, we will never know this earth for the fullness of what it is – we will never know ourselves or one another for the fullness that we are – we will never know what it truly is to be fully human and fully alive. God will grant us peace… peace by all means.

© 2014 Christina Chase

And Every Tree Therein

By the one who has created me, am I fulfilled.

Isaiah 44:23-24

Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

I did not make this beautiful Maple tree that stands amid the grasses, its secret roots buried in the earth, its winsome branches flourishing toward the sky. Nor do I make my home among its limbs, nor take my sustenance from its bark, nor slake my heated body within its shade. I gaze upon the loveliness of the tree, delighting in its shape and form and the myriad intricacies of its lush and verdant leafing, its dark and curving limbs sublime.

Perhaps I am the one who first caught it, as a seed, as it flew downward upon its single wing from the parent tree. Round and round it whirled, spinning like a dervish, mindless of its surroundings, its beauty embryonic, waiting to unfold. Perhaps I am the one who split open the earth with my fingers and tucked in the Maple seed, hoping for and envisioning the great unfurling growth to come. Perhaps, then, I feel a relationship, sense an ownership of this tree that has taken root in the spot that I chose. But, the tree is not owned, regardless of whatever documents or boundaries humans may draw up. The tree does not relate to me as owner, friend, or kin and owes me absolutely nothing. The parent tree itself has no further relationship, no more than any growing thing has with another. For neither the parent nor I brought the Maple into being.

This tree was first envisioned, its growth first optimistically planned, its beauty first enjoyed, by none other than the one who set the sun to shine and every star in the heavens. With a silent word and a motionless movement, this tree, those grasses, that cloud, these birds, this sky, this earth, and I were created from nothing; a spatial matter allowed to exist because it was willed to be, unfolding from density to diversity through the eons of newly recognized time, stopping for nothing and nobody. Until the day that I can see this tree is here. And as I gaze upon its loveliness and delight in the wonder of its dark and curving, its green and fluttering, its strong and delicate, its deep and reaching shape and form, time is not recognized nor are the boundaries and definitions that we humans draw up. There is beauty here, and life. A past, a present, and a future, here in this now that is eternal in this clear moment of seeing, this moment of awe.

I did not make you, beautiful tree. You were created by the one who is uncreated and your fulfillment is in your being just as you were created to be. Nothing less and nothing more will bring you greater worth. Your flesh may or may not be used for building shelter or burning heat; your flowing blood may or may not be sucked up, or drawn out and boiled down, for sweet eating. Yet, you will be you. Whether symmetrical or crooked by the situation of your growing, you were chosen to exist – you were loved into being by Being and, so, you are always beautiful in the very truth of your existence. Should I never have seen you, should no human eyes ever have rested upon your living form, your life would have been beheld by the Ever Living One, the one who delights most in you, and, therefore, you will always be fulfilled. For trees have not the legs with which to run away from the truth, nor the lips with which to deny reality… you are your endless song of praise and thanksgiving.

Not like me. With mind to wander and will to obscure, I wrench my roots from out of love and pull down my branches lest they reach for the unreachable. I claim that I am a realist, my feet firmly on the ground without my head in the clouds – but I am a fool. The truth is given me, ultimate reality is here – yet I too often refuse to receive, refuse to see, what is eternal, what is unseeable, what is the beauty of this tree.

 

© Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

The LORD Hath

Psalms 6:9

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

We send a thought into the universe

and believe the higher power receives the transmission

and gives us back what we send out.

Am I then a frequency?

Bouncing off of poles and satellites,

a ricochet of myriad messages in waves of pulse

are we, creatures with minds?

Creatures of minds… but the mind a series of synaptic flashes

that are no flashes of brilliance, really, but, rather,

biological secretions of fluids and chemicals in the brain;

mechanical transfers of the parts of life, life to life being merely multiplication: the universe?

Energy is the movement of matter? Or is matter no matter, but actually energy?

And where does the moving begin? Like a billiard ball struck by a cue that

strikes another ball and another, atomic particles divide and scatter because…

Because…?

There is an unmoved mover that is not the universe.

There is an uncaused cause that is not matter-ial, yet is the opposite of immaterial.

Do I set the things of my life in motion?

Do a butterfly’s wings cause a monsoon?

Yet where did it all begin?

Infinite universes of infinite matter with infinite possibilities in parallel?

Am I the butterfly? Or am I the petal borne on the wind?

Or… beyond my thoughts and imaginings… beyond myself…

beyond my flesh and blood, beyond all matter and detectable energy…

am I being loved…

 

Every thought and imagining,

every person, every particle,

every body of mind and heart and strength is

being loved….

It is we who receive.

And every hope, every fear, every prayer, every moment,

is being loved….

Does an element cease to be an element when it is compounded?

Does the sky cease to be the sky on a mountaintop

or in a cave? Is the universe no less the universe in a grave?

What is in and throughout, what is above and below and all through is

being loved….

How can a thought be lost when it is being loved?

How can a supplication be unheard when it is being loved?

How can an offering not be accepted when it is being loved?

How can a spurning not be forgiven when it is being loved?

How can the feet run away from the feet, how can the lips kiss the lips,

how – unless we shut off love?

The bowl in the pouring rain is overflowing full –

unless it is turned upside down.

Before the uncreated creator I stand, I kneel, I lay me down,

with the begging bowl of my heart open and upright, ready to be full,

for I am being loved….

 

I am not a beacon or a signal and the universe is not my maker,

for I am not crafted parts manipulated into a sum to immaterially transmit into

the hum of the universe for the sake of matter-ial return. I am

being loved….

 

The question is – am I allowing myself to be loved?

have I shut off love or am I open? have I turned upside down in this matter-ial world?

I am being loved – am I being loving?

Love is the Absolute Truth and only error denies Love.

Only willfully relentless error chops off the feet and burns off the lips

and deludes the mind with immaterial singing and dancing.

© 2014 Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

Them That Love Me

Who loves God? (Hands shook up in the air amid choruses of “Oo, oo, I do! I do!”)

Exodus 20:6

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Weird! I promise you, even though this verse is the one directly after the verse I received last week, it, like the other, WAS RANDOMLY GIVEN to me! Freaky weird. But, I guess that is true randomness… or perhaps divine providence…. Anyway…)

Who can we say really, truly loves God? Perhaps some may think of the Pope or a very pious nun, others of a peaceful and devout Imam or a deeply spiritual Rabbi or a wise and generous Lama – or an innocent, joyful child or that elderly person you know who has given so much of his or her life to taking care of other people and serving the local community of worship. The ones who love God, we can say, are the people of peace and charity, of forgiveness and goodwill, of compassion and joy, who are steadfast in their faith, unwavering in their hope, and self-giving in their love, people of deep prayer and spiritual belief. Of whom does the question make you think?

I don’t usually recommend thinking of other people when a question is asked or a teaching is given – usually, I try to apply the question or teaching to myself so that I won’t get caught up in pointing fingers. But, in this case, I believe that it is good if, when hearing the question “Who loves God?”, our minds instinctively go to other people whom we believe to be most worthy of a title such as “One Who Loves God”. Otherwise, we might be too full of pride. I do consider myself as one who loves God and would even gladly identify myself in this manner. But… I know that loving is not something that one merely feels or even chooses by assenting in a kind of intellectual way. Loving must be lived. We love, not only with our thoughts and words, but also with our actions, our souls – we love with the entirety of our beings. So, I ask myself, with my whole life, with my every living moment: do I love God?

In the Bible Burst that I wrote just previously to this one, I explored the question of who hates God. My ultimate answer, which I realize now is very startling and seemingly harsh, was that anyone who hates a human being hates God. I stand by that statement. Truly, because I believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and loved by God, I believe that if I hate another person – or even hate myself – I am despising God, upon whose image and likeness I am directing my hatred. Yes, humans are capable of the most vile, willful cruelty and disgusting acts of evil – but no one, no human being is irredeemable to God so long as he or she has a functioning will. Any person, no matter how viciously minded, can choose at any moment to change. A mass murderer can want to do good and, in the course of exercising some small mercy, may come to see his murderous deeds as wrong and experience true remorse and repentance. This is the start of one who hated God journeying toward reconciliation with God and it is a gift that God gives to everyone.

We must want this journey of mercy for every mean hearted person if we are truly going to be people who love God. We must hope and pray for the conversion of all sinners – especially of the worst and certainly including ourselves. If we truly love God then we will want what God wants – and God wants every one of his beloved human beings to know mercy, to know love, to know faith and hope. And how can they know unless they are told, unless they are shown? And who will it be that shows them? Are we waiting for God to take care of it with lightning bolts or plagues or a visiting host of heavens angels? God wants us to love one another and sends us to the needy (those who suffer from the poverty of love and mercy and hope) and to the imprisoned (those who are captives to greed and vengeance and selfishness) to bring hope of salvation, which is the gift of God’s love. We, created in God’s image, are to minister to our fellow divine images, especially to those who may have lost the loving brilliance of their identities. It is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing to be able to show the Light of the World to those living in darkness – showing the radiance of the Light by reflecting it with our souls. For, Divine Love shines forth through us in our every act of true love – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[1]

So, again, I ask myself if I really, truly love God. Only God knows the truth of my heart. Only God can see with infinite clarity the brilliance of my soul – and know whether or not I have sullied it with hate.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

 

[1] Romans 10:15

Departed

I would like to say that I am innocent… But I am not.

Psalms 18:21

For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

When I was nine years old, I was a thief. Not only did I steal gulps of wine with my friend from the kitchen (warm alcohol in a Mickey Mouse tumbler) and grams of chalk dust from the school gym supply (folding it up in some paper and sticking it inside my wheelchair while waiting for the short bus to come and take me home) and various small things – construction paper, carbon, broken chalk – that I wanted and I judged no one would miss… but I also stole knowledge. At the end of third grade, I was allowed to stay inside with my friend Beth for recess one day and we decided to open our teacher’s desk drawer and find that secret list. A secret list existed near the close of every school year with the names of the teachers that each student would receive the next year. We all wanted to know what classroom we would end up in – would we get our favorite teacher, would our friends be with us? But, that information, as I recall, was never shared until the summer. Beth and I didn’t want to wait. We wanted to know.

If memory serves, I was the one who instigated and told Beth to do it. Being physically limited, I was used to “bossing people around”. Not only did we find out who we would have for teachers, but also who our friends, and people with whom we would like to be friends, were going to have. Before the end of the school day, we whispered the secrets to everyone that we could. Eventually, other kids in other classrooms let it slip that they knew – and when asked where they had heard the news, directed authorities to Mrs. B’s class. Mrs. B made us all put our heads upon our desks until the guilty party, or parties, confessed the crime. I did not raise my head. I did not say a word. And neither did Beth. Mrs. B couldn’t keep us there forever, we had to go home. But, as we were lining up to leave, a boy in my class told Mrs. B that I was the one who had told him, that I was the one who had stolen the list. My teacher looked down at me and I looked up at her with my big brown eyes. I remember myself mumbling something about Beth, ready to throw her under the bus – we really weren’t that close anyway – but Mrs. B had poor hearing. She just regarded me through her glasses, her bright red lips extra thin and tight. But, then her face softened. She didn’t believe the boy. She didn’t believe that I could do something so wrong. To her, and to most everyone as I would find out in my life, I was an innocent.

Indeed, this may seem like a small and innocent offense – what real harm was done? But, the harm was to my classmates who were all under the shadow of suspicion, for that afternoon with their heads down in the dark and silence, and, for all I know, for the rest of Mrs. B’s life. And the harm was done to my relationship with Beth, for we never did get close. Perhaps she overheard my mumbled ratting or perhaps the guilt was just too much for me. And the greatest harm, I know, was to myself. For I showed myself, in this incident, my true colors. Thievery was easy to me and I honestly felt no guilt about that. I was even proud. Proud that me, who everyone thought was a little angel in a wheelchair, could commit such an act that got the whole third-grade buzzing. The fact that I so blatantly got away with it just added to my happiness over the whole event. But… what I was willing to do to Beth… how I was willing to hide behind the cloak of innocence with which my wheelchair draped me while pointing my finger at her…. this is not only a crime against someone whom I considered a friend, this was, and I say this most seriously, a crime against God. Sneaky, deceptive, smarmy, and proud of myself, I was bolstered up for many years by the memory of this robbed knowledge.

It was not merely the ignorant act of a child. For, was there not some innocence in Eve when she simply wanted to gain wisdom, as I simply wanted to know? And, was there not also pride and greed at grasping for something higher than herself, to put herself at the level of a superior? And was there not shameful finger-pointing, a desperate attempt to inflict any punishment that she deserved away from herself and onto a co-conspirator? Wasn’t Adam, too, guilty of this last crime, this greatest crime: willfully inflicting harm upon another in an attempt to hide from the consequences coming justly to oneself?

To escape justice, the first humans had to hide themselves from one another – to hide themselves from God. But… there is no hiding from God. And don’t I know that, too! Knowledge thief that I am, did I not dare to proclaim that there is no such thing as God and devote myself entirely to a godless life with myself as the center of a meaningless universe? No, I never committed murder in that life – although I did strangle my soul’s promptings and suffocate my own spiritual nature. I did not steal – but I had already hijacked my own reason. And I did not commit adultery or anything like that – although I did desecrate the temple of my body. I broke the ways of the Lord by departing from my God. From truth. From real love. From life itself. And though this willful act was not committed through wickedness, I was still far from the truth of my identity as a being lovingly Created in divine image; I had banished myself far from the tree of life and the reality of reality.

Forever east of Eden, we thieves of knowledge go –
and the innocent truth of who we really are, we can’t get to know.
There, but for the grace of God, would I, ever seeking, lie;
it’s grace that’s brought me home again… I cannot hide from I.

Christina Chase