I couldn’t pray yesterday.
In years past, I would have laid aside my Book of Common Prayer, keeping most of the offices for the Feast of the Transfiguration from The Anglican Breviary instead. Matins and Lauds would roll by with what seemed to be designed as a competition of how many of the longest, most depressing Psalms they could put in a row. I’d light the candles on the small table that I’ve used to pray for a decade, now. I’d kneel before the cross and whisper ancient words. I’d whisper words that are not my own. Words, I suppose, that have never been my own.
Some worry I’m becoming an Atheist because of what I’m reading. They doubt when I tell them that Camus is a better Christian than most Christians I know, and certainly, that Nihilist Atheist is a better Christian than I. Further, they can’t even fathom that I’ve heard the voice of Christ in several of his works (along with Sartre). I hear Christ in Dostoevsky (duh!) and Kierkegaard, too — but they were Christians, of course, so, He’s a little easier to hear. Through these virulent Atheists, though, it’s like Christ speaks from the back bedroom, or around the corner. He’s not immediate, but He’s there.
I don’t know where God is. Did I ever know? I hear some Christians telling each other that they’ve never doubted the existence of God. And, and — yes, AND! — that if they ever thought for, say, ten seconds what life would be without God, they’d get terribly depressed. “Just imagine,” they shudder, “what it would like to live in a hopeless world.” Can they believe in God without hope? Can they believe in God and be depressed? I want to rage against this bullshit.
You live up there. But, I live down here. I live among the dirt. I live down here, in the flesh that wars against the spirit. I live down here with a mind that tries to make sense of it all. I live down here with a heart that struggles to comprehend the designs of God. I live down here where sometimes I can’t pray. I live down here where sometimes I don’t want to pray. I live down here where prayer can almost be painful.
How many times can one be humiliated? How many times can one be pushed down, left behind and forgotten? When the whizzing whirl of life passes you by, how, then, will you live? You sit with the dead. You listen to the dead. You write with the dead. The living will go on living, but you belong to the dead. I wave to the living as you go by, riding your bullshit-copter up into the heavens. Be careful not to fall off.
I don’t believe because I know — because I don’t know. I don’t believe because it makes me feel good. I believe because I love. You can have your faith and doubt. You can have your endless stream of days stretching off into the horizon. You can shudder against hopelessness and doubt all you like (before it knocks on your door). Fuck you, how can you say to me that I should be like a bird flying up to your hilltops? Do not judge me until we both find ourselves prostrate before the great judgment seat of Christ!
I want to love down deep, where many waters cannot quench it. Where sorrows only temper and where it glows in the night of faith. Love is deeper still. Love is deeper still. I want to live down there.
And, maybe — just maybe! — one day in the future, a true man or woman of faith will be considered an Atheist’s Christian (or the Christian’s Atheist). And maybe a person of faith will be judged not for what they knew or what they doubted or how they felt about God, but for how they loved.
My Jesus, I love thee and I want to love thee more.