Friday, May 2, 2008

Imaginary Letter from Jesus to Me

An Imaginary Letter from Jesus to Me

When you see how I allow every aspect of creation
the natural freedom and wildness that are its birthright,
then you complain that I don’t intervene enough,
that there isn’t enough direct proof of My presence,

but when I draw close and manifest that presence,
working so deeply in history and in your life
that your soils and mosses cling to My fingers,
then you complain that I’m too controlling, too invasive;
you call Me a bully, even a tyrant.

When I offer you the full pallette of experience
with which to paint your life—
the radiant hues, the dark and heavy tones,
the shades so subtle they’re nearly imperceptible,
then you complain that you’re overwhelmed,
and why couldn’t I have given you a simpler, paint-by-numbers world
with just the five basic Crayola colors?—

but when I am very precise with you,
directing you about particular details—
a touch here, a broad stroke there,

then you complain that you don’t have enough breathing room,
and why won’t I let you do it your way?

When I answer your prayers and get you unstuck,
then you complain that you aren’t worthy,
so that therefore I should remove myself
to a more comfortable distance;
or you complain that others have suffered
or are currently suffering
far more than you,
so why don’t I take everything I’ve given you
and pass it on to them instead;
or you complain that I didn’t help you sooner,
and that by accepting My help when I do give it,
you would be relinquishing your grasp
on that elaborately cross-referenced and multiply-indexed
documentation of the history of pain
you’ve been compiling to hold against Me.

And when in all of this,
I invite you to argue with Me,
to reason with Me, to wrestle with Me ,
not letting Me go
until I bless you and the people you carry in your heart,

then you complain that I’m loading you up
with more responsibility than you can bear, and besides,
you “don’t have time to get that intense with Me.”

You claim that in My eyes,
you can’t seem to do anything right,
that I’m always displeased with you,
that all I ever do with you is
pick, pick, pick,

but the truth is that you have it exactly backwards—
in your eyes, I can’t do anything right;
it’s you who are perpetually displeased with Me;
you are the one who does nothing but
pick, pick, pick.

You cry out to Me for closeness with you,
yet there are a million sharp quills
protruding from your skin.
But because you’re not a porcupine,
these quills aren’t natural to you;
each one causes you pain
which has become so familiar to you
that you experience it as “normal,”
and feel threatened, indignant,
even highly offended at the prospect
of letting it go.

BLESSED IS EVERYONE
WHO IS NOT OFFENDED AT ME.

I can pick out those quills,
but not all at once from a distance
as if with some kind of celestial vacuum-suction device;
I want to do it personally,
with my bare hands,
quill by quill.
I don’t mind getting my fingers bloody
for the love of you—
but you have to give Me permission
instead of trying to convince yourself
that you are a porcupine,
instead of shying away from Me,
instead of crouching down to scuttle into the underbrush
as fast as you possibly can!

You have a distance interpretation distortion.
The overwhelming expanse you perceive around you—
infinities receding into infinities—
that’s not how far away I am from you;
in fact, that’s not distance at all—
it’s the immensity of My mercy.
What you are interpreting as distance
is actually the deepest possible intimacy.

What you experience as claustrophobia
is actually fear of My freedom.
Inside the densest knots of the most intense struggle,
the most confining thought,
the most crushing schedule,
there is nothing but infinite spaciousness,
for I am there.
I am so much nearer than any of your efforts
to locate Me.

So remind yourself every day
that you are not God.
You can wrap this fact around you
like a blanket, like a cloak, like a prayer shawl,
flexible, weightless, and fluid as light.
You were not God at the instant of conception
when your genes and chromosomes began lining up
to do the Electric Slide inside your mother.
You were not God at the event of your birth,
or at any point while you were growing up,
despite any level of commotion you may have caused
or any degree of invisibility you may have managed to achieve.

When nothing much seems to be happening, you are not God.
When too much seems to be happening, you are not God.

You don’t have to sustain or negate
your own existence or anyone else’s,
or hold the world close to you or away from you
with the muscle tension
in your jaw, your neck, your forehead, or your stomach.

Your puny thoughts don’t have to pump iron all night long
in order to ascertain what would have happened
if you’d behaved, thought, or felt differently
on any particular occasion.
You don’t have to fight, flee, freeze, fix, faint, or philosophize.
You don’t have to churn yourself into a small local vortex
in an attempt to speed time up or slow it down.
You can’t leap or fall out of the universe,
or sever yourself from it,
or sequester yourself invulnerably in a niche within it.
You can’t mind-clenchingly believe anything
in order to make it true,
or foot-stampingly disbelieve anything
in order to make it false.

And no matter what resolutions you painstakingly chip
into the stoniest regions of your heart,
certain migratory regions of your life will always remain
uncolonized, raw, chaotic, incomplete, and beyond articulation.
THE POOR YOU WILL HAVE WITH YOU ALWAYS.
Much within you and around you will not be made complete in human time,
so if you have to make a resolution,
resolve to wean yourself from your habit
of refusing to outrageously enjoy God
until you have until you have gotten everything “right.”

The greatest evidence of the mercy of God
is that you are not God.
You can breathe God, but you are not God.
You can eat and drink God,
and offer God as food and drink to others,
but you cannot be God.
In God, you can tread and kick in one place;
you can do the backstroke, the crawl, or the dead man’s float,
but through none of these techniques
will you become God, even briefly.
You can dive down or up or sideways,
but you will not arrive at the end of God.

And while you’re treading or swimming
or floating or diving,
inside every cell of your body,
a billion tiny candles are blazing.
Rejoice! Fear not!
You didn’t light
a single one of them.

2 comments:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

WOW!

There are two (at least) kinds of intimacy with Christ, and one is the face-to-face kind, but the other, deeper intimacy, is when you are both facing the same direction together. IOW, when He takes you by the shoulder and has you look at the rest of the world (including yourself) through His eyes - as here.

Ken O'Shaughnessy said...

I can definitely concur with the comfortable quills. Not to mention taking them back and stabbing them in again. In our culture, "freedom" means to be allowed to be left alone to think we are porcupines and act like pigs, instead of being convinced that we are children who need correction. Who is more free than a child properly nurtured by a loving parent?