I mentioned earlier how 19 was an important year for me. The events of that year loom large in my mental vision. By that time, pacifism was less than something I believed. It became an identifier. Everyone knew how much I despised war, how much I truly wanted peace. I remember spending long late nights with ROTC members and conservative friends yelling and arguing about war. The more we debated, the more we yelled, the more one thing became clear: we rarely if ever argued about what Jesus expected of us, and we always argued about what was better for the U.S. My arguments for pacifism were political and not theological or even ethical arguments. They concerned themselves with anger with the Iraq War, anger with the senseless deaths of WWI, and more anger with the disaster in Vietnam. I failed to see the people dying by the hands of U.S. troops as human siblings because my arguments rooted themselves in an American-based political system. To me, the health and wealth of the nation still took precedence over the well-being of those outside the U.S. borders. Jesus changed all of that.
When I look back, G-d called me out of my relationship with my long-time girlfriend, Janelle, for reasons totally different than why I thought She called me out then. I realize now exactly why, but at the time, this is what happened.
In the original post, I have a long story about what happened during the break-up. I have told this story a million times, and I grow more and more irritated with myself the more I tell it. As a way to be sensitive to Janelle, since her voice cannot be heard here, I am not going to go into the painful details of the relationship and the break-up as I had planned. Instead, I will simply say that we broke up after a long, excellent, and sometimes rocky relationship. After the break-up, I changed significantly from a person who wore G-d like a badge of honor to someone who brought questions to G-d and found Her in the interrogation.
At the time, I thought G-d wanted me to break up with Janelle because of my sexual sin. I no longer think that. By staying with her, I lied to her every second of every day. I knew I did not want to stay with her forever. I knew the relationship was ending. Nevertheless, I led her to believe it would last simply because I was too weak to face the truth. When I finally did, G-d made the truth clear.
In that moment, G-d liberated me. I know that story seems tangential to my purpose for writing this blog, but it is not. I mentioned way back, way earlier how the U.S. and G-d were raging inside of me. At that moment, G-d won. G-d won because G-d began transforming my life. Unlike the numbness I felt after watching Saving Private Ryan, I began to feel with a passionate burning. G-d took away my inability to feel the sorrow of a world plagued by pain and death. G-d injected love into my heart. I felt a love of indescribable profoundness. Joy overflowed, and for the first time, I saw all people as sisters and brothers. While I associated breaking up with Janelle with this liberation for a long time, I now see how surrendering to G-d is what actually sparked the freedom, true freedom. The Creator took over by revealing the truth. G-d’s revelation of truth continued to be my passion and my obsession.
This began a new time in my life. Exactly what occurred during those days is difficult to pin down, and I still reflect frequently on those exciting times.
The gist of this story is this: G-d became first and foremost in my life. Nothing stood before G-d. What that means specifically I still find difficult to adequately define. In a way, I suppose my devotion to G-d became comparable to one’s devotion to a lover, but that is inadequate. G-d came to me less as a relationship and more as a force. G-d seemed less like a friend and more like gravity. I hardly started a “relationship” with Jesus, something I told everyone I had for years. G-d appeared to me like air in the way that the word in the Bible for “spirit” is the same for “wind”. One cannot avoid gravity, nor can one turn back the wind. I felt like a leaf blown by the breeze and a person recently returned from space, unused to the pull of the earth yet powerless to avoid it.
Wistfully, I think of those times. Try as I might, and believe me, I try; I cannot go back. Those days of deep intimacy with an unavoidable G-d ended. Those days consisted of unearthing, planting, and exploding through the topsoil. Now, I grow by the invisible heat of the sun and cleansing rain waters. My growth and faith no longer roots itself in a powerful experience of a loving G-d; it roots itself in the daily slowness of conscientious faith.