I've been sleeping beside the same God for two decades now.
Brushing my teeth in the morning with Him standing beside me in the mirror. Taking the long path, just the two of us, while I chatted about nothing but He listened as if every word mattered. We didn't have a passionate love, if I am honest about the whole. We had our moments, but mostly we had an understanding.
We had consistency. We had the depth of time.
Then, one day, I woke up and He wasn't there.
I've written about that before. I've written about absence and silence.
But I have yet to take time with talking about the after. Because today is part of the after. This moment is part of the after. I am now in eternal ever after and what's to say about a thing when you're caught in the breathless midst of it?
Because He doesn't look the same anymore.
I think that's what I have avoided writing down, inking out, digitally inscribing in cyber stone.
I was working on my book over the weekend.
Our understanding of inquiry post-Enlightenment has entangled us with the idea that to ask a question is to arrive at a specific answer. But the Christian imagination cannot be so simple. Curiosity in the life of a Christian leads to answers like Christ is God but then spends a lifetime learning what exactly that means. God is infinite and, it follows, no matter how true are claims about Him, they are never quite the whole truth. They touch, brush up, get at, but are never in and of themselves the whole story.
I've been sleeping beside the same God for two decades now, but I'm only just really learning this.
I've known it.
I've written it.
But I am just now learning it. Now, when I consider hard and long the places in the Scripture that are not so neat and tidy; now, when I spend circuitous hours wondering where the apocryphal writings fit in the canon; now, when I walk the path home and see the first spark of darkness and I find myself speaking the old evangelical phrases into the air, like nursery rhymes never forgotten, like the forming grace that blossoms so late you should think it would have never been spring.
I was rummaging around in my trunk of metaphors last night.
I was trying to find the one that fit. The one that would make it all make sense.
How much of life has been wasted in trying to make it all make sense?
But when I stared into the clutter of the trunk, my metaphors for God, for living, for being, when I pulled out the handful of smudged receipts of half-torn ideas of grace and meaning and memory, I realized that my metaphors had become too small. Or too pastel. Or too vivid. Or too warm. Or too something.
So I unpacked the trunk.
I pulled them all out, one by one. I'm still pulling them all out. I'm pulling out all my language, all my presuppositions, all that I feel so certain in and I am examining them with an eye to be surprised by their beauty, their hope, their good.
For if they have none, it's time to leave them out of the box.
And perhaps, collect some new ones.
Perhaps, I am discovering that when I have heard others say doubt and have recoiled at the word, I was missing their meaning. Perhaps they meant this. Perhaps they meant unpacking their metaphors to see them anew. Perhaps they meant that He didn't look the same and it was time to find things that looked more like Him.
Pardon the mess around here. I've collected and held on to more than I realized.
In the past three months, my Google searches have included:
church fathers on transubstantiation
is the second coming biblical
did Jesus quote the Septuagint
what place does the apocrypha have in Scripture
Research, thus far, has confirmed that the Internet is about as helpful on these topics as I am when I'm searching for them around midnight after three glasses of wine.
(Hypothetically speaking, of course.)
A friend writes: Reread or read for the first time Slouching Toward Bethlehem when you're 28.
Another calls and says, Dare. How little we know. Dare.
Another email: Go. Question. Go.
And I wonder if they know how much they have thrown out lifelines by these thing alone. Between the Google searches and these fragments, that they are reminding me of the One who saves.
I am quieter on our walks now.
For a little while, I even stopped going to church.
How do I explain that it's not because I think it's wrong? That I love the Church, that I simply needed an experience with otherness to remind me of why I love Home.
I spend more time trying to listen to the silence. I spend more time turning over the images and the songs and the poetry, spend time trying to pause and marvel, trying to see the unseen again.
I do not despise where I came from. I do not think all of it was wrong.
But He looks different now.
I am having to relearn Him.
I am having to know Him anew.
All those metaphors around my feet, strewn about me, tripping me when I forget to look where I'm going.
Or maybe when I forget to look where I've been.
St. Paul calls Christ the wisdom of God.
What does this mean?
If it means that logic and reason are bound in wisdom, if it means that the rhythm by which the world turns, by which the universe is held, is that same rhythm that makes sense of a God who would incarnate and live, breathe, be among us, if this is what is meant by wisdom, the liturgy of the cosmos, the hermeneutic by which all things are to make sense, then I think I am beginning to grasp something of the true.
I think I am beginning to make sense of my metaphors.
I think I've been sleeping beside the same God for two decades now and He no longer looks the same.
He is more beautiful.
He is more good.
He is more true.
And I cannot wait to see how He looks a decade from now.
Again, pardon the mess. I have a lot of unpacking and sorting still to do.
And, in the meantime, will you lend me some of your metaphors? I'd like to try them on.
I'd like to see how they work.
I'd like to see things new.