1. My friend Steve died this past week.
2. Only once, when I was fifteen, God Spoke to me.
We interrupt the normal course of this blog…
No, I am not a born again Christian. In fact according to Evangelical Christian dogma, I cannot be a Christian. Let me explain.
First, I don't believe in an absolute biblical authority. Instead there are many possible interpretations, including the fact that each translation through various languages and periods has created various interpretations automatically.
Second, I do believe in the "good news" of Jesus teachings, though once again, there are so many variations as there are individual translations of the text and through the various authors, Matthew, Mark,Luke, including the non canonical the Catholic Church decided to exclude.
Third, my idea of the Trinity is tarnished by a personal understanding that God cannot be reduced to "he." God must be so much more than male, though inclusive of a patriarchal identity.
As to God speaking to me once at age fifteen - Actually God didn’t speak because there was no voice. I slept, and in my sleep there was an invisible darkness, total and almost complete. There was a single point of light, though I did not see in the ordinary sense. I, disembodied, was only aware of that light far, far away. And, God said, though, as I say, God didn’t speak.
“It is too soon. You must go back. There is something you must do.”
In an instant I was awake and sitting up in bed. I was shaken, and my immediate concern was that I had been where I had no right to be.
Many times since that night, upon doing something out of the ordinary, I wondered, was that it? Is that the “something” I had to do? However, I realized some years ago, that God wasn’t refereeing to a single special something I must do, and it didn’t have to be extraordinary. There are so many commonplace things I must do in my diurnal existence, and they all add up to the single thing that I must do, and that is to fulfill life’s purpose, to bring my life to completion. The most amazing part of that understanding is that God’s purpose is that I should live my life according to my own unique achievement, based on my journey, the decisions I make, the problems I solve or leave unsolved. God does not wish to control my life. God sent me back because he wanted me to live my life to its conclusion according to that which I must do, not that which God must do. There is no God given plan for my life. Instead, I construct my life as I grow into and through it. I do believe with all my heart and mind that God's plan is that each one of us live our life according to our own individual plan and that plan is a growing, changing and dynamic thing that evolves and changes with and/or without our consent. At the same time, I was closest to God when I was born, and will be closest once again when I die.
And that brings me back to Steve. I’ve only known Steve for seven years. I first met him walking his dog, and for two years our friendship was limited to the brief time we spent greeting and talking as he stopped in front of our house with Brigitte. However, over the years I got to know Steve and his partner, Ron better and better. We had many evening dinners at their house and ours filled with long conversations about our likes and dislikes. We agreed on politics one hundred percent, and in seven years I never heard Steve express a single prejudice or hateful thought though I would get totally riled about our broken political system and process during our conversations. Steve and Ron also visited us twice in south Florida during the past three years as Steve’s illness gradually worsened. Over time I grew to know Steve as the sweetest, kindest and least self-centered of human beings, a prince among men.
A few years ago I was amazed to hear from other mutual friends that they had had a very different experience of Steve many years ago, and that they no longer spoke with Steve. At first I wondered how such a thing was possible. However, over time I came to realize that Steve grew through his life experience. Steve made great changes in his life, and in the way he dealt with himself and others. These changes were positive, based in life affirming growth, and in due course, Steve filled his life with love and peace. As his illness deepened, Steve gave up so many worldly things. His physical life was regulated by a cycle in which each valley became deeper, and each peak lower, and my partner and I watched with alarm as Steve's life was slowly devoured by his worsening physical condition. Over time his manner grew ever more soft and quiet. Finally, this past week, Steve made his final journey into "the valley of the shadow of death."
Psalm 23 has particular resonance with my experience of Steve these past seven years.
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.*
I’ve decided that those who refused to continue their friendship with Steve have suffered a greater loss than I because Steve fulfilled his chosen life’s course and filled it with his special purpose in an all to short period of 58 years.
I will miss our sweet prince.
* King James Bible