Thursday, April 22, 2010

Descent into Madness

Lately I’ve been praying a great deal while in India and thinking about God. I was raised in a Christian home never missing a Sunday of church, and I keep a faith to this day. Most Christians though are confused by my relationship with Christ. They try to adapt their understanding of this peaceful savior and cannot reconcile how I, like Jacob, must wrestle with an occasional angel or demon.
The most common Bible verse is possibly the most famous quote in the history of time. “For God so loved the world…” This is from, of course, John 3:16. You see it on signs at basketball games and rock concerts usually held up by some madman in a rainbow wig or written in whiteout under the eyes of a brain-bashing football bruiser as they try to tear one another’s face off. It's confusing.
But the beauty of that verse is so profound. “God loved the world.” He made it. It was his child. He designed and created it. I was shocked the other day when a friend who is in college now was telling me about how she’s been struggling with this idea that the universe is ever expanding. “But into what?” Is her question. So she asked her astronomy professor what was before the Big Bang, and this man sputtered in circles and guffawed and eventually said, “Just ask God.”
What an amazing statement from a brilliant man, the utter unknowing of God’s mysterious creation for humankind is just totally baffling. Why? Why are we here? Why did God even bother? And from what were we made?
This has also been my life’s question, seeking an answer to this. Is there a way for us to understand God? Are there signs around us? Here I am walking around India and Nepal and everything I see are signs of a lack of a real divinity. Oh sure, there are Hindus and Jains and Sikhs and Muslims and Buddhists and wise men and holy men and sacred sites and magical rivers, but where is the real practice of the big ideas of God. Where is compassion? Cleanliness? Thoughtfulness? Harmony? And love? Where is love?
Rather, I see chaotic behavior, ruinous social problems, disattachment to the environment, and then one attempts to ponder the inhumanity, the absolute cruelty of the caste system and the untouchables. It is impossible, just impossible to try and comprehend. I’ve long thought that God gives us signs of his existence everywhere. The stunning beauty of raw nature, the ability of the human heart to grasp one another in affection, the delights of senses, God reaches out to us every second of our lives. I know this. I know it. But how many of us see it?
For me, there is no better place for this personal connection to God’s love than in his word, the Bible, to read and attempt to comprehend the Bible.
In John 3:16 we see that “God so loved the world,” that what did he do? How could he love us more? He couldn’t, right? What could he possibly do to evolve us into understnading that the beginning of the world was love? Well… “He gave us his only begotten son.” God gave us his son. It was all he had left. And this son was given to die, the most painful thing in the world, so that we might understand his love even more, and that a greater love might enter the world. How profound is that?
Once I was in a relationship with someone very dear to me. It was the only time in my life that I loved someone this much. I had no idea where these feelings came from or that something like this could come out of me. It was an absolute overpowering and overwhelming madness. I saw her everywhere. I spoke to her all day in my mind. I just lived my love for her. Yes, I had loved before. I’d known many woman, but this was completely different. I had been closed off for years and she came into my life and brought me out of it. She saved me. But then one day she explained that she had fallen out of love with me, and it was just gone. Like that, poof.
Of course, my feelings hadn’t changed, but certainly her feelings had. So what do I do? How do I go on as if nothing is wrong? I could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t get through the day. I was in a free-fall. I beat my head against rocks. I wandered through nights wanting to hurt so bad that I could descend so deep into this continued madness that I destroyed myself because I couldn’t physically get out. I wanted to die.
It was then that I started to think about God’s understanding of love. How he shows us a glimpse. He gives us this world that is so good and beautiful and sacred and we fall so deeply in love with it and wonder and ponder what comes next, and then he kills it. He takes it from us. Why? So that somehow, we can move to a greater love, a greater appreciation. We can sit and think and do nothing but ponder until it comes back, until we are ready to accept it again, until we are able to fully live in love and be so much more grateful for it.
This is what existed before the Big Bang. This love. This overwhelming driving force in the universe. God’s love. That is it. Love is the answer. It is the only thing that matters. Our love for one another, our love for this earth, our love of knowledge and truth, our love for compassion and taking care of one another, and if you are lucky enough to find that with another person than you are blessed, and if you feel that about yourself than you are healed, but if you accept it from God, from the source, then you know the answer to the universe and you are saved. I know this not because I read it in a book or got gold stars for attendance at Sunday school. Not because I have navigated the little ebbs and flows of life but because I have lived hell. I have seen hell, and I am clawing and scratching my way out of darkness into the light to find this love again.

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