Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I was blind. And now I see.

I read an interesting book recently that struck a chord in my soul. “The Shack” is a fictional story about a man whose young daughter is murdered by a child serial killer and his healing communication with God in Trinity form.

God reveals himself to the man in a letter and invites him to come to a shack in the northeast Oregon mountains. The shack is where his five-year-old daughter was violently raped and murdered. The man is unbelieving that God is communicating with him and thinks it might be the killer. Nonetheless, he drives to the shack one wintry night and walks in. After discovering the bloodstains on the floor where his daughter was murdered he cries himself to sleep, cursing God. When he awakes, the shack is changed. Sunshine and light are everywhere. Winter is gone. It’s summer. There he meets three people: God (a matronly black woman named Papa with a penchant for cooking delicious food), Christ (a Jewish handyman working around the shack) and the Holy Spirit (an ethereal Asian woman who spends the next few days revealing to the man what has happened to his soul from the trauma of losing his daughter). The three help him to heal and understand that life is a gift. But life is a temporary transition. Heaven is eternal.

This book moved me because for the first time my human mind could wrap around the concept of the Holy Trinity by giving human qualities to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I understand this is a simplistic exercise, but it took the abstract, and made it real, rewarding me with a clearer sense of what I’ve always believed. God is love.

We all have events in our lives that shape us. I’ve always lived by the motto, “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” I believe this is one of God’s greatest revelations of His existence in my life. When I was 14, my father committed suicide. It was a very painful period in my life, and as the oldest son and last person to see my dad alive, I blamed myself. But God’s healing touch over the years has allowed me to understand that I had nothing to do with my father’s death. God’s loving grace was immediately present in the actions of our parish priest who said, “We will bury your father in the church. His mental illness is no different than cancer or any other disease over which we have no control.” My brothers and I all were alter servers at his funeral.

God’s loving grace allowed me to finally forgive my father over a decade ago. But it was only through praying to God for understanding of what had happened in my life and coming back to the church that my true faith journey could begin anew. In forgiving my father, I forgave the Father for letting this happen. God provided healing, and in the healing of my soul I began to see my loving God more clearly.

In the words of U2’s Bono, “Love. It’s not the easy thing. The only baggage that you can bring. It’s all that you can’t leave behind.” I first heard these words in December of 1999. When I heard the opening words to the song, “Walk On” I started to cry. God revealed yet another universal truth to me through these lyrics: love is the only thing we get to take with us to heaven. No possessions. No status. No job titles. Only love.

When I think of God’s revelations in my life, it’s moments like these that provide clarity to God’s plan for me. Whether reading a book or hearing a song, God’s immanence is everywhere. I was blind. And now I see.


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