Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Black Coffee

In this post I want to expose, to myself, as well as to the four or so people who will read this, what I see now.
Today marks the 65th day of my blindness. And by blindness, I do not mean the sort that happens in your eyes- not like what happened to Paul after seeing a great light. Not like Tobit's blindness, after a bird took a very un-luck dump in his eyes- (although I am willing to concede that that, indeed, is a very shitty circumstance). It was the sort of  blindness that takes place when, after you are reading in the dark, day after day, you open up your book one night, and realize you cannot see the words.
No prayer, no speech, no word has passed beyond that chasm that stands in between me.
It is the sort of blindness that happens when God tells you he loves you, and he has good plans for you, and that everything is going to be okay, and then a bird takes a dump in your eyes. And everything is not okay.
Or. More specifically, when God says, I have been leading you forth with bands of human kindness, and chords of human love. See, I am faithful- behold, you heard me correctly. Go ahead and dream.
Go ahead and open your heart to that girl- that boy. Go ahead and believe for your daughter to be healed. Go ahead and sell your things and join that ministry.
And then
Boy and girl break each others hearts in unexplainable, titanic fashion.
Turns out your daughter has leukimia and dies after two years in the hospital.
The ministry sucks you dry and God evaporates and there is no fruit, and you come back with your tail inbetween your legs.

It is the sort of blindness that makes you want to slap the next person in the face who tells you that everything happens for a reason and something good will come out of this. If I have learned anything during this, it is that it is very hard to believe in God when you are angry with him.

This blindness is the blindness that comes from seeing darkness overcome light- watching death go up against God and win. These last 65 days have made me grow up more than the last 25 years. Because in this sort of blindness, when Jesus is just... dead, and historical scholars show how historically dubious the gospel accounts are, and prayer now does not just seem unsafe, but really is unsafe...there is only one way for a man to pray.
It is to remember surfing in California, with my brother and friend beside me, shivering in the salty pacific.
It is to remember my mother, scratching my head when I was sick, and praying over me. I don't have to believe in the prayer, if I can believe in her.
It is to remember running. Not with Jesus, like it felt at the time, but just running. Running in dry, cool air over trails where pine needles carpet root rutted trails in Colorodo Springs.
It is to cry on the phone with another broken man, begging me to keep living, and recognizing that what I just experience was beautiful. God damned beautiful.

When I was young, there was sugar and cream in my coffee. My imagination forced everything into a story that made sense, with sugar and cream covering and sweetening the darker parts. It is utterly shocking to know that I did that with God too.

I don't know, at the end of this trial, if I will ever find refuge and safety in prayer - or God again.  But what I can say now, is that, there is an acceptance that has begun to settle in my heart- whatever limb was hacked off, it is no longer bleeding. My world does not need to be filled with the sweetness of divine presence, resurrection just around every corner. I will drink my coffee black now, and not expect God to sweeten the experience for me. Hope will not come from inside, it will come from what is undoubtedly real. It will come from the familiar taste of cigarette smoke, and the light, falling sideways, swirled and dabbed into hundreds of colors in a wide Texas evening.
Maybe there, again, I will meet God- a God who does not dwell in my imagination, but a God whose voice is as black as coffee, who made both my Grandfather and the lung cancer that killed him. A God who says, when even when my good dreams have been shed, "Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me, 'Where were you when I laid the world on its foundations? Tell me, if you understand! Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!"

I don't. I don't understand God. I don't know.
But I know that there is beauty still in this devastating world. There is something in this black drink that quickens the veins, that puts a pound in my chest. There is love, and that is real, and it is enough to face death now and sleep, like a mountain climber, tacked to the side of a mountain in a sleeping bag like it is some bunk bed one hundred miles high. 

1 comment:

  1. Anthony, We haven't met yet I know you - I know you through my son, Ben, and I know and witness daily in him, a broken man who goes on and sees beauty and love wherever he can manage in that moment. There is great beauty in the darkness and clarity in knowing that we may never understand but to accept and go forward is the most courageous of all actions. Fortitude, strength,and determination, along with the fellowship of all the rest of us, broken yet mended. May every new day heal you a bit more. Amy