This morning I prepared myself for a long communion with the Lord. I had plenty of time and a good night’s sleep. I prepared the sacrament (bread and wine – actually, cracker and juice), I offered up prayers for friends, family, etc. All was as it should be. Then, I prepared to settle in and asked the Lord if I could talk to Him. I usually do this – as a courtesy more than anything else. Only this time, He said “No”.
Yes, He said, “No”.
I didn’t know what to think at first, and then it all flooded in. Deep loneliness, even despair. I was frightened! I resolved to let these things freely into my mind – to explore and experience my reaction at hearing the Lord say, “No, I’m not going to talk to you today”. Only it wasn’t just today. It immediately became forever in my mind. I didn’t even push back. I accepted it – knowing deep inside that this must be some sort of joke, or exercise, or teaching moment. And ultimately that’s what it was. It was – it is – a teaching moment.
I don’t know how this daily communion that I have with the entity that I identify as Christ works. I approach Him in reverence but in friendship. I shut out any feelings of guilt or judgment, because those are just not compatible with being in His presence. I don’t spend time any more worrying about whether I’m worthy or not. I just come. Every day. And He’s always there. And we talk. I ask questions, or share experiences or thoughts or concerns, and this triggers responsive thoughts. Sometimes these answering thoughts are clearly derivative from my questioning thought – like a stream of logic – an “if this, well, then…of course…then this. Oh, I get it!” But then other times, the answering thoughts, the words of the Lord, just pop in unexpected and unanticipated, and I recognize those as some form of inspiration originating outside myself. It’s those times that give me assurance that this communion is not just an exercise in me talking to myself.
I’ve really come to cherish these times – these daily meditations, or communions. They keep me going, filled with hope and a sense that I’m still, at age 65, growing and learning and, as a friend recently asked me, “Becoming a better man”. As I said, I typically ask, as a simple courtesy, if we can talk.
Only this time He said, “No”.
I immediately felt emptiness. I felt a loss of hope. I felt stranded, drifting; like the anchor chain had broken and I was without a rudder. As I said, I did not fear these feelings, but that doesn’t mean I liked them. I allowed them to come. I explored them. I allowed them – no, I invited them to expand to the next level. I knew this wasn’t His final answer, but I accepted the prompting, and I began to consider it as if it were…His…final…answer.
I couldn’t believe He said, “No”!
But, “No” means “No”, right?
Then something remarkable happened. I thought to myself, “Well, this can’t be the end. What do I do now? This purpose, this bringing about of the immortality and eternal life of man, this great end goal of all creation, can’t just stop. The show must go on, right? Now, just because He said “No” to me, doesn’t mean He is saying “No” to everyone. But it felt like he was saying “No” to everyone; because my next reaction was, “The world needs a Savior. Someone has to continue to spread the light of hope, the light of love, the hope of eternal life filled with joy. Someone has to show the way. Someone has to teach the awesome truth that really is the pure, simple, amazing gospel. Someone has to say, “The cup is half full – not half empty. No – the cup runneth over – just look and see, and you’ll know that!”
And for a minute there, I was willing to be that someone. I was willing to be the Savior if He wasn’t going to do it anymore.
That’s when the lesson became clear. And that’s when we began talking again. The “No” was withdrawn. Hope was restored. The emptiness was filled, and I knew I had to share this experience.
Why? Why do I need to share this? Well, most immediately it’s because writing it down helps solidify the experience in my own mind. But then, the whole reason I write any of this stuff is because I assume that anyone who reads this is very much like me, and that the things I share will ring true to them, and maybe spark their own exploration and thought processes and, perhaps, even a deeper communion with this remarkable being that we call Christ.
So, what do I need to share? What is the lesson that He was teaching me, or that I needed to learn.
Well, I’ve been asking an important question lately – and just yesterday I was asking it in earnest, allowing plenty of time for an answer. Christ said in Luke 17, “…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you”. Considering also the concept of the Christ within us: and the spark of divinity being placed within us – to blossom like a perfect flower as we seek redemption; and that Christ Himself, in the great intercessory prayer from John 17, spoke of us becoming one…I had begun to ask, “To what extent are we ‘one’? Am I praying to myself? And, as I’ve come to know the Christ who is love, where is the Christ of miracles? Where is the Christ who transcends the limits of time and space and form; who is able to commune with hundreds or thousands of people individually at the same time. Where, or who, is the Christ who walked the earth with healing in His hands, and with the power of resurrection in His body? I may indeed do well to seek the Christ within me, and within others, but that’s not all there is to knowing Christ. There was a man, now God, who exists separate from me, yet somehow yearning to be one with me and with every other living being throughout creation. To me, these are deep questions of great import. I felt like I needed to know the answers, but I didn’t have them yet.
Then He said “No”.
When that happened – I guess you could say, “The Spirit withdrew itself” – I knew something more clearly than I ever had before. I comprehended something that only became clear in its absence. Somehow, for some reason, in some way that I don’t understand, I am incomplete without Him. He fills me…with hope, with goodness, with purpose. He fills me with confidence, with trust, with knowing that He – and His love – is not just always there – that it IS. That He is the I AM. And somehow, without Him, I AM NOT. And I know this because He said, “No”.
I’ve written and spoken many times about my quest to “know” Him. I promised I would seek to know Him, and He said, “OK”. In this moment, I learned something about Him that I probably could never have learned in any other way. When I first promised (in this life) to know Him, I was perfectly capable of cruising through (this) life on my own. I knew that I wanted more, but I didn’t know what I was missing.
Now, 20 years later…He said “No”, and the evolution, the knowledge, that had been revealed over the past 20 years of seeking became crystal clear, because it was suddenly no longer there. I was, as I said, staring into a dark abyss. Yet, that was no longer acceptable. I was no longer willing to live without charity. I was not willing to live without the eternal, sustaining, fulfilling presence of the spirit of Christ, the spirit of Love, the spirit of God – of all creation. But I was willing – however briefly – to offer myself up as a savior should that be the only way that I, and the world, could continue toward the measure of its creation; if that was the only way we could avoid the dark abyss of hell, the absence of love and light, that would face us if He had truly said “No”.
But fortunately, I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to do that because He already did. I don’t know how it works, but I know now better than I ever have that it does work. His spirit, the spirit of Christ, somehow gives us true life. Somehow He is truly the light and life of the world. Somehow none can come unto the Father but by Him. Somehow, He became that source of life-sustaining truth and light and love. I have a whole new set of questions to ask in my quest to know Him, but now the questions are a little more focused; and I think the answers will be a little more meaningful.
Now, excuse me. I have to go commune with my Lord. I have to thank Him.