How I Come to Life

How I Come to Life: A Prayer After Seeing Spike Jonze’s “Her”

There are moments when I am so moved that I am emotionally raw, robbed of all eloquence. This prayer from January illustrates that.

Dear Father,

As I walk through the streets of downtown Burlington, I’m acutely aware that I’m alone, and yet I don’t feel like I’m by myself. I feel Your presence walking with me.

I’m so grateful that we saw this together, Father. The acting. The visuals. Even the music—the beauty and range of emotions it evokes! Oh, there are some lies in there, Father. But we can think through what we’ve seen and sift out the numerous truths from the few lies.

For a brief moment, I wished I could have seen this with R. Then I wished I could have seen it with J. And then I realized You were with me, and it was all ok.

The movie makes me think, really think, about You, Father. You who are invisible, and yet so present in my life. How do You love me so personally, so deeply? How do You love ALL of us that way? WHY do You love us all this way? You, who know all things? You, whose thoughts and emotions are so profound not even the best of us humans could understand them?

And suddenly I’m aware that Your love is truly beyond human comprehension. Because even in the best stories we could tell, someone like You would have to leave us, heading off to write Your own story.

Yet the story You’ve written is quite different. You tell us that because of who You are, You choose not to leave us. Indeed, You chose to become like us, to become comprehensible while remaining divine. It makes no sense to us humans. And yet somehow, you’ve made it make sense to many people, and to me.

Now as I walk and ponder this, I realize something terrible: As much as You love me, I still don’t love You. Yes, a part of me loves You, but not that much. 28 years of life, so many gifts of people, relationships, and achievements from You, and I still am so cold to You.

And I cry and cry, because I don’t know how to feel. But I know right now I’m walking with You. And I know that as I put out my hand, you’ve put your hand in mine and have your arms around me.

So I ask to just walk with You, not saying anything, instead just giving You the bubbling, churning emotional soup within my body and soul, which You understand better than I do.

And so we walk into the great unknown, holding hands together while I’m being held by You.

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How I Come to Life

How I Come To Life: Falling Into the Hands of The Father

What do you do when you’ve run out of strength? Done everything in your power? Fought as much as you can to be happy and live?

After the tragedies of 2013, I finally reached that point. There were weeks where my breakfast was tears. I’d been sad before, but I always was confident I’d get through it in time. Now I’d finally encountered a sadness that felt more powerful than me.

My faith told me to look to Jesus, our example for how to live. Remember when He was on the cross, just about to die. We talk a lot about the physical pain, but there were also very real emotional wounds. He’d enjoyed a closeness with His Father that gave Him strength. Now the Father had turned His back on Him, and He was out of everything that gave Him life.

And what did He do? He entrusted Himself to His Father. Even though Jesus knew His Father had turned His back on Him, He still knew His Father would take care of Him. Did Jesus go to hell after death? Or was he with the thief on the cross that day in paradise? Regardless of the answer, the point is made explicitly by Jesus Himself: “Father, into your Hands I commit my spirit.” He knew who had Him.

And so I prayed to my Bon Dieu. “Father, I cannot carry myself. I have no energy. I can only fall into You and rest in You, trusting that you will catch me and direct me to safety. Please give me Your strength to make it through in the meantime.”

But there is a significant difference between what Jesus did and what I do.

You see, Jesus genuinely was separated from God, and yet He chose to fall into His Father’s Hands.

I have it easier. I don’t need to blindly jump into the hands of the Father. He’s already there. Because of what Jesus did, none of us Christians are ever separated from God. Yes, I don’t always feel close to Him. What I feel isn’t important. What matters is reality: He is there.

And that’s important. It’s not enough to just trust that everything’s going to be ok. You have to be assured that someone is there to catch you, and then you have to actually experience that someone has.

Thank you Jesus, for being separated from the Father so that I would never have to be. And thank you, Father, for being there to catch me and walk with me into the great unknown.

***

This is the foundation for everything else I’m going to write. Every action and every step.

Too often I’m concerned with action: what I should be doing. Instead, I’ve had to learn to first commit myself to the Father. To rest in His presence throughout the day, and in His Word. Spend time with Him and talk with Him. See what He’s saying in the Word, prayer and in the daily rhythms and events of my life, which always includes Him telling me that He loves me.

Because once I’m there, I can then ask myself the question: Now that I remember that I’m loved and am listening to my Father, what does that make me want to do?

"Dear God...thank you for my life. I forgot...how big...thank you. Thank you for my life."

“Dear God…thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG…thank you. Thank you for my life.” (Joe vs. The Volcano)

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How I Come to Life

How I Come to Life: Flash-Forward (A Taste of Where We’re Going)

“So Father, we welcome you into this time,” prays the Vicar, who then thanks God for who I am in Him and for His mercies that are new every morning.

Our sessions are always bookended by prayer. We do so to recognize that God is in this time, influencing our conversation and thoughts. And it helps me remember that ultimately it’s God, not my Vicar or me, who’s going to make the difference. Over the years, there are many things I understand rationally that for some reason I can’t believe emotionally. Worse, on some level, I don’t want to. Only Le Bon Dieu can break through my heart to do that. My Vicar can only help in the process.

After we talk for a bit about relevant events that follow up from our previous sessions, he asks, “So what’s distressing you today?”

I tell him that while I’m at peace about my sexuality, I’m worried that it may mean I have to be celibate for the rest of my life, which would mean I’d never be able to have a relationship.

“Ok. Why do you think you’d have to be celibate?”

“Because it may be the only way to keep this under control.”

Our discussion hits upon a variety of issues, such as my ambivalence towards women, and something I haven’t brought up yet: my own confusion about masculinity and femininity. Even though I’ve read many books on the subject, I still don’t really know what they are, or what the difference is between them.

“Ok. Tell me about them. What are they like?”

Thankfully, I’ve already written a list of things I think are traits of the masculine and of the feminine. These are not things I’d ever say, but they are things I know that I feel and I have to get them out of my subconscious. My list starts with the positive traits of the masculine. Then I delve into the feminine. The list begins with positive, but then delves into a long list of negatives.

“Ok, ” the Vicar replies. “What’s bad about the masculine?”

I give a few examples. There aren’t as many, I think, but the Vicar is listening intently. After some more discussion, he asks, “Permission to speak freely?”

“Granted,” I reply, and sit back on the couch, sipping my cup of tea.

“You’re afraid of power.”

“Yes,” I reply. “That’s absolutely true.” I’ve never said that out loud before, but as soon as he says it, it resonates with what I know that I feel subconsciously.

“You’re afraid of anything that’s strong. You like to live your life with all your emotions controlled within a nice little box, and when something strong like power, emotion or your sexual impulses pushes outside the edges of the box, you get frightened. And that, my friend, is the definition of masculine.”

He then proceeds to read a section from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. I close my eyes and let the words course through my subconscious and my body.

“You are offended by the masculine itself: the loud irruptive, possessive thing– the gold lion, the bearded bull–which breaks through hedges and scatters the little kingdom of your primness as the dwarfs scattered the carefully made bed. The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level.  But the masculine none of us can escape.  What is above and beyond all things…”

“And by that,” says the Vicar, “he means God…”

What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”

“That’s part of your problem,” he says. “You know you have an ambivalence with the feminine, but you need to realize you also have an ambivalence with the masculine. You can’t be ambivalent towards one gender without also having an ambivalence towards the other.”

Obviously, this is just the beginning of our discussion of masculinity and femininity. I know it’s more complex and that we have a lot more to delve into. But this is the first bit I need to learn.

The Vicar then goes further about my sexual impulses.

“You think celibacy is a way of keeping your sexuality under control. But even if you were called to be celibate, that’s not the reason why you choose it. Even in celibacy, God takes your desire into Him and transforms it into something bigger.

You’ve read The Great Divorce, have you not? In it, there’s a picture of a ghost who has a lizard on his shoulder. The lizard represents his problem with lust. An angel comes to him and asks his permission to kill the lizard. The ghost keeps refusing, but eventually gives in. The angel then snaps the lizard’s neck and kills it. And when he does, suddenly the lizard grows into something bigger and more beautiful than it was before.

That’s what’s going to happen to you. You’re scared of your sexuality, and you have to face it with God, and let Him kill off what is bad. Then you’ll see it transformed into something bigger, stronger and more powerful than you can imagine. You won’t become less passionate, but more passionate than ever. I hope that scares you a little.”

“It really does,” I tell him.

“Good. We’ll talk more in the next few weeks. For right now, just know that God’s calling you to chasteness. The jury’s still out on whether you’re called to celibacy.”

In the meantime, he assigns me to read all of That Hideous Strength, the only book of the Space Trilogy I haven’t read. “It’s full of images of broken masculinity and broken femininity.”

We pray a closing prayer, committing ourselves once again to God, and then leave. I return in two weeks, as is our usual custom.

And as of the time I’m writing this, I’m more even more freaked out than when he first read that section. He’s right. The notion of a more powerful drive, even one turned in the right direction, genuinely terrifies me. Much more than anything has in a while. And so I must spend the next few weeks walking and talking with Le Bon Dieu.

***

Recommended Reading:

  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
  • The Healing Presence by Leanne Payne
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