(This is Part I of VI of a series of entries that chronicle my experience of Faith, from my early understanding of it as a kid and my acceptance of it as a teenager, my rejection of it as a young adult and my struggles with it as a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, and what I have come to know and appreciate about it through the acts of others.)
Part I of VI: Richard
Part II of VI: Mark
Part III of VI: Meighan
Part IV of VI: Jennifer
Part V of VI: Bennett
Part VI of VI: You All, Everybody
When I sat down to write this, to attempt to put into words what I have experienced over the past several weeks and what it has meant to me personally, I didn't realize how much I wanted to say. As I began, the words kept pouring out.
As the length grew I realized that, even for me, this was a blog entry that I could not post in a single day. So I gave it some thought and decided to publish it across the span of five days. And even doing THAT, each of these entries is VERY long.
I expect only the Die Hardiest of the Die Hards to make it through, but I wrote this mainly for those people, and for myself. If you do decide to make the commitment and read through this thing all the way, I can't promise you any great epiphanies or things discovered that will change the world.
This is a personal journey, and in the end that's all this blog has ever been about.
Any discoveries are my own, though perhaps there is some Universal truth scattered amongst the anecdotal ruins. If we're lucky.
I can promise you that I don't hold back on the details. Would you expect anything else?
Many things will be happening this week as the H.M.S. Lilly sails into Saturday, which will be the 2-Year Anniversary of the removal of Bennett's brain tumor. It is so appropriate that these blogs happen to align with that event. Even more-so that I am also having surgery on Friday, a Tonsillectomy, to finally deal with some horrible Tonsil Stones that have been plaguing me for months.
Having an impending surgery, and hearing people say to you 'Yeah, it's always a lot more risky for a guy your age to have a surgery like that!' makes you stop and contemplate the What-If Scenarios...a lot, though I have been doing that these past few weeks with great abundance anyway.
But the thought of suddenly just croaking on an operating table from a standard surgery just...because...well, the thought of it plain sucks, and while the odds of that happening aren't really high, your mind can go there, and you think to yourself, what happens then?
Guess I better pack for a warm climate, huh?
I've often, in these pages, talked about my lack of Faith, but I don't know that I ever really talked much about how I lost it, and I know I never talked about how I GAINED it in the first place. Though I know most people just assume that people come to Faith when they are young naturally, because of what they are taught as kids as part of their indoctrination by their parents, but that wasn't so in my situation.
There is a very complicated back story of what originally, as a youth, led me to Faith...brought me to believe in a power greater than myself.
My Father, my real one, wasn't really an active church-going man, and thus, my family wasn't. When he left when I was around the age of 5, my Mom took an approach that I respect very much. Rather then force her beliefs on myself or my sister, she allowed us to ask questions, guided us to make moral choices and let us sort of find our own paths in life when it came to the Church.
This was not to say she did not care, she did very much. But I think a lot of it had to do with our surroundings, and the fact that we never really had a sense of community, we were on the move A LOT. I think she felt that she didn't want us plugged in anywhere too deeply, because she never knew when she'd have to pull up stakes and move us.
But I do remember, certainly, many spirited discussions about the Almighty.
And while as a youngster I can't say that I did not believe in God, I did not really worship God, and I certainly never believed that God engaged in performing miracles on Earth in a traditional sense.
By this I mean that I did not believe that Earth was God's chessboard. I never believed it. I still do not believe that, even today.
I did not think that He aligns the pieces or sets events in motion. I simply do not believe He gets that involved.
Because Earth is the domain of Man. And, sadly, Man is one messed up species. Just look at the Crusades, big corporations, reality television, and Waterworld. Let's face it, Man always has been screwing things up in a big bad way.
I've held to this belief, and continue to, because it is logical to do so, but also, partially, because of my childhood experiences.
I HAD to believe that God worked this way in order to actually be in a place, mentally, to HAVE Faith in God.
If I didn't, then I would have to blame God for all the bad shit in the world, especially all the bad shit that was happening to me, and I didn't want to do that. Because if He is a day-to-day kind of a Deity, then isn't He responsible for, like, everything?
Things like War? Bubonic Plague? Hitler? Rape? Brain Tumors? New Coke? And I did mention Waterworld, right?
So, since I wasn't interested in believing that God was the one responsible for New Coke, or for having my real Dad walk out, and his Replacement wind up putting me through all kinds of Hell and gone, I chose to believe that God was not an ever-present participant in the day-to-day goings-on that occurred on the Big Blue Marble. Certainly not on the one I was living on.
So does God ever intervene? At all?
I don't know.
I'm not God.
I try not to speak for other people or beings, particularly omnipotent ones.
My opinion was then as it is now, that He does not. At least, not for a VERY long time. Unless it really, really makes a difference, but it would have to be a HUGE deal, I'm talking like swatting-a-falling-meteor-from-the-sky type of intervention. And not even that action is guaranteed.
You ever read the Old Testament? God should have bought into a timeshare down here. Every other week he was doing something with somebody. Testing this guy, smiting that one. He was a real tough hombre. But then something happened.
I guess he switched to decaf or something, because in the New Testament we see a whole new side of God, in the form of Jesus Christ.
Now this is the version of God I totally dig on. More Brother than Father. Imagine that?
But I also see this in a very Sci-Fi kind of way (Imagine THAT!?!) and to me, the very act of transmigration of self, the act of placing part of the Divine Spirit of whatever makes God...whatever He is/was INTO Man, in order to become Christ, whatever that thing was that made God the God that he used to be...was forever changed.
For our benefit, of course, but gone was the power and might of the God of the Old Testament...transformed into something...wonderful, something we could relate to a little bit better, a sort of God/Man hybrid called Jesus who walked among us and who, because he was WAY too cool for us to handle and accept, we killed him.
See? I told you we sucked as a Species.
My point was that the Sacrifice of Jesus was way more than just an act of symbolism as far as dying for our sins...it was also a beginning of a new era of Man, an era that sets up the entire concept of why Earth kind of blows, but what needs to happen for it NOT to blow (the teachings of Christ) and what we have to do to make the world a better place is to live up to the ideals and the teachings of this Man/God who tried to tell us how beautiful our lives, our world could be if we only altered the way we lived a teeny tiny bit, all the while most of us, including some of his closest friends, were treating him like total garbage.
Still with me? Hope so, cause we have a LONG way to go.
So this is why there is no real presence of God every day, in the Modern World, like you saw in the Old Testament. No burning bushes, no Ark building and so on. God either can't do it because of the things that He sacrificed that day on the cross, or he won't because to do so negates the lessons we are supposed to learn as His children from that entire experience.
Now...here's where the exception to the rule comes in.
I do believe that you can feel a 'touch' of something holy or a 'presence' of a 'divine spark', or witness or experience the presence of God through the acts of other people, and sometimes through yourself if you are lucky, in some circumstances where you might find yourself fortunate enough to be blessed by something that is beyond the limits of yourself. Sometimes even beyond the scope of your ability to explain or understand.
But only if your heart and mind is open to it.
And this, my friends, was the basic Foundation on which I started to built my Faith.
In the life I was living, with the things I was experiencing, building a strong Faith, or ANY Faith at all, was not an easy task. But it was through the experiences of knowing many extraordinary people along the way that each new brick was able to be placed.
And the very first time, ever, I experienced that 'divine spark', or felt the touch of something that was 'holy', was in the company of my dear friend Richard.
Richard was a Christian.
Still is. A great kid and even greater man and Father. He opened doors to Christianity for me that no one else ever had, because his was the first Christian viewpoint I had ever experienced that did not judge me.
Richard accepted me at face value, something that not many people did, and not many people do still. For that he became, at the age of 12, one of my most treasured friends. Still is.
One day, we were walking home from the arcade. For those of you from The X-Box Generation, do you know what those are? This was pre-Pong, when you had to walk somewhere to actually play Video Games. We were at the Arcade (which in this case, like so many, was attached to a Putt-Putt Golf Course) and then walked home after dark, and we had to cross a very busy 6+ lane street, with a grassy median in the middle.
We were kids, so of COURSE we did not walk the 3/4 of a mile down to the crosswalk.
We just waited until the traffic got lighter and bolted like jackrabbits across the street. We stopped at the median, to catch our breath and plan the next stage of our adolescent stupidity.
For a reason that, to this day, Richard has no explanation for, he took off across the remaining stretch of street without me, without warning. Why he did not see the headlights of the oncoming car I do not know.
It was headed right for him.
I don't know how I moved with the speed of a cheetah but something took over inside me, I felt almost pushed, and I was able to reach beyond my typical abilities and I grabbed him and yanked him and pulled him backwards he landed with a thud squarely on top of me, but directly on the safety of the grassy median.
He believed I saved his life. And he believed I had some help.
I didn't know what I believed. I was far too shocked. I was honest enough to admit I did feel something, though I had no rational explanation for what it was. What I experienced I had no words for, because it felt very strange, almost as if I was outside of my own body, watching it happen as it happened. Even the recounting of it is strange...surreal.
Richard simply beamed and used metaphor, something he does quite well even today.
'I could almost see the remote.'
'That's good.You've taken you're first step into a larger world.'
I went to Church with Richard some in those days, and I learned some things, though my situation at home always kept me a little uneasy about accepting God fully into my life. I was skeptical. I mean, c'mon, seriously...my take was if the G-Man really wanted to help me out, how about giving me Invulnerability to Boot or some other more USEFUL ability?
And besides, Richard's Church simply wasn't for me. We've talked about it since, and he's not offended by that. Church's are like shoes. You need to find a pair that fits you well, and that are comfortable. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that ALL shoes help you walk on the path, know what I mean?
Eventually, as we always did when I was young, we moved again, so my time with Richard at my side was severed when we moved away from Dallas, Texas. This was before the Internet and before Facebook, before free long distance telephone service and Skype. So we stayed in touch as best as we could.
I have a Treasury of Richard in the form of some of the coolest letters and cards and notes that, while incredibly girly, are some of the most valuable things I possess. I mean...we were KIDS, fer cryin' out loud.
And he had the honor of sitting at my side at my first viewing of 'The Empire Strikes Back', before it was tainted by Prequels, or Greedo Shooting First, and all that bullshit. Not to mention being right there for pivotal screen moments like 'I dunno...I'm making this up as I go...', 'I'll be right here.' and, of course...'KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!'.
As I got older that friendship, because of time, distance and life, began to fade, as did the memory of that...whatever it was that I felt that night on the way home from the Arcade.
I did not experience anything like it again for several years, this time on a much larger road called Interstate 95.
Well, sort of.
I didn't actually feel that 'divine spark' until I was on the street in front of my house, but the whole thing started on that famous stretch of East Coast Highway, 14 miles away from the home of Mark Biggerman.
To Be Continued...