“Tell My story as I tell it to you”

 

“Lord, what exactly is my assignment?”

The world needs to understand My story, or at least to understand it better. I have given parts of the story to different people at different times. The whole now needs to be told. Your effort will be part of telling that whole story.

“Do You want people to piece the whole together out of the parts?”

What I most want is for people to listen to Me.

“And to listen to what You have told various people over the ages?”

Yes, that is part of listening to Me.

“What exactly do You want me to write?”

God: An Autobiography. My story is the history of Me—how I came to be.

“The story of your interactions with various peoples?”

That but not only that. Tell it from My point of view, not the history of people’s experience of God.

“Lord, the total story of Your interaction with people would be too vast.”

No, all history is selective. Use a different word—like episodes—if you like. But it is history in the sense of being chronological, developmental, and dramatic in some sense. There is a subjective point of view (Myself), intentions and concerns for the future, regrets about the past, and so forth.

“What are the materials for this history? The great religious texts?”

Yes, of course. That is one side of the human-divine (interaction), like hearing one end of a telephone conversation. So that is one starting point. But there are others as well, and I have been leading you to them—the physical record, the geological record, the biological development, the stars and galaxies, time and creation, and so on.

And I will tell you many things Myself—that is the “new revelation” aspect. Nothing overly dramatic there—I reveal Myself all the time.

“So I should read the scriptures of the major religions?”

Yes, I want you to read the early spiritual history of mankind. I will lead you to which readings. I would like you to pray as you read them and take notes as directed.

I grew up at a time when “man” and “mankind” referred to both men and women, and God spoke to me in my own vernacular.

“Lord, You said I was to tell Your story ‘from the inside out.’ But reading the scriptures is ‘from the outside in.’”

Yes, tell My story as I tell it to you. The only purpose for reading is to give you reference points for understanding My story.

“Lord, if I am going to ‘get into Your head,’ it would be helpful to know what You are up to, what Your ultimate goal is.”

No, your job is not to “get into My head.” Remember, I am telling you what is “in My head.” You are not trying to empathize with a fictional or historical character. You have the living Person right here, and I will tell you.

“But, as I prepare for the work …”

You are making this falsely complicated because you are not trusting Me. You think you will have to do this on your own by deciphering the cultural forms and so forth. But it is exquisitely simple. You ask Me what you are to read or to study. And then You ask Me what I was up to in relation to what you are reading or studying. And you don’t need to worry about the total compass or overall story, because I will lead you item by item.

“Lord, how should I approach the ancient scriptures?”

Get into the frame of mind for reading the (particular) work. That frame of mind is reverential, quiet, respectful, open-hearted. It does not consist of analyzing metaphors and stories of gods. Just take in what comes to you.

 

“I want you to tell My story.”

Abigail’s train was late. I had been waiting at Union Station for over an hour and stood to stretch my legs. Some now-forgotten images passed before my eyes, and then,

I want you to be My new Elijah.

“Your new Elijah?” I did not know whether to feel flattered, or overwhelmed, or just crazy. I protested, “Lord, I am not worthy.”

I will decide who is worthy.

I didn’t know what a new Elijah was supposed to be but I knew I did not want the job. “Lord, I don’t have faith enough.”

You have more faith than you know.

“Who is Elijah?”

He is the prophet.

“What is he to me?”

He is you.

I didn’t think that meant that I was literally a reappearance of Elijah, but still I objected, “No, Lord, this is just crazy.”

He is you.

I remembered Abraham Lincoln’s story about the man who was tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. “If it weren’t for the honor of the thing,” the man said, “I would rather have walked.” And I had seen the war movies, “You will have the honor of leading the assault.” Some honors aren’t worth it.

I did feel the honor. God was about to put His seal on this role for me, a role more suitable for a real Elijah. I felt a swell of pride, as I was being told this, and immediately the line went dead. Ego had broken the connection.

Abigail’s train had still not arrived. I paced back and forth, no longer seeing the other people in the station. What to think? What to feel? Finally, I forced a deep breath and, with irritation mitigated by resignation, asked, “Lord, what exactly do You want of me?”

I want you to describe the inner life of God, what it is like to be God.

The inner life of God? What it is like to be God? I didn’t know what this could possibly mean, but I forged on. “Lord, why is that important for us to know?”

Mankind sees God only from the outside and that leads to distortions in its view of God, as it would of anyone—too distant, awesome, oppressive, Other. Even mystics are very one-sided. They experience oneness but that is not the same as empathizing with My subjective experiences.

Okay, I could see that, if God is too distant, it would be hard to relate to Him, but there was a problem. “Lord, we think of God as being so infinite and ethereal that ‘subjective experience’ doesn’t even make sense.”

Exactly—that’s one of the distortions. Although I am much more than a Person, I am a Person, a soul, like you. You—people—cannot relate properly, constructively, to Me unless you understand that. (Take) love, for example. My love comes across as impersonal, generic, oceanic wallowing, but (in fact) it is quite specific, concrete, with feeling, with response to the particulars of your being, of your life.

I want you to tell My story.

“Study Jesus, learn from him.”

I was relieved at not having to become a Christian.  But I still wanted to know whether the standard Christian beliefs about Jesus were true.  “Lord, is Jesus Your Son?”

Yes.

I wondered about the doctrine of the Trinity, that God comprises the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  “Lord, is Jesus God?”

Yes.

I had trouble tracking these answers.  “But You told me I should not become a Christian.”

Yes, you should not.

“But You just said …”

To believe that Jesus is My Son is not the same as being a Christian.  Christianity is a sect, with some truths but many limitations.  Study Jesus, learn from him, but do not become a Christian.

What are the alternatives, I wondered?  There are Messianic Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah and perhaps as God.  “Lord, should I become a Messianic Jew?”

You should look into it.

I did look into it and, as far as I could tell, they were about the same as evangelical Christians, except they retained a strong sense of their ethnic Jewishness.  Since I am not Jewish and had been told not to become a Christian, and they were both, this was not for me.

 

Images of the Afterlife

I don’t care whether there is life after death.  That may seem odd, but I tend to be a contrarian with regard to my own feelings, a habit since childhood.  So I do not live a roller-coaster of hopes and fears.  My emotions are like the plains of Kansas, so flat water doesn’t know which way to run.  That includes the afterlife.  Still, as long as I had God on the line, it seemed like something I should ask about.

I was reprimanded for asking.  I was told that I didn’t really want to know, I was asking merely because I thought I should, and I should figure out why I didn’t want to know.

At first, I had no idea, but then it came to me.  As I pictured the afterlife, it was boring and lonely, like driving all night on one of those long western highways.

Then I was given a series of images—more accurate ways to picture the afterlife.  The first was to become immersed in wonders of nature of incomparable beauty.  The second was to imagine being an Einstein whose mind now grasped fully all the vast mysteries of the universe, having the ultimate “Aha!” experience over and over again.  Another was listening with full intensity to music more lovely than any the world has ever known.  Or, finally, it was like being in love, but with a vaster compass, sustained over endless time, and receiving boundless love in return.

Illumination

Where to Find God

Rightly or wrongly, mysticism is often considered the highest level of religion, but for a long time, there were no mystics. God was interacting with people in many ways, but not yet through mystical union. Then the first mystic seers appeared. In prayer, God explained,

Now people were coming to me—not in limited ways, praying and offering sacrifices and so forth—but in a kind of merger … they were entering into Me, and I was receiving them. That was a new experience.

“So You responded?”

It is hard to explain. It’s like suddenly finding that you are the natural home for these creatures … the bosom or womb or home or ocean that all return to.

That sounded as if mystical union might be the ultimate way to relate to God, but I was told,

That is no more important a part of My nature than others we have discussed … .

And then another thing happened. Much more than before, these sages began to ponder My nature and (to) try to articulate their understanding of it.

And two changes occurred as a result. First, for the first time, I was an object, to be defined and analyzed. It is like your first experience with a psychologist who has a lot of boxes to put you in (introverted, repressed, etc.). As God, I had not pondered My own “nature.” I had no need to “define” Myself, but the effort of others to do so had an impact …

It came clearer that I was an object to others, a source of puzzlement, even mystery, to them. In fact, they would say that My nature was ineffable, beyond all language, all logical categories. They would describe Me in paradoxes—neither existent nor non-existent, and so forth.

And this has an impact. I did not feel ineffable. To be sure, I am hard to describe and human concepts are not adequate, but that is true of the physical universe as well.

“You say it has an impact?”

It creates a problem. It puts a barrier between Me and My creatures. How can they approach the ineffable? And even that mystical aspect leads them to regard Me as a pea-soup they want to dive into.

It did leave Me with a problem: how to break through the fog ….

“Then mystical union is not the goal? The purpose is to live the life you’re given? Is that right, Lord?”

Yes!

So: Don’t worry about the pea-soup or the ineffable Whatever. Just live the life you’re given. Tread the path in front of you. You will find God there, waiting to share the journey with you.

“Yes, that is important!”

We were living in Memphis, Tennessee, where my dad was going to college on the G.I. Bill.  We attended my grandmother’s Pentecostal church.  I would listen to what grownups said and try to think whether they were true or not—especially when they contradicted themselves.  If heaven was a place of eternal joy, why didn’t they rejoice when somebody died?  They made way too much of dressing up for church, when what mattered—they said—was the state of your soul.

“Lord, I took things people said seriously and placed the highest value on truth and on being right with God.”

Yes, that is important!

“Lord, what is my role?”

I did not feel like a prophet or seer and, as I started reading about different religions, I found an endless cast of characters—apostles, evangelists, saints, mystics, gurus, shamans, founders of religions.  None seemed to fit me.

“Lord, what is my role supposed to be?”

Just to be a serious reporter of what you are told when you pray.

Okay, that I could do.

 

 

“You will never learn from fencing.”

Giving up my career and risking my reputation in order to tell God’s story involved what sometimes seemed like an intolerable sacrifice.  But, of course, it paled in comparison to the suffering human beings have experienced over the centuries.  Any person who believes in God has to confront the problem of human suffering.  Why does God permit it?

“Lord, does suffering have any purpose or meaning?”

Of course, suffering is what makes life serious.  Imagine a world in which actions never resulted in suffering.  Imagine a world without the pain of regret, without feeling bad about doing something wrong (or) shameful.

“But disease serves no moral purpose.”

Now you are relapsing into fencing with Me on “the problem of pain.”  Just listen.  You will never learn from fencing.

 

“These moments were not empty suffering”

Any person who believes in God has to confront the problem of human suffering. Why does God permit it?

“Lord, does suffering have any purpose or meaning?”

Of course, suffering is what makes life serious. Imagine a world in which actions never resulted in suffering. Imagine a world without the pain of regret, without feeling bad about doing something wrong (or) shameful.

“But disease serves no moral purpose.”

Now you are fencing with Me on “the problem of pain.” Just listen. You will never learn from fencing.

Disease, disaster, aging, death are essential aspects of suffering. “We” live in a physically vulnerable world. That is the essential condition that makes life serious.

“All that’s rather abstract, Lord. What exactly does disease do for us?” I thought of Job’s boils.

Suffering is the test of your humanity. There is no greater test than pain—how one copes with it. It is easy to be nice, faithful, and such, when things are great, but very hard under adversity.

“But, Lord, that just seems perverse—or cruel.”

No, that’s not so. Think about your own times of physical suffering—in the hospital, for example—the shots, the clumsy aide, the itch, the nurse about urinating, those were full of growth.

Those examples brought back memories. A couple of years before these prayers began, I suffered a mild heart attack and was rushed to the intensive care unit. They took blood tests, day and night. There are a limited number of places from which blood can be drawn, and the same spot cannot be used again right away. The wrists are ideal, but mine are sensitive and a needle there smarts. One does not have much power as a patient, but safeguarding my wrists became my prime imperative. One after another blood drawer would come, and I would plead, argue, wheedle, and insist they find some other place to puncture me. Each resisted, then managed to find a spot.

I was transferred to another hospital for the surgical procedure. I was met by a technician who said his name and stuck out his hand—while looking the other way and standing on my oxygen tube. When it was time to go into the operating room, he snatched away my blanket with so violent a jerk it would have ripped out the intravenous insertion if I had not by now been on high alert.

Once in the operating room, I was placed on a slab with my arms flat at my side. Medical equipment loomed above, posing an impressive threat. “Don’t move!” I was told. My nose chose that moment to itch. The itch grew intense, then more intense, dreadfully intense, until nothing existed but me and that itch. Then I understood. I can’t fight it. I just have to live with it, until the procedure is over. I don’t know if the itch went away or what—I forgot all about it.

The procedure went smoothly. I watched the monitor as the surgeon snaked a catheter through an incision in my groin up to a major coronary artery where a stent had to be placed.

Opening an artery is a very serious matter. Bleeding can be life-threatening. The patient has to lie flat and immobile for twenty-four hours. Nurses at my first hospital had been angels in white, but here I was attended by Nurse Ratched’s less charming twin. She seemed to resent patients needing her help. Finding it difficult to manage the bedpan flat on my back, I asked for assistance. She acted as if it were a dirty-minded request and responded by threatening me, “If you can’t manage the bedpan, we will catheterize you!” Finally, I did manage, and it was time to close up the artery. Another patient had told me the closing could be dangerous as well as painful.

“Who is to perform this delicate operation?”

Nurse Ratched gave me the grim news: young Mr. Sizzorhands, the technician whose previous efforts to hurt me had been foiled, would now have another shot. I asked for someone else. “He is the only technician available.”

“I am not going to let that guy lay another hand on me.”

She made it a battle of wills. We went back and forth. Finally I said, “Let me speak to the doctor.”

She said she would see what she could do and, after a time, she returned with a young Asian-American attendant. He had magical hands. I didn’t feel a thing.

My body was recovering nicely, but the whole experience—starting with “indigestion” in the night (I didn’t know that was a heart symptom), calling the office the next morning to find out what nearby doctor was covered by my health plan, driving myself (fool that I was) to the doctor’s office, filling out forms and waiting for some time before going up and telling the receptionist, “I may be having a heart attack,” the quick examination and discovery that I was at that very moment in the throes of an incipient attack, an emergency medical team rushing to my side trying to head it off, being shoveled into an ambulance, the sirens, intensive care, the surgery, the whole ordeal—left me feeling fragile, as if I were made of spun glass. A sharp tap and I would shatter.

They (these moments) were not empty suffering; they even had to do with leading you to Me.

“How so, Lord?”

They focused your attention on your mortality, which (led) you to open your heart fully to Abigail because you realized how precious this love was. And it led to your prayer to serve God.

“The Soul is at one with God.”

 

A few days after my dream, I started praying about daily matters and was interrupted.

Stop.  You’re just rambling, not thinking.  If this were our last conversation and you could know only one thing, what would it be?

I thought, what is it that affects me most personally?  “Lord, is there life after death and, if so, what is it like?”

You flunk.  You have asked Me a question I have already told you the answer to.

“But not what life after death is like.”

The dream I sent you told you that.  You got a glimpse of life after death. 

There is a second reason you flunk.  Your motive is honest but wrong.  You ask only what concerns you.  You ask out of desire, and fear of not getting what you desire.  You should ask in terms of the good of life, of all life, and of what I want for you, not in terms of what you want for yourself.  You should seek understanding.

I tried to step back to see what question my “soul” would ask.  “How can I merge with You?  I’m not sure if that’s the best way to put it, Lord:  be at one with You, at rest with You, at one with Your will?”

The question is adequately formulated.  The goal—one way to describe the goal—is to be at one with God, the God of All.  At bottom, the Soul’s will is the will of God.  The Soul is at one with God.  The Atman language is a bit off target, a bit misleading.

Hindus believe that the Atman or Soul is identical with the Brahman, the ultimate divine reality.

It is not that you and I are literally the same substance, the same particular.  It is that we are “at one,” in perfect harmony, and not accidentally so.  It is in the nature of what the Soul is, that it is at one with God.  Remember that these metaphysical (philosophical) categories are crude and inadequate in the first place. 

Back to your question: how can you become at one with God?  Of course, the answer is that you already are—your Soul, that is.  The task is to come to realize that this is so, to realize it not merely in theory, but in intuitive, felt understanding, in your emotions and feelings, and in practice.

“That’s the goal, Lord?  It sounds simple.  The one-ness is already ‘inside.’  All we have to do is to bring our conscious selves along?”

That is right.  It is the simplest thing in the world.  And everyone, at some level and at some moments, knows it, at least glimpses it.  But it is very difficult to actualize in practice.  The empirical world—the world of desires and the senses—seems so real and is so powerful that is extremely difficult to redirect one’s energy. 

And the empirical world is real, in its own way.  This is not Christian Science.  The world is not an illusion, a mirage.  If it is a mirage, it is one from which you can drink water.  No, you must respect the empirical world while at the same time emancipating yourself from it, not letting yourself be identical with your interests in this world.