“You know,” he said, as he sat in the old wooden rocker, watching the fire. “People talk about the perseverance of the Saints as if it’s a good thing. I’m not so sure it is.” The old man stared at the flames as they danced around the logs. “I mean, sure. ‘Once saved always saved,’ and all that jazz, but wouldn’t it be better if we could lose our salvation?”
“How are we even certain of our salvation in the first place, Jim? We’re told that good fruit comes from good trees, but then at other times we’re told that all the trees are rotten, and only one thing can rid the rot. Where’s that magical tipping point?” Jim didn’t answer.
“‘Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart,’ Jim! That’s what they used to say. They also told me that I couldn’t do anything. ‘Not by works, old boy.’ ‘God is love, son;’ that’s why He burns the rotten trees that couldn’t grow anew. I mean, you can’t allow the infection to fester. What about when God plants the trees, Jim? What then? What if the infection is sown by the Doctor? The Doctor sure doesn’t like to see His patients suffer. That much is clear. What Doctor would? At what point do the sick become the condemned, though? I just don’t know, Jim.” Jim just sat there.
A fiery avalanche in miniature tumbled into the ashes. Sparks cartwheeled and floated, seemingly of their own volition. The air expanded and exploded, and Jim just sat there.
“I really want to believe in a loving God, you know? I can’t believe that there is no God. Sure, perhaps our idea of God is wrong. I could be a deist, but then there’s all those stories. God is love. Jesus loves the little children. He healed that woman who bled; He deigned to touch the lepers. Love your enemies and, bless those who curse you. The peace that would result from such an attitude, Jim! But I suppose that forgiveness requires wrongs, and wrongs require a Right. Malice needs an object, Jim. How do we get around that?” Jim looked over for a minute, but he didn’t say.
“An all-powerful God is a terrible idea, Jim. A loving, all-powerful God is a thing of beauty. A just, loving, all-powerful God is what they posit, Jim. The justice supersedes our idea of love! God’s justice requires Him to destroy evil, and we are evil! I didn’t want to be evil, though, Jim. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I want to be saved; who doesn’t? I want to do good; only the truly sick don’t want that. Only those in need of a Doctor, Jim, not a Binary Judge. Why would the Doctor-Judge make His patients his defendants, and then try them before treating them? Jim, I don’t mean to be blasphemous, but the idea of a loving Father does not mesh with the idea of a fickle King who casts his subjects into a fire. The judgement is always the same. ‘You are sick. You shall die.’ How do we know when we’ve won the cosmic lottery, Jim? Do we want to?” Jim stood up and began to pace.
“Come on Jim. Let’s go for a walk.”
Jim wagged his tail.
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In the darkness is beauty and mystery, for the veiling of the seen is an invitation to create. Our minds fill the void with what they will, and our wills become a substitute for reality. We could imagine in front of us a thing we like, behind us the things we despise. We can forget the valleys and picture only the fields of bliss.
In the darkness also lies fear, for with the freedom to create a vision of our own, we gain a certainty that we cannot know what is really around us. Reality is a state, and it cannot be altered. Any substitute is a falsehood.
In the light is clarity, though freedom diminishes as clarity increases. We can lose our way in the dark, and our fault can be forgiven, but in the light, our choices bring with them a weight of responsibility. The unseen unveiled become evident, and reality overwrites our substitutions.
Sometimes we wander from the dark into the light, only to find ourselves in a cloud, seeing some things, misinterpreting others, and missing all of the rest.
In the darkness can be comfort.
In the light can be truth.
In the truth can be darkness.
Thankfully, I am not the master of my fate, nor am I the captain of my soul.
“But I can be good enough!”
This was the cry which had echoed out so many times before, the anthem of the timeless and oh-so-futile struggle that every human fights. The sum of all mortal hopes, dreams, and delusions gathered into one statement. Man has always fought against his helplessness. There is always a battle when the eternal fate of his soul is brought forth for scrutiny. He is convinced, in his mind, of his ability to survive. The Earth is his plaything, sickness is but an inconvenience, and the animals exist for naught but to be controlled. He is his own master. Why should he not be able to control his place in the afterlife? God is but an idea, an ideological crutch on which to lean. Only the weak need to acknowledge Him; that’s what the strong tell themselves.
“I can be good enough!” Always in the future, ever a possibility, never an I am, that’s for the shallow. There’s always one more thing. There are always improvements to be made. Perfection is always just ahead. I. Can. Be.
Like the constant attempts of the mosquito to survive, the finger plugging the dam, or the roadkill which once tried to traverse the highways without a vehicle, so is man. On its own, the finite can never become infinite. The infinite can never be completely reduced to the definable. Collect, pile, multiply, and repeat, the infinite is never within grasp. There will always be an amount, no matter how large the number. Infinite is not a human term. It can be, but it never will. The theoretical has no bearing on the divine. Possibilities will not pass for constants. Can be will never pass for I am. I have been, can be, might, was, or could—none of these will suffice.
Without a piece of the infinite, the finite is but a mere dot on a scale—easily obtainable and even more easily surpassable. It is when the infinite comes down, takes on the burdens on the finite, and provides a portal through which both can pass, that the finite is saved.
“No, you can’t,” came the response, “but I can.”