Wednesday, December 5, 2012

There Are No Saints On This Earth: A Conversation With a Venezuelan Missionary

“God came to me in a dream,” Willis told me over ramen in our Quaker hostel. “He wasn’t a being but a spirit. His presence changed the space I was in. I could feel him everywhere.”

 I gaped at him over a forkful of noodles. Willis had intense light eyes and a lanky ease. He talked about God as if he was a close relative—cherished but not someone to get overly heated about. I wasn’t much taken with his ideas about “helping” homosexuals but his tranquil spirituality spoke to me immediately.

 Willis is a Venezuelan missionary who is completing ten years of training. He has lived in New Jersey, drove a taxi cab in London, adores Havana, and prizes the simpler life of indigenous Mexicans and Canadian Mennonites alike. He had read up on other beliefs and systems of thought (such as metaphysics and eastern religions) but nothing made sense to him except for the Bible.

God doesn’t exist in rocks or grant favours due to the sacrifice of animals, he told me (the only time he came close to distain for other beliefs). There is only one true God. I argued that his belief in an evangelical Christian deity is just as subjective in someone’s belief that God exists in a canyon.

It was impossible to argue with him. How does one chip away at something as personal and intangible as faith? What he did give me, though, was the profound sense that God could be much easier to integrate into my life than I’d thought.

I told Willis that I wasn’t ready to have Him (she/it/whatever) in my life—too fearsome! I am enjoying my life in the world and the pleasures of food, culture, travel, the flesh. Why would I want to sacrifice these delightful things for some obscure relation with a nebulous all-encompassing force?

But Willis assured me with great gravity that he sacrificed nothing in accepting God into his life. He doesn’t require superfluous pleasures, he is simply content as he is and with what he has. There are no saints on this earth, he told me. We shouldn’t be too bad, or too good, in order to be with God.  You just need to ask him to forgive your wrongs while you forgive yourself. And there you are.

Could it be that simple?

I was struck with the idea that perhaps I didn’t need to be ready. All my life I have put off deeper spiritual investigation as I assumed that this would come at some distant time when my mental ducks were in order. But what if at any moment I could become one with myself, which I equate to being one with God. I’ve pretended to meditate and to get “serious” with my thinking, to no effect. What if it isn’t that hard?

It’s a fascinating idea that in decadent Mexico, the place where I came to dry out emotionally and partake of the simpler pleasures of life, that I could find what I thought I’d encounter after some dark mental tunnel twenty years down the road. I wonder if perhaps I am a hair away from equilibrium. Or perhaps I already exist in this state, without realizing it. The idea fascinates, titillates, and terrifies me all at once.

The Alchemist says that to experience a better future you should live a better present. Lately I’ve been living each day like a short story; each has its own temperature, characters, plot lines. What if I let that story relax into a book and experienced every godly moment?

It’s said that we don’t need to run in life, we just need to stand in the right spot and let the wind take us. I could simply begin to make conscious decisions and then relax into them—that could be my way in. I could disperse into every moment and let it take me a bit further, a bit deeper.

But first, I need to give up the idea of a better Bronwyn and accept the one I’m with. Now that, not being with God, is what really requires a concept of faith.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HELLO SPECIAL FRIEND I LOVE THAS! BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTOOD IN THE SIMPLE MESSAGES THE LOVE OF AND MERCY OF GOD! NO BODY NEED PREPARATION FOR A MEETING WITH HIM, BECAUSE IS NO IMPORTANT THE KNOWLEDGE OR WISDOM, ONLY THE PURE HEART!

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