“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
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
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
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.