Christ doesn’t let up

There is something about my state of being that has changed and something that seems beyond my control.  What is striking is that it does not feel like the Spirit, it feels like nothing inside me, it feels like the world itself has changed.  Whatever the fact of Christ is, it is unrelenting.

When I abandoned atheism when I found it to be incoherent, the God that I acknowledged was not the personal God that I believed in as an Latter-Day Saint, it was simply the mystery that is the source of the world.  Formulated in this way, the fact of God was nearly impossible to dispute, I simply accepted that I came from something that I could not grasp or explain.

When I wrote this post, I was grappling with the question of whether the words of the Gospel were just straightforwardly true, that in Christ we are saved from the pain of guilt (hell); whether there was a source of “living water” that ends our thirst for joy. There was no prayer, and no answer. The question was simply one I seriously posed to myself: Is there any escape from guilt?

Reason dictates that there is no escape, and no redemption. Failure happens and we cannot change its happening. According to the deepest reckoning of Einstein, “the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”   His reasoning seems sound, the present creates the past and the future at once. Time does not disappear, every moment remains a fact no matter what happens in the next moment.  If meaning is possible, the meaning of each moment does not change either.  If life has meaning, our lot in life is to fail. If there is no meaning, then our fate is to fail as soon as we create the illusion of meaning.  Logic establishes meaning and logic demands that there is no freedom from guilt or failure – only indifference to it.  Indifference was reasonable, but for me, it did not seem honest.

I considered seriously if there was a fact that somehow made failure not the case – not a fact that gave meaning to suffering, failure, and guilt – but a fact that simply redeemed it.  If anything was behind the myth of the “love” of God, it would be this fact.
When I imagined that there was such a fact of logic – something in the very nature of meaning that allowed the bad to be the good, the wrong to be justified and deemed right – it occurred to me that people actually experienced this fact, and that I had glimpsed this many times before.

The thought that came to mind was the scene in the movie the Mission, where Rodrigo Mendoza (played by Robert de Niro), a terrorist slave trader who had killed his brother in a dual over a woman, attempted penance for his life in an attempt at redemption.  He tortured himself by dragging his armor and weapons up a treacherous water fall to face the tribe that he had subjected to murder, slavery, and terror.   When he reached the top, broken, he knelt before the Indians. One grabbed him and held a knife to his neck, and decided to cut the burden of the weapons he dragged behind him and throw them back into the river.  At that moment the mental burden of his past was lifted.

When this image came to mind, I realized that whatever torture we choose to inflict upon ourselves, the self-torture would do nothing to change the facts. And if redemption was possible after torture, it was possible before it.  At that moment it was like the sun had dawned. The fact was inescapable, it was clear that millions had felt the joy of Mendoza. When I acknowledged this fact, I felt the same joy.  The joy did not seem to be a spiritual experience, but a physical reaction to a fact.

After living a life where I had concluded that my sin had no meaning but what I gave it, I recognized that reason demanded that I could not escape this meaning, yet I found myself free.

Since that point, I have found that, instead of intermittent promptings and spiritual experiences (which I have always had, even as an atheist) it as if there is a permanent source of joy, an incinerator that devours all that disturbs me.  It seems invincible, ever present, and beyond me. Simply turning my mind to this strange fact that I call Christ melts whatever negative feeling, whatever demon, whatever lust that I submit to it.

I am left with this impression: Christ does does not wait for my belief in any particular historical fact, except the mere fact that redemption happens.  Christ does not depend on me believing Jesus was the Son of God, but merely believing Jesus.  Christ does not depend on my belief in a creed or philosophy, or wait for it. Christ is always waiting behind every dark thought and illusion. It is an unrelenting place of peace and joy, that somehow does not seem like madness. Whatever Christ is, it doesn’t seem to let up.

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10 thoughts on “Christ doesn’t let up

  1. “Christ is always waiting behind every dark thought and illusion. It is an unrelenting place of peace and joy, that somehow does not seem like madness. Whatever Christ is, it doesn’t seem to let up.”

    Jared,
    Thank you for sharing this. It is always wonderful to hear of Christ’s unrelenting pursue of us and how He changes life as we know it once redemption free us.

    “I am left with this impression: Christ does does not wait for my belief in any particular historical fact, except the mere fact that redemption happens. It does not depend on me believing Jesus was the Son of God, but merely believing Jesus. Christ does not depend on my belief in a creed or philosophy, or wait for it.”

    Just an illustration of what you said that is part of my personal experience: years ago my dad passed away after a two year battle with cancer. He was a devout LDS who for decades, served faithfully in the church in key leadership positions, officiated at the temple with my mom, until his health really declined and he no longer was able to. At that time, I was new to my faith as an Evangelical Christian and I was strongly impressed to pray for my dad’s spiritual state before God as his time was getting nearer to depart this life. The last four months were specially intense. Others were praying also.
    He was in his hospital bed, two days before he died, when he woke up early one morning and told my mom he was in torment. All his sins, as far as he could remember, were coming back to his mind’s eye as if in a movie. My mom reassured him mentioning his baptism, temple covenants, etc and that he was a member in good standing. He said no, he needed to pray, that he was feeling tormented by all his guilt. It took all of that day and if memory does not fail me, that night as well. Next morning, he was at peace. My mom asked him about it and he replied that he was fine now. That all that mattered was what Jesus had done for him. He was at peace with God when he closed his eyes for the last time. I was not present but my mom told me what had occurred and I took that as my answer from God asking in many prayers, for Christ to reveal Himself to him, piercing through all/any doctrinal obstacles and meet him where he was. He did.

  2. The hardest part of the Christian faith is believing. We are lousy at it because we are quid pro quo people. There’s no free lunch.

    But in the hearing of the gospel, Christ gifts us faith. But we need to be kept in faith. So we need to hear it over and over and over again…all throughout our lives. We live from faith…to faith.

    And we receive it also in the sacraments of Baptism and over and over again in The Lord’s Supper.

    I believe that.

  3. Galatians 3 is a powerful treatise on faith.

    Paul has some pretty strong words against the Galatians, who were apparently turning towards works.

    This speaks of how difficult it is to live by faith.

    But Jared, you are right, Christ does not let up. He is sovereign, and his will cannot be overcome.

  4. Jared, This is beautifully articulated. The imagery is very effective. Very poetic and strong.

    I too have felt a sort of Calvinist experience with my relationship to Christ – I’ve run from him and he’s hunted me down on numerous occasions. I’ve seen my mind discredit his divine existence, only to have him in fact change my heart again and again. There is an obsessive self pity that has marked my life, but I’ve seen him crush even that, time and again.

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