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.