For all you sensitive readers who like to jump to conclusions without context, I want to make it clear that this is all imaginary and not directly based on actual characters or events. This is a series about a boy’s journey. Just like you can’t read a chapter and say you understand the book. You can’t look at a portion of a journey and say you know what it’s about.
From my FICTIONAL series I Found My Blue Sky
I knocked on the immense doors of the grand church. The doors were probably five times my height and were wider than a crowd of men standing side by side. I could hear music and voices coming from inside the room blending beautifully in a harmonious song. I was so excited to see what was inside. After such a long journey on a long lonely road, to find so amazing an edifice, and to hear this wonderful sound, my heart beat in anticipation. Was this the place Abe was talking about? Was this the place of Who Knows Where?
I straightened my worn clothes and attempted to fix my hair. Then I knocked.
No one answered.
I knocked again. Still no one opened the doors. I could hear the music and the singing, they had moved on to a new song, yet no one answered.
I knocked again, calling out, “Hello! Anyone here?”
I don’t know how long I tried knocking and shouting, trying different ways to get in. I walked around the building trying to look for a way in, which took quite a number of minutes to do because it was so wide. I peered into the large, beautiful, stained-glass windows, which were so opaque that I could not see inside.
I walked back to the front and tried knocking again. Still no answer.
I don’t know how long I had been sleeping on the floor, but I was woken by the noise of a crowd shuffling past now open doors led by the most majestic looking man I had ever seen. He was different from Abe, who, despite being incredibly tall, was unassuming. This man had the energy of a magnet. There was something incredibly weird about this crowd, it’s as if there was something blocking their face. The great man having the biggest device in front of him. I was still on the floor staring at him that I didn’t realize that he was walking right into me.
“Ow.” he said, in a respectable tone befitting his image. “What are you doing there child?” As he spoke to me the crowd following him stopped and waited behind him, looking at me.
I stood up, “I’m sorry sir. I thought you saw me. I was here earlier. I was knocking on the door but no one had opened. I must have fallen asleep.”
“No one opened?” he asked with a frown. “That is impossible. The house of God is always open. You must be mistaken.” I could hear murmurs among the crowd.
“I am not mistaken, sir. I knocked, I called, I tried looking through the windows. I could not get in.” I replied.
Still frowning, he asked, “What time did you get here?”
“I don’t remember sir, but I heard singing.” I told him.
“Ah! So you heard singing! Why didn’t you say so? Of course you would not be able to get in! You were late! Here I was wondering how our kind hearts had overlooked a child. I knew the fault could not have been with us. We are diligent with our love. My child, let this be a lesson to you. There are opportune times. If you miss those, you lose your chance.” he said like a strict professor. More murmurs from the people, this time sounding satisfied at having a reason for my exclusion.
“I’m sorry sir. I didn’t mean to waste my chance. Does that mean I can never enter this church?” I asked.
“Of course not! We are a welcoming church. What do you think of us? We’re not like other places that are judgmental and old. We have a night service. We actually have one in an hour. You should join us.” He said invitingly, dropping his early defensiveness. “Amen.” someone from the crowd said. “Amen.” said a few others.
“Thank you so much, sir.” I said. “I heard the songs from outside. I’ve not heard singing in so long.”
“You will love our songs. We have the most beautiful songs.” he smiled confidently. “But let me ask you something. If I invited you to a time of fun and games, and I told you to be there by 3:00pm. What time would you be there by?”
Wondering what this question was about, I answered, “3:00pm, sir.”
“Exactly.” he said like a hunter whose trap was successfully sprung. “Exactly. Why then are you late for God? If you truly valued God more than fun, if you truly loved Him more than anything, you would not be late for Him.”
“Amen!” a few people shouted in agreement. “Amen.”
“Do you understand me child?” he asked. “If you don’t want to be left behind, you need to show God that He is really priority. Do not be late.”
“I’m sorry sir, but…” he cut me as I tried to explain.
“Child, I’m not angry. I’m not here to condemn you. God loves all of us. God loves sinners. He will forgive you. If you turn from your ways, He will forgive you.” he said trying to sound reassuring.
I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Sir, where should I turn?” I asked him.
“To God of course!” he said confidently.
“I did not know I had turned from Him. I…” he cut me again.
“Just as I feared. You are more deceived than you realize. Brother Sloan…” he called to a younger yet also impressive looking man, “Take this child to my office.” He turned to me, “Child, wait for me there so we can discuss this. As you can see I have duties to attend to.”
I didn’t want to go. There was something I didn’t trust about this man as well as Brother Sloan. He was both kind and condemning. What he said was principled, it was right, but he did not take the time to think if his message was meant for a weary traveler. And of course he did not know. He did not know anything about me. He cut me and never let me explain. I had lost a loved one, was missing my guide, hungry, and tired, yet to him I was deceived, valuing fun and games more than his deity. “I don’t want to go.” I said firmly.
“Don’t be a child!” he said.
“You’ve been calling me child since we started talking.” I answered back.
“Because you’re a foolish child!” he replied with visible irritation.
I didn’t reply anymore. This regal man who had been treating me like a child, was telling me not to act like a child, and right after called me a foolish child. I had no idea what he wanted.
“What do you want sir?” I asked. “I am tired and weary. I was only hoping to listen to the singing and songs.”
“What I want is your salvation. Don’t you see? Don’t you see that I love you enough to tell you the truth? Yet I can see that you’re like them. You’re independently minded like them. Independent minds are easily led astray.”
I was wondering who he was referring to. I was wondering how in the world he could say that he loved me when he didn’t even know me nor care to know me. I was wondering why he expected me to see his point.
He continued. “I’m sorry. Forgive me, child. Forgive my zeal. When you see a man about to walk over a cliff, do you tell him in a gentle voice to watch out? No! You shout out loudly, TURN! REPENT! It is out of love that I tell you the truth.”
I had no more energy to even attempt to explain. I simply offered my hand to shake his, said thank you, turned around, and walked away.
It was then that I realized what was in front of them. Clamped to their necks, extending in front of them in the most elegant formation, were mirrors. The man who looked like their leader, their high priest had the biggest and most ornate. No wonder he didn’t see me when he was walking straight in my direction. He was looking at himself.
Down the road from the giant church, in the darker part of the town known as the Disqualified, I sat by the sidewalk, and pulled out Abe’s letter to me.
“What are you reading there, handsome?” a voice asked me, coming from a scantily clad lady with a pretty face marred by ugly caked makeup.
“It’s a letter from a friend.” I told her.
“That’s nice.” she said. “It’s nice you have a friend.”
“Don’t you have friends? Everyone has friends.” I asked her.
“I no longer have friends. I have clients.” she said.
“A boy like you won’t understand. These people you call friends, they’re really clients. They’re in it for something. Everyone is in it for something.” she said dismissively.
“Oh.” I didn’t know how to respond to her. “I don’t have a lot of friends right now too. At least, I don’t have a lot of them with me. But I have friends in my memory, and I like to imagine that they’re happy wherever they are, and I like to imagine that someday I’ll see them again, and we’ll laugh at everything like we used to. I don’t know what they bring me, they haven’t brought me anything in a long time, but I love them. Do I need a reason to want to be their friend?”
“You’re young. You can be forgiven for being naive.” she smirked. “I’ve learned long ago that there’s the real world and there’s our dream world. The dream world is every beautiful thing we want. The real world is this. Look at you. Look at me. This is the real world. We are nowhere. We have nothing. We are no one.”
“That’s not true.” I told her. “Abe told me that we are never really nowhere. We may not be where we expected, or we may not be where we want to be, but we’re still somewhere, and to be somewhere, anywhere, and to realize you’re there is always a new chance to begin a new journey towards a new destination.”
“Who is Abe?” she asked.
“He’s my best friend. He’s the one who wrote me this letter.”
“Where is he now?”
“He said he had to go somewhere. To prepare something.”
“See. He’s gone kid. Sorry to be the one to break it to you. Your friend Abe abandoned you.”
“You don’t know Abe.” I said defending him. “What would Abe want from a young man like me?”
“I know men.” she shot back. “Maybe he needs followers! I don’t know! I do know men are liars. We women are liars too. We’re all liars. You’re too young to be a good liar but you’ll learn it too. No one will be there when you need them. It’s best you learn it now. Would I be selling my body now if no one had lied to me? Of course not! Don’t hate me for telling you the truth.”
The truth. That was the second time today that I was told what “the truth” was, and it could not have come from such diametrically opposite individuals, a spiritual leader and someone I would later realize was a prostitute.
We were both quiet. I don’t know what was in her head but I had nothing to say. I still run of things to say.
“Do you want to read my friend’s letter with me?” I don’t know why I asked her after she had just tore into my belief in friends. “I like reading it. I like reading it over and over. I don’t understand it completely but I like reading it anyway. You might like it too.”
She looked at me and smiled at my naivety. “Sure, kid. Read it to me.”
I unfolded the crumpled paper gently.
“Dear Lion…” I read. “He liked to say I was a lion.” I proudly explained.
“Cute.” she said dismissively.
“I wish I could tell you everything. I wish I could show you everything. You would love it all. You might wonder, ‘Why not just tell me and show me if they’re so wonderful?’ But it’s not as simple as that. You see, there’s more to just hearing and seeing, there’s more to just explanations. There’s a deeper understanding that comes from feeling, a feeling you must experience for yourself, on a journey of steps you have chosen to Who Knows Where. Too many people say they want answers, they say they want wisdom to do what’s right. What they really want is comfort. What they really want is security. When wisdom threatens their hold on either they are unable to recognize the truth.
Don’t be like them. Fight your pain, fight your fears, and journey on. Do you think I invited you to journey with me to self-preservation? Where is the fun in that?
No. I invited you to the beauty of mystery, a beauty too many have forgotten. Don’t hate her when she doesn’t answer. Appreciate her with wonder. Stay until she introduces you to her best friend, discovery. You will not regret the cost of meeting her. She will explain destiny.
In the meantime, have faith. What does it mean to have faith? It means to be in love even when I’m not around. It means to make me a part of your journey, even when you feel I’m not there. It means to trust that I’ll be where I said I would be, with you at all times, yet also ahead of you preparing a place.
Make my promises your sanctuary, your place of peace and rest wherever you go.. You will enjoy a hearth warmer than any other.
I wish I could tell you everything. I wish I could show you everything. You would love it all. You might wonder, and I hope you do, because to be able to wonder is a gift in itself.
Fighting tears, the lady spoke, “Nice letter. I wish what he was saying were true. But they’re not. I’m telling you this for your own good. You don’t know the world.”
I didn’t know how to explain Abe to her, but I remembered Sam’s words to me in my dream, so I used them to talk about Abe, “I can only say what I’ve seen in my own life, that every thing he’s touched he’s made better, and that wonderful can never be remembered apart from his fingerprints. And I know that if I continue on this path for even just one more day, with him, the world is made better one more day. If I touch just one more life, with him, the world is made better another life. I know life is hard. But I also know this momentary wasting away has a purpose.”
“You’re not as young as you look, boy. You’re naive, but thank you… What’s your name?”
“David.” I said.
“Thank you, David.” and she walked away back into the shadows.
I sat there shivering in the cold, enjoying the warmth of my sanctuary.
NOTE: my views are my own and not the views of any institution I am affiliated with nor necessarily of the people I’m related to.
What a difference one year makes.
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Yokohama overlooking the bay. It’s a nice spot to have devotions, read, and shoot off email. In an hour, I’ll go to the gym, follow that with breakfast, and get some work done before I do a little shopping and maybe spend time at the onsen across the hotel. Listing down my schedule for the day, thinking about how nice this family vacation has been so far, I keep having this recurring thought: “I wish Yasmin was here.” She had to renew her passport and that look longer than we thought.
While taking her home after work last week, she said and asked at the same time like women do, “I don’t think you’re going to miss me.” and I stupidly answered, “Maybe. I’m not really the missing type.” Which upset her briefly until she asked me about it and I explained myself. I appreciate that about Yasmin. She gets emotional like any girl but she’s able to pull herself together and, after doing that, is willing to explain to me what she’s feeling instead of leaving me guessing about what I did that was stupid. I think it’s highly immature to expect people to always know when they have hurt you. If something is really important and needs resolving, don’t make people guess and stew, go talk to them openly and with the intent of restoring more than proving. Now if it’s really not that important, let go of it. Pride, fear, and the great activator of both, pain, make us forget that loving someone means wanting them to flourish. If our getting hurt makes us forget that intention then it shows our main concern is ourselves.
I wish Yasmin was here.
I’ve learned a lot from her, about how light it can be to forgive and let go, to be tough yet gentle, and I’ve learned a lot from being contained in a relationship. Being in a relationship is like entering a beautiful garden with someone, with the most amazing everything that seems to go on for miles, only to find yourselves in the middle of a war zone with scorched earth, crumbled walls, conflicting sides, yet when you journey past that, in the middle of that war zone, is a garden even more beautiful than the one you entered and more expansive, only to find that in the middle of that garden is another darker war zone, then another even greater garden, and on and on like living in a Matryoshka that keeps getting better. How can being in a relationship defy physics and get greater and greater as one journeys inside it? By going deeper, and as we persevere through the good and the bad, we find even more beautiful things. Of course that’s if the person has a beautiful soul. And I believe there are people with dark ones.
Being in a relationship is a journey into the center of each other, passing both marvels and horrors, yet, like Jules Verne’s novel, driven by a sense of desire to know what’s inside. I like one article I read that said that the point of adventure was to leave your comfort and security to attempt something great, not to give in to despair during seemingly hopeless situations, and not to be complacent about the world and be trapped in the philosophical, but to change it through disciplined and intelligent action. In a world where almost everything has been mapped by satellites, where the future is routinely predicted by actuarials, ultra-sounds, prophets, experts, and analysts, where comfort and security have become the basis for wisdom and prudence, it is easy to forget the beauty of mystery and adventure. Maybe that’s one reason why many, if not most, relationships today fail. Maybe we’ve made it too much about journeying into our “best life” as defined by our individual desires for securities and comforts, and maybe we reinforce this by making selfish and fear-based criteria for a partner. Maybe this is why many relationships in areas incredibly saturated by the wisdom of books, blogs, workshops, and talks, don’t last.
Maybe, in our effort to get things right, we’ve removed the mystery and adventure, and in doing so, removed the discovery that makes being in a relationship beautiful.
Maybe in our obsession with finding “God’s perfect choice” we miss out on the privilege, responsibility, and beauty of the “faith choice” – a decision made in God-given freedom, motivated by God’s empowering love, assured by God-pleasing faith, and resulting in God-glorifying obedience. And I don’t think those two are mutually exclusive but one in the same.
I resolved a long time ago to remain in perpetual adventure, to live by faith, not by sight, especially with the big things, like a journey into the heart of someone you love.
Ok, that’s enough writing. Time to get the day going.
I wish Yasmin was here.