Sunday, October 29, 2006

# 196 THE RIGHTEOUS FOREST - Part I

A rather long rant today and a change of pace that you may find quite startling.

THE DISCOVERY

I came first to the Righteous Forest when I was about thirteen years old. While walking in the woods I came upon a small circle of stumps enclosed by towering trees. And in that circle was a stump that faced a small congregation of other stumps. And at that moment, the sun, as it dipped on the horizon, sliced through the tall spruce and poplars and cast a distinct and uncanny circle of light on the podium-stump. I climbed on it and reveled in that slash of radiance that instantaneously warmed my face, thin arms, and soul. I raised my hands toward heaven. And in that moment, I felt that here was the place where I could finally resurrect the true meaning and power of the God my mother had always told me about.

It is uncanny but each time I recall this special place and how it was on that day of discovery, I am reminded of how, years later, I was so intrigued to discover another similar situation and similar understanding. That Celtic garden, you know whereof I speak, that unique faraway place with all those monstrous upright boulders was chosen by an ancient people as a special spiritual place. They too, felt as I did, that a magical ray of light was pertinent to a place where one could expect to communicate with one’s God.

I had tried church altars. Nothing was more difficult for me to do as a shy reserved child than bravely put one foot in front of the other and make my way to the front of a church to kneel at an altar. But I did it. Fearing that I might be hit by a car, fearing I might spend eternity in that awful place the Minister passionately warned about with eyes aimed directly at me. He entreated specifically me, (did he not?), with such concern and such care. Was that not care that made his eyes run with tears like a mighty river? So I wanted to go to the front, but so often I could not. Frozen somehow, maybe with fear, or maybe just the pain of my own insecurity. But eventually the fear of hell was more extreme than my dreadful fear of being conspicuous, so I did.

The first step was easy. That first trip gave me salvation but soon others told me it was not enough. That there was something more needed to be righteously complete. The gift of speaking in tongues. And so, after that first time, more then once, I wailed at the front with head bowed and eyes closed for that special other gift, until I could no longer support my tired body. Righteous, blessed, tongue-speaking, weeping, caring adults stood over me and knelt beside me pressing the palms of their hands against my head and back. They commanded, rather than pleaded, for the Spirit to give me his generous gifts, but still nothing poured from the heavens. Still I felt shut out. While they shuddered in the spirit the only thing that caused my physical shuddering were the sobs of my discouragement and wretchedness. The only thing that caused the paralysis and weakness that made others collapse in the Spirit, was my physical exhaustion. And the only thing that caused my tongue to stammer was my attempt to oblige the requests I heard whispered in my ear to ‘let go, to loose my tongue’. Detach myself from it and allow it to speak words unknown to me. More than once this long imploring happened, and more than once I eventually staggered from the altar feeling totally defeated. No tongue-speaking, no miracle, no vision, no sensory climax.

I was afraid to ask them why and with no other explanation, I could only think that I had done something, some grievous sin in my past, though my past be brief, that had locked me outside heaven’s gate and there I must remain for all time. It seemed as if I and my closest girlfriend were the only remaining teens at Camp that had this problem. Everyone else who made their way to the front of the church spoke in tongues before the sun came up except her and me.

But then on the final night of camp, my closest friend who had wrestled with God as long as I, eventually began to stammer in tongues. Later when we returned to the bunkhouse to ready ourselves for bed, I told her how much I envied her for having finally received the Spirit.

That’s when she looked at me blankly and after a long pause, she whispered in my ear. “I have a confession to make,” she said, “but you must promise on your Bible to never tell anyone.” I promised solemnly on my Bible to never tell. And then she told me.

“Haven’t you noticed that some of the adults always repeatedly say the same phrases when they speak in tongues? I have been listening carefully for the last few evenings and tonight I simply repeated what I heard some others say.”

I was aghast, but I didn’t let on what I was thinking. How could she do such a thing? Did she not understand how such falseness was like welcoming bodily and spiritual harm to the Nth degree? Harm that would dog her heels and probably snuff out her very being this night, this day, this month, this year. And then plunge her into a pond of molten lava to burn forever. My conviction of this was so intense that I wanted to reach over to her, where she was sitting beside me, and kiss her forehead as a kind of farewell before it would forever be too late for me to give any physical expression of my fondness for her.

Instead I silently prayed that God would spare her. Forgive her for a lack of knowledge of his truth. Forgive her even though I had been told that somewhere in the Bible it said that God’s spirit will not always strive with man. God warned against such disobedience. He warned that he would turn his back on souls that would eventually become desperate but their cries would forever be in vain. He warned he would forever leave those hopeless souls crying out for mercy to a deaf God. So as much as I wanted to be included within that inner circle of all those who validated their friendship with God by speaking in tongues, I vowed it would never happen until I was certain that it was an anointing outside my own control. Nothing could ever make me desperate enough to act this out. My anointing would be a spiritual orgasm that could not be questioned, denied, or falsified. But now, I could no longer concentrate on that pursuit. With my friends confession, priorities had been altered. Right now, it was no longer about me. It was about a dear friend that needed my most ardent and fervent prayers to preserve her mortal life and her eternal soul.

But yet, I could understand how my friend fell into such a temptation. I noted that when some child, any child, went to the altar and eventually began speaking in the Spirit, you could suddenly feel the love by the prayer workers surrounding that child. The love was tangible. It was as if it stemmed from their own personal pride and satisfaction in a work that they had done. As if they had bent down and scooped up gritty, flawed, contaminated sludge from a waste sight and with the skill of Spiritual Artisans had deftly crafted that raw material into a Spiritual Creature of gold and glory and shining wings. And even when I, still struggling for my own blessing, knelt in close proximity at that same altar, I could feel the presence of that cloud of sweet love drifting about. Invisible, but at the same time thick, fluid, but forever determined that its wispy edges would not touch my own skin or snap any sparks of static impulses to my sensory nerves that would give me the comfort of inclusiveness.

So I remained odd man out. Excluded. And the next day we left camp. We would not return until the following year. I left with sadness and discouragement. But I found two small sources of comfort.

It only takes a few months of school in Grade One to realize that every effort whether it be dress, behavior, or academic, is scaled and graded. So I picked up on this and graded everything around me. People, plants, animals, affections. I graded people for wealth and poverty, kindness, humility, and righteousness. I graded the prayer workers at the altar. They got top marks for greater blessedness, greater righteousness, greater understanding. Their affluence was right up there as well. They had finer clothes then I, they drove far better cars than my Dad’s old jalopy, they wore fine watches, suits and silks, and buffed shoes. These special blessings I thought must have proceeded from the God with which they had a complete and secure mutual understanding. The God that regularly put speak in their mouths in a foreign diction that only they could understand.

And so when they commanded, implored, beseeched that God, who they understood so much better than I, that he should bless me with these gifts, and he didn’t, I drew comfort from the fact that although it seemed he wasn’t listening to me, and that was expected, lowly worm that I was, he was also turning a deaf ear to these, his bosom pals – a ear as deaf as the ear that I was trying to bend. But in their righteous arrogance, did they realize that? Or did it just increase their righteous arrogance to a higher mark? A greater level of confidence in their own special status? Why could they not, with their polish and common mutual communication skills impose or seduce God to anoint me with the speaking of tongues, not so much maybe for my sake, but for their own? To validate the strength of their own blessings.

The other thing that gave me a minor bit of comfort was although I was dismayed and embarrassed that I could not move from outside the circle to the inside, I was still forever grateful I was not walking in my friend’s shoes. I shuddered to think of it. To live each day with fear and no one to call upon. To live in mortal terror of a condemned afterlife or a mortal scourge at any time of plague and sickness, and no lap to run to for just one brief moment of comfort.

So I guess it boils down to it being the best of the worse that encouraged me a small bit. But with my discovery of the Righteous Forest, I was truly encouraged. Perhaps now, without distraction, me and my God would form a pact of understanding. I would demand and evoke his blessing, where both of us could be as intimate as we wanted to be and where neither of us would need to feel conspicuous or embarrassed. Here, in this special place, I might finally seek and find a blessing. Here my creator might finally seal his relationship with me by allowing me to speak in tongues, and allowing me to share with him the sensory experience that I had so long envied and observed. The sensory experience that made some walk, without falling, the narrow back rails of church pews, and made others fall to the floor, or dance in the spirit. In truth, why should I need the support of others who were so ill adept at transferring a blessing through their touch to me as if they held control? I am in no need of that. Common sense tells me I would be better off to do this thing on my own.

And so the preparations began. It is important that things of such gravity be approached with proper planning and in good order. So on that day of discovery in the woods, I gathered a small amount of water from a pool in a sand pit nearby and returning to my podium, I prayed for God’s blessing on my small cathedral and named and baptized it with all reverence and respect, “The Righteous Forest”.

to be continued...

2 Comments:

Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Oh please do Roberta, you have me gripped with this story. I've always had a suspicion that speaking in tongues was the Emperor's New Clothes

5:24 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

julie, if only for your sake and your sake alone I will continue.

As for your suspicions, you make me chuckle. You might be right, you might be wrong, but of course I can't tell you anymore at this point in time.

8:19 PM  

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