Author’s note: This short story is reprinted from the Fall 2010 edition of The Alexandrian. It concerns about an epiphany I’ve personally experienced and that has deepened my faith. The original publication can be found here: http://thealexandrian.org/journal/learning-to-love-god
Learning to Love God
I decided to take a short break from cleaning in the kitchen. I dried the plate in my hands, put it away on the shelf and hung the moist dish cloth over my shoulder. I wandered out of the kitchen and into the living room. The hardwood floor heated by the summer sunlight warmed my bare feet. The floor creaked every few steps I took.
The house stood empty, still and silent. The ticking of the wall clock filled the living room. I stopped a metre or so from the grey piano in the living room. A flimsy picture rested against the piano’s music stand. The picture portrayed Christ as a king wearing a regal cloak and crown of red and gold against a background of golden rays. I stared at the picture and wondered how different artists portrayed Jesus in different ways. Sometimes He looked welcoming and friendly, sometimes powerful and regal, and sometimes hurt and bloodied.
In my own mind I portrayed God as a loving but stern Creator. I envisioned Him sitting on some throne in the heavens, great white beard flowing and commanding the universe with a stern look and pointed finger. I thought how foolish it would be for His creation to go against His commandments. How foolish it would be to upset someone who could make you unexist as easily He made you exist. Not that this thought ever stopped me from doing foolish things against His will.
Still I tried to follow the two most important commandments that Jesus taught. I understood the love thy neighbour part. I learned to accept, respect and even love others. One can learn to love humanity even with its flawed attempts at happiness, love and peace. But how does one love God? After all I always envisioned God the Father, sitting from a far, looking fatherly but more or less abstracted from the day-to-day affairs of the world.
As I stood there and stared at the picture I wondered if I could ask God that question. I did not expect any real answers. After all in my mind God, not only felt distant but that also He had better things to do than to answer my idle questions. But decided to try anyways. And so I prayed for wisdom.
The air became unbearably hot, dry and dusty. The walls closed in forming a narrow street in ancient Palestine. An angry mob surrounded me wearing cloaks, tunics and sandals. The mob jeered at a convicted man half-escorted, half-manhandled by rough Roman legionnaires. I felt safe as my cloak hid my identity and let me merge in with the crowed.
I watched silently as the convicted man limped down the street toward to his execution. His figure bent under the heavy wood beam fastened to his arms. His torn and blood splattered clothes hung loosely over his torn, disfigured, swollen and bruised body. One of the soldiers pushed the man forward, causing him to fall on his knee in front of me. I recognized the man as the Lord when turned His face towards me. The black crown of thorns cut into the Lord’s swollen forehead and dark blood dripped down the creases of His face. As He laboured to stand up, I imagined my own body turning into the symphony of pain and torment that He endured. I recoiled at the sight of the gruesome, blood stained and tortured Lord. Horror filled me as I realized that some His wounds were in fact my own sins.
I looked at the Lord with pleading eyes. Why did you choose this? Why does the King of the Universe who defined the very laws of existence choose this fate? Why take this pain, cruelty and humbling from a wretched race who rejects You time and time again? Why this? There must best be some other way.
Because I love you, I respect you and honour your will even when you reject Mine. The Lord responded with a serene look that was out of place.
This is madness! Only a madman would do this. I shouted at the Lord in my mind.
Or a man madly in love. The Lord replied and first century Jerusalem melted back into the comfort of 21st century Toronto.
The house stood empty, still and silent. The ticking of the wall clock filled the living room. A hot burning tear streamed down my cheek. The comforting aura of technology and human ingenuity gently prodded me back into reality. I continued to stare at the picture. But I felt different. My heart overflowed with warmth, joy and gratitude. I wiped another tear that started growing in my eyes. Now I understood that God wasn’t some remote deity who merely watched His creation from afar. Instead God is so madly in love with His creation, He let His creation kill His only Son. And by His death and resurrection He redeemed and saved His creation, unworthy as we all are of this mad love.