“In a life filled with such intense longings, sometimes it’s good to remember what those longings are actually for.”
Out of a total darkness came an unbearable light, and suddenly I saw the Father’s face. Mercy and joy filled it, a carefree and boundless joy. Pleasure seeped into me through it, and then I heard His voice for the first time. It was so familiar, but I had never heard it in my ears, though I suddenly realized that I had no ears. I was not present in the body.
“Your sojourning days are over. Come now, come and rest.”
At these words, my heart raced (so to speak). Had I really just died? Were all things now ended though truly just beginning?
I realized suddenly just how weary and bowed with worries I had always been. How uptight, always worried what others would think of me or if somehow I was sinning. Like an old injury that you become so accustomed to that you often forget it hurts, so had those things been in my life. And yet, they were removed, each and every worry, each and every bit of shame, every last ounce of pain. I’d never realized how much of my life those things had composed until they were gone. “Lord, is it time, is it really this time? Is this just another dream or pleasant vision?”
Wordlessly but in response to my question, He reached out His hand (again, describing it as a hand is the best I can do): enormous, all-encompassing, and tender. From that hand, He stretched out a single finger and lay it on my cheek, where a tear had begun to form.
And oh, that touch, the pleasure and all-encompassing richness of it. A lover’s dearest caress would seem vulgar in comparison. Ten thousand tomes could not begin to describe it. All the world’s riches could not pay for it. For one experience of it would all the peoples war. The love it communicated was too much to fathom. While before I had been free from cares but still remembered them, that touch washed them all away. Deep in my mind, the knowledge of those events still existed, but the memories of them were gone. It seemed as though that flood of pleasure extended even into my past so that I felt nothing but gratitude for everything I had ever experienced, and even all my sins served only as reminders of the grace flowing through me.
My question was answered. No dream could imagine such an experience as that. As that finger drew back, I quivered: scarcely able to stand, scarcely able to think.
Just as I had realized how great my shames and worries had been by their absence, after feeling the finger of God on my cheek, I understood the loneliness that had encompassed my being since my early childhood. It had come in tidal waves or ceaseless droplets, but every day of my life, loneliness had followed me like an unwanted shadow. Even in those rare moments when I felt utterly embraced and loved, it was often after a day spent by myself, miserable on the outside.
I saw, too, in a picture spreading out behind me, how on the earth (now nearly forgotten), the embraces and love of the body of Christ, my brothers and sisters, had served as illumination of the love of God. When I felt their love, their touches, rather than turning my eyes away, most often it turned my eyes towards the supreme love of God. I saw Him through them and my loneliness was driven away for a season and my eyes turned to heaven, but on earth, that beast always returned. Now however, with the touch of that finger, that old lion had finally been driven into the ocean and drowned forever.
I recalled for the last time a particularly bitter part of that loneliness, an unmet desire constantly with me since my adolescence. Despite ceaseless longing, I never knew romantic love. Yet I ever longed for it, ever longed to experience the touch of a lover. But I realized that those desires were all shadows. The strength of the desire for eros came because it wasn’t for eros, not ultimately, at least. The love of a lover was but another foreshadow, a foretaste that touch on my cheek. Even the deep, physical longings to make love with a woman, the pinnacle of earthly pleasure, were but longings for a shadow, a dark and flat projection of something exploding in colors before me.
And so looking back on all my unmet desires for the love of a woman, all the mornings and nights I spent thinking of it, it was as though into that past all those desires were turned to that moment, a far deeper union, a far greater pleasure. The bride of Christ and His wedding supper (which was even still to come!) took on a new meaning as my desires were overcome with fulfillment, a fulfillment far greater and far deeper than the things I desired.
And He said, “I’m so pleased, son. You’ve endured; you’ve conquered.” But it was so funny to hear that, because there had been so many failures, and I had been so undeserving. But we both knew, without the word being exchanged, that the conquering was the conquering of Another lived out in my life and that the endurance was in a superhuman strength not my own.
And in that moment, He grabbed me and flung His arms around me in an embrace. I could not have resisted that embrace if I had wanted to. There was just too much Strength pulling me. And for a moment, I wanted to resist, because all control and composure was lost. And then I was swept away in ecstasy and the desire to resist flooded away. For I was ruined, burst asunder with pleasure, and unmade in delight.