What follows is the first in a two-part series to celebrate my 31st birthday today. In it, I’ve sat down to discuss the last year with my guardian angel, a malakh called “M.” The conclusion will be posted tomorrow.
M: Good morning.
JE: (sighing) Good morning.
M: Something wrong?
JE: I figured God would be doing my review. No offense.
M: That’s common. Everyone forgets He said “no man shall see Me and live.” Watching you is my job. Who else would you talk to?
JE: You mean that thing in Dogma where they’re unable to hear the actual voice of God is true?
M: (grumbling) Sort of. He didn’t go through five Adams, though. Does Exodus 33:20 ring a bell?
JE: Is that when Moses finds the burning bush?
M: No, it’s when the Ten Commandments are written. It’s nice to see your Bible study paying off. The Father is quite pleased you’ve begun taking it seriously the last few months, though. You’ve undergone a lot of necessary change in the last year and, to begin your review, tell me about it.
JE: Wow, a lot went on. Before I start, can I ask you a question?
JE: Do you already know how this conversation will go?
JE: Then why are we having it?
M: Because you don’t. That’s the value in it. You’ll see things you were unaware of. Now, talk about about your last year.
JE: I’ve been through the wringer a bit. It seems like the whole year has been a process of self-examination, a real quest to figure out how I made such a mess of myself. I look back now and see how much my life had been guided by the desire for riches instead of happiness.
I’ve been humbled a lot by that realization. It’s probably the most important thing that occurred, other than moving to California and discovering a real, living faith.
M: This is a bit ahead of where I would normally ask, but what was the difference? What about that really brought you to Christ?
JE: The message is presented in a way that reaches me. I wanted desperately to really accept salvation for years, I just didn’t know how. I felt unable to let it in, if that makes sense, like I’d have to surrender my brain — my best asset — for it to happen. I wondered if that was possible. I knew I was the roadblock, yet felt wholly incapable of getting out of my own way.
Then I fell into WestGate and everything lined up. I was “home.” I got baptized and, well, the phrase “eternally grateful” has taken on new meaning.
M: You’ve all got to find your way and I’m very happy you did. Here’s the thing: all of you have been saved. Everyone’s already got a seat on the bus. God sent Jesus for that reason. He died and was resurrected, then everything was washed away. He’s the bridge God built between Himself and all His children.
What I find most amazing is, after all that, God lets you decide whether you’ll accept it. I mean, both of us were made to worship Him, but you guys get a choice. I envy that sometimes. The trade-off for free will is being unable to see Him work all the time, to comprehend the enormity of His power the way I do. If you could, there’d be no choice at all — the amazement would convert even the hardest hearts in an instant.
Because I’ve seen what I’ve seen, there’s no other option for me. You guys are allowed to make a decision and — in all His mercy — He loves you either way.
JE: I get that now. It’s incredibly powerful, but a lot of people seem to have trouble understanding it.
M: Why do you think that is?
JE: Because we attempt to compare what we know of love with what He has for us?
M: Precisely. Even the best human relationships have conditional aspects to them. The love of the Father does not.
Let’s get on with the review. Describe a situation in which you feel you’ve contributed well to the company.
JE: I always have problems tooting my own horn. Pride has been my biggest downfall, you know.
M: Yes, it has. There’s a fine line, though, between confidence and arrogance. To be very candid, you’ve spent way too much time thinking you’ve crossed over in some areas and being blind to the fact you actually have in others. So, I’m going to ask you again: What do you think you did well this year?
JE: The best thing I did was teach. Being a professor is one of the more meaningful experiences of my life. The students’ response, at the time and continuing today, has humbled me. I am really blessed to have had the opportunity. I feel I did some good.
Though I had no idea at the time, Providence shined very bright upon me.
M: Absolutely. I love watching you roll your eyes at the little connections which bring things about to eventually benefit you. Honestly, seeing people disappointed or suspicious of something while knowing how it will end up is what I love most about my job.
What do you think are your three biggest strengths?
JE: A poet’s heart. A scientist’s mind. Those both seem so cheesy, but I know they’re true. I spend entire days wondering how I can put them to use.
M: I know, we’ll get to that. How about a third?
JE: Loyalty. Maybe respect. I think the two are cut from the same cloth. I am fiercely loyal to my family and friends. I do my best to honor simple human dignity like my grandfather, but know I fall short a lot.
M: What are your three biggest weaknesses?
JE: Impatience. Fear. Lack of faith.
M: I asked for three. You only gave me one.
JE: (counting in his head) I’m pretty sure I listed three.
M: No, you did not. The first two are extensions of the third. Impatience shows a lack of belief an outcome will arrive. Fear is the result of thinking you’re unprotected. The kind of faith I know you and a lot of people wish to have stamps both those out. Even in the darkest hours of your lives, it gives you the glimmer of hope to keep going.
While we’re on the subject of faith, describe your relationship with the Father.
JE: I’ve felt abandoned. I’ve felt confused. I’ve felt certain. I’m very happy to say the connection is growing, though. I still feel disconnected sometimes, like I’m way off base or my mental radio is tuned to the wrong frequency and all I hear is static. I hate feeling distant from God, like I’m not making the right choices. I hate feeling uninspired, unworthy, unable and unhappy.
My work seems to be so far away anything good right now, which is frustrating. I think all of us can do many things well, be great at four or five and truly excellent at one. It seems to me that “one thing” is where ability and passion blur together. I really want to do that with the rest of my life. That thought inspires me. Why can’t I get a burning bush to direct me?
M: Inspiration works both ways. In reality, it’s defined by what you do with it. Think combining tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich is an accident? No, it’s inspiration applied for deliciousness. Sometimes the application is a couple of steps, sometimes it’s a couple thousand. It’s up to you to stick with it.
JE: Finding my purpose is up to me? That seems a bit counterintuitive. I figured it would be revealed to me.
M: Consider Matthew 7:7, “Seek and ye shall find.” The only way to find any answer is to really look for it. Sometimes that means going to the wrong places.
JE: Yet He talked to Moses through a shrubbery.
M: Mysterious ways are different now. It’s my opinion He’d be better off reaching your short attention spans with a text message. Alas, He still likes the old way.
JE: So you’re saying the Ten Commandments weren’t a product of one of your colleagues talking to Moses?
M: Of course they are, he wrote them down and shared them with his people, you know? Plato’s Republic came about when a friend of mine got him to scribble out his thoughts on the perfect government. The Sistine Chapel is the direct result of a near-constant conversation with Michaelangelo. Special relativity was whispered to Einstein.
Sometimes people listen with their ears when they’d be better off doing so with their heart.
JE: What about all those homeless people on street corners that say you’re telling them something?
M: They’re right. The message sometimes gets jumbled in their heads. He’s more concerned with those who are deliberately deaf and mistake that for Him being silent.
JE: That makes sense. I mean, I know He has something for me to do and has made a way for me to do it, even if I feel like I’m having trouble understanding what it is at the moment. Certainty and confusion is the uncomfortable paradox of faith.
M: That uncomfortable paradox is exactly what makes it faith.