Strange. Strangely familiar, I mean, this coming back. It’s a lurching free-fall and a hot cup of tea all at once. At first I don’t recall ever enrolling in this University of Unceasing Joys, but then my feelings and memories, even my very identity and my deepest sense of Self, snap back into their real shape, like that shape memory polymer when you heat it back up.
I’m taking one of two required semesters of drama- (every student at the University takes at least two semesters, regardless of their major)- and so I go through this process at least a couple of times a week right now. In drama class, we literally become our characters… We lose ourselves into their worlds and experiences. At the end of class, we take our character ‘off’. Each time there’s a moment when it feels like you’re losing grip on reality, like you’re tumbling off a ledge into a plunge of unknown depths. Then, just as the descent really begins, you’re caught. You’re back… Home.
Today this identity reversion came at an unexpected moment. In the second act of this play, my character loses his cool and throws a fit. I overdid things a bit… I flew into my best rage ever, pushing my heart rate well over 160 beats per minute, nearly blew a vocal cord, turned quickly to face another character, bristling with the requisite accusation, when I tripped over the set’s coffee table, lost my balance and in attempting to stay on my feet lurched right off the stage and out a side door into a dully lit hallway populated by costume racks, pencil-eared carpenters and a couple of lighting tech’s enjoying a cigarette and a conversation.
That’s when it all came back to me. My character-cover was blown. I shook myself off, ran back in and curtsied, much to the delight of Shams, who was the production’s Director. So, once again it turns out I’m actually not who I thought I was- in today’s case an irate politician- I’m a graduate student in the University of Unceasing Joys. Jesus is my Thesis Advisor, and I’m enrolled in the Forget Everything But Love curriculum. I’m meeting him in his office today for some advisement.
* * * *
I arrived a few minutes early and found Jesus behind his desk, practicing his calligraphy, wearing a Los Angeles Angels hat. He pointed to it and said, “A little redundant, isn’t it?” Then he took a moment to remind me of the fact that his intra-mural softball team was single-handedly keeping several softball manufacturing plants in business. He was maddeningly on point with this line of discourse. Last night, what should have been a merciful single inning affair cut short by the ten run rule had become a torrid, extended walloping of our grad student team. Apparently we’re in the “40-times-40-run-rule” division. “Good forgiveness practice,” he said. How he convinced the Archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael to bat at the top of his order, with Metatron in the clean-up slot, is beyond me. I pointed out that somebody with some clout around here needs to remind Michael that we had all agreed to a “slow pitch” league…
As usual, he had an intriguing set up for today’s work. He had cleaned up half of his office so that it was completely open except for a desk and chair on which sat in expectant repose a quill, a jar of ink, and a short stack of virgin parchment. I pointed to the set-up, eager to end the reliving of last evening’s grievances. “For me?”
Instantly He was in the Moment with me, and we united together inside of that dimensionless, immediate, indomitable, wordless inner Knowing I’ve learned to expect with Him. He was magnificently present, full of Truth, reassuring, utterly focused on teaching me what I had come to learn.
“Tell me who you are,” he said, pointing to the parchment. “Tell me everything. Tell me what you desire, and most importantly, tell me what you fear. Tell me every last thing you think you know about yourself and believe is true. Tell me about everything you think makes you different from me, and about everything that makes us the same.”
Wordlessly, I sat and began writing.
I wrote about where I was born. I wrote about my life history. I wrote about my second grade classmates. As I wrote, Jesus’ office dissolved and the flow of time seemed to become malleable. The desk was in an open field, at dawn, and the sun just rising over some low hills. Jesus was visible to me off in the distance, under a small grove of trees, standing still and looking to the sun. I wrote and wrote, and the sun moved across the sky. My desk was in the desert, on a mountain peak, on a beach. The sun rose and set.
Slowly facts about myself gave way to beliefs about myself, and about the world. During this phase, sometimes Jesus would pop into my thoughts and ask clarifying questions, and sometimes these sparked little tremors of fear. I was getting into the meat of the exercise. Here Jesus gently prodded my mind. “Search for the inconsistencies. No matter how small.”
I wrote about the guilt of wanting things that aren’t good for me, and the guilt of desiring to avoid the things that are. I wrote that I doubted myself so completely sometimes I wanted to crawl under a rock and die, and other times I felt so certain I was convinced I could do anything.
I wrote that I didn’t want to be here, in this world. I wanted to be somewhere else, like Heaven, where I could be free of worries and concerns. I told Jesus I believed in a spirit that transcends the body and had come to this world to learn, and that even though it helped explain certain things, that I didn’t want to come back again to this world. I could endure this life in front of me, but no more. I wanted to be free of inner conflicts. I wrote that maybe when I finally died, and my body wasn’t in my way, I could find the peace I sought. In dying, I could get Home.
I wrote that I was petrified of dying, because I believed that if I joined with God again, I’d lose myself. I’d be a nothing. I’d be gone forever, meaningless and forgotten- only worse, like I never even happened. I also wrote that death was probably the only way I could find God, because then, after death, I would see things with a clarity that isn’t available to me here.
I didn’t want to be meaningless and forgotten, and I wrote about the vision of a life I wanted. I pictured the career I would have, the home I would have, the recognition and admiration I would receive for the great things I would do. I thought about the lives I would save. I wrote that I wanted to really help the world and its people, by telling it about His Love. And then I wrote about how scared I was of the world, of its people, of its unexpected tragedies.
I was afraid of how others looked at me. I was afraid of strangers, and changes to my life, and I wrote about the fact that I wanted a perfect world filled up with the events I selected and the certain people I knew and trusted.
I wrote about how important it was to make this last life great. To do that, I needed to stay healthy, so I could be free of pain and live a long, full, glorious life. I wanted my life to be an example of all the good things within me. I wanted to prove that good things were natural and effortless, but I also wrote that I was afraid if I didn’t exercise, my body would get sick one day and die. I was afraid if I ate the wrong things, my future would be full of suffering. I hated pain. I wrote that I believed healing was of the mind and not the body. I wrote that I also didn’t want to believe I was a body, or be driven by my thoughts about being a body, but that I had to take care of it or it would end up haunting me, that I had to hedge my bets to ensure a happy future.
I wrote about asking God to give me some of those things I wanted, or to take away some things I didn’t want. I wrote that I believed I was part of God, and that I could join together with God and take responsibility for my life and my experiences, but that I was afraid to ask for specific things, because I was afraid they wouldn’t happen and all the beliefs I had built that kept me from plunging into despair would be proven wrong. I wrote that I believed anything was possible, but I was afraid to really ask for it. I was afraid to commit all of myself into anything specific, and was afraid I was drifting around aimlessly as a result.
I wrote that I believed I had experienced moments of Truth. I wrote that I believed Truth was within me, and would one day find me and set me free. I wrote that I believed I was on the right track and doing the right things, like trying to believe in my invulnerability as a Child of God, or coming to this University. And I wrote that I was afraid of fooling myself. I was afraid of doing or saying the wrong things. I was afraid of how others might look at me if they knew who I really was. I was afraid I couldn’t live up to my own beliefs, but on the plus side I was getting better with practice, and that when I finally could live what I believed I’d be good enough, and God would take me back.
I wrote that I thought all in all, I was making good progress, and moving in the right direction.
This went on for quite some time, with Jesus checking in periodically. The sun rose and set. My desk moved through world after world. Jesus was always visible somewhere near me, walking or sitting. It was actually a peaceful experience for me. I felt completely safe with Jesus nearby. Finally, it was all done- all out on paper.
I looked up expectantly. I felt like a great space had opened up within me, and had a sense of well-being and contentment.
And Jesus said to me, “Good. Leave those thoughts now and do not return to any of them. Not one. And judge them not. There is not a single one among them that you need or that could ever hurt you.”
“Today, if you leave all this aside, you will have started to forget who you thought you were,” he said, “so that you may remember who you truly are… I would hit the batting cages now, if I were you.”