Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Monday, May 5, 2008

Part 5: Glimmers

The sun is shining today. I wonder if that means spring is coming? Winter has been long, cold, and dreary. Gray skies.

And with the sun glimmering through the wrack of clouds, with the hints of blue sky breaking through the clouds, I cannot help but wonder how it is that my surroundings ever seem to reflect my heart. The storm. The gray skies that have so dominated the world this last winter in particular, but somehow seem to have ever since that fateful night. The moments of hope like the few days of sunshine last summer.

And now as things begin at last to make sense - maybe - the gray skies have tentatively broken. The sun is shining; of that there can be no doubt, but how long it will stay out is the ultimate question. And the blue skies, the trees almost shockingly green, the flowers gentle hues of purple and orange and red...

Can it be? Is there truly hope in this world?

And if so... oh, God! If there is hope...

I have read much this last year. Things are clearer now than they were. God becomes to me not only an angry judge but a vindicator.

It is strange. He is the source of my hope. I never thought that could be. Ever and always he has been my condemner, the one who stands over me with gavel in hand to judge and to smite, crushing me beneath his rightful rage. He is the holy God, the righteous one who I can never reach.

On my own.

I cannot believe my own eyes as I read, sometimes. I look up at the heavens, want to laugh, shout, cry, take in the sun and the clouds and the blue with my arms somehow.

There is hope in this book, hope I have never known in all my days. I have been wreathed in endless darkness, and the flint has always been at hand, the kindling at my feet. But I did not know, could not know, for no one had ever told me, given me any idea.

And that makes me simultaneously sad and angry. Outraged.

I know I am not alone in this hopelessness. But what am I to do? I do not even understand, yet, what all that I read means.

Grace is still a mystery to me. Justification eludes my understanding. Election is completely beyond my grasp. Yet these words are here, common, oft-repeated.

The glory of Christ seems to be a central theme of the New Testament. I cannot believe the riches I find: the frequency with which everything returns to that point, and how infrequent the references to...

No. Not yet. I dare not. I dare not even truly think such things yet. There is much yet to study before I begin to walk that road, for it is a road I would not easily return from.

For now I content myself with a glimmer of sun, with the taste of spring air after a rain when the earth turns soft and the sky turns all the colors imaginable. I will content myself with a sky turned to fire as my heart begins to burn anew with a passion and a desire and a life such as I have never known and my thoughts are kindled into flame.

I love God: not only fear him (though fear Him I do, and rightly so). For though I fear him, I begin not to be afraid, begin as though held by his hand - inconceivable! is it possible? - to trust Him and so to have stirred in my heart affections for Him beyond mere terror and growing more and more like delight.

And the winds continue to tear apart the great gray shroud.

---

This is part of an ongoing work of historical fiction.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Part 4: Ablutions sans Absolution

I sit in my room - my cell - and weep, sometimes. No, not sometimes. Often, really... perhaps even daily. I don't know. The days blend together; the nights refuse to end. I don't think I've slept a full night in six weeks. This torment: how long can it go on thus? Is all my life doomed to be this sort of agonizing and tempestuous hurtling from darkness into darkness? Am I damned to an existence only slightly better in this life than in the fiery one I feel ever more sure is ahead?

I have begun to doubt the existence of this ephemeral concept called hope. I have none. I remember when I did: but only barely. Hope. What is it? What use is it? The mind, fixated ever on the imaginary, on that which is not, instead of that which is. Lies propagated and promulgated by an absurd emotion which has no place in dealings with reality. Imagination may have once been a good thing, but it is fouled by our sin: it offers no reprieve, no escape from the darkness of the world, from the grayness that entraps us. Nothing I see convinces me otherwise.

So I sit here. I do my duties: cleaning the floors, sweeping and mopping. I do my meditations - just another opportunity to note the foulness of my heart and sink into greater guilt and shame. My ablutions are - what, exactly? They give me moments of that abominable hope. I grasp at those moments, but they slip ever from my grasp: like trying to hold air in my hands, to fix in my grip the oil of anointing - pointless. Ablutions I may perform: but no absolution is granted me.

Grace. I taste it, in those moments, when the Fathers pour the water, when the cup and the loaf touch my lips, when my confessions are done, and then... and then it is gone. Again and again. Grace, so near, and yet so vastly unreachable. As though ever beyond the grasp of my fingers, no matter how I strain: for no work of mine can erase my dept and the penalty I have incurred. Yet what else can I do?

I want to be a simple law student with a promising future again. I want to go back. Back to the days when everything was sensible. When I did not know the truth: this horrible, frightening truth of our misery and our inability to please the God who made us. I want to be a man alone with the great problems of the world before me to solve, and no insurmountable weight of sin pressing down on my mind.

But I cannot. I can never go back. I know too much.

That night in the storm changed me. I promised God. And He saved me. That was all: His end of the bargain complete. I gave my life. Oh, yes, I gave this life: and how! A life now caught in the torment of sin: oh wretched despair that claws at my soul, tears open wounds of my childhood, reminds me how much my father despises this life that I now live. (Do I agree with him? I begin to, I think, no matter the bargain I made those many months ago.)

In all this time, I have thought much about -

A knock at the door. My superior. He wishes to speak with me; I must compose myself, must somehow not give away to him the rage and the guilt that fill me equally this afternoon. He knows, of course: he is no fool. But my pride - another sin, no doubt! - will not let me speak with him on this.

And if he asks? If he asks?

I know not what then...

My countenance falls as I move to the door, I try to compose it, I fail, and everything begins to fall apart: moving in slow motion, I see his own face: grave, kind, severe, tender (how can those mingle?) as he begins to speak.

And his words are the question I fear most.

"Martin, you have seemed troubled. What is wrong, my son?"

---

This is part of an ongoing work of historical fiction.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Part 3: Broken and Spilled

I stand, trembling. He is here. Now. Why could he have not chosen another Sunday? My grip is weak, my knees trembling. I have heard of men so afraid their knees clattered together - and thought the notion silly. Weak men, I thought.

I am weak, I suppose. In more ways than I thought. My mind, which I once dreamed would catapult me to wealth and success and fame, I now find both incapable of defending me from outside attack, and traitorous itself: neither denying external torture nor itself bringing aught but fear and shame. No matter how severe my discipline, my mind fails me.

The screaming has never stopped, and it comes again, louder, now - at the worst of all possible times. It always comes at the worst times. There is no escape. No reprieve from the accusations and the torment and the guilt. No path out from under the weight of condemnation. And as loud as the voices scream, the quiet knowledge of my ultimate culpability is worse - unshakable and undeniable: true.

I try. I strive. Over and over again, I beat my head against the walls of this, my prison of shame. Sometimes I beat my head against the walls of this, my physical home, trying to clear my mind. Sometimes I wish the pain I have inflicted on my body might bring some relaxation of the burden on my soul.

And what good is this cup that I hold? This chalice of wine we pretend is blood? And the bread we call flesh? If they cannot release us from guilt, what can?

My hands tremble more, now. Because mingled with my fear and guilt is anger. This is not what I was promised. There was supposed to be freedom from all these things. A light yoke and an easy burden. Where is that in this world? Nowhere! My jaw clenches. And he had to come today of all days. The first time. And he had to come to voice his disapproval.

They're staring at me, now, wondering why this is taking so long. I'm trying to say the words, but my hands will not stop shaking. The pent-up emotions have chosen this moment to express themselves, and have chosen for their vehicle my limbs.

The cup falls. My face falls faster. My heart races them both toward the pit of hell. I reach for it. Miss - of course. I would. Of their own accord my eyes fall shut, my jaw clenches, my hands form into fists, and my shoulders drop. A flicker of a glance at my father as my eyes reopen, embarrassment spreading red across my face. Laughter in the crowd - and disappointment mingling with fury, writ large on my father's brow.

I turn, fleeing from the room, from this horror that is my current existence.

I am failure. I cannot even perform this simple duty.

How could the Eucharist avail me, who cannot even perform it properly?

When I find my father outside, he will barely speak to me. I feel it in his gaze; I can hear it in his tone; I can see it in the way his shoulders are set and his hands clutch tightly at his cloak: he has not, and probably never will, forgive me. He set me on a path that I could have followed. Maybe I should have. The hell I was bound for then is the same hell I am bound for now. One mortal sin, and all this is for naught. The blood, the sacrifice - meaningless. He turns and rides away, out of my life - again. Forever?

I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. I don't know why I'm here. I don't know what anything means, least of all my life and my existence. I gave up a career in law - and for what? Nothing.

I walk back to my cell. Alone.

---

Note: this is part of an ongoing work of historical fiction.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Part 2: Gray Walls

Note: the following is a first person historical fiction, not my own inner thoughts.

---

Every surface is gray. Walls. Ceiling. Floor. Today, even the sky through the small window is a murky shade somewhere closer to black than white. Not a hint of color to relieve the monotony. If my vision were worse, I might not even be able to tell where one begins, where another ends. Thank God for my good vision, my good health.

Though I wish - I wish that I had vision beyond these walls, to see and understand. Because however strong my eyes may be, my heart remains shrouded in darkness. Hopelessness. I sing. I pray. I beat myself. I cry out to God. And still I have no hope. How could I? I, a sinner, a wretch, a vile man who is an affront to the Creator who made me. And why has He made me like this, unable to be holy, unable to be right, unable to stand before Him? No, I cower - like a whipped dog, an oft-beaten cur that knows only the well-deserved wrath of its owner.

For I am God's slave. He owns me. He saved me, that night, in the blackness. The terror of it - it still comes pressing in. The sheer, overwhelming terror of my depravity. The shrieks of condemnation tearing at my mind. Lightning searing both body and soul. I dream about that moment - often. If you can call them dreams: they are nightmares, really, an agony of the mind that I wish I could forget when I awake, but which remains ever with me, vivid: that God saved my life. I wonder why I did not die. Why did He give me any longer to live? I deserve nothing.

I wonder if hell will be something like that moment of fiery pain, but stretched out into eternity. I wonder if somehow, perhaps, I will merit enough to spend only a century in purgatory, if I will somehow do enough good for God, conduct a deep enough ablution of my heart to earn the absolution of my soul. I feel - I fear - that I will not: that I will spend an eternity cursed to burn in hell. Because I know myself enough to know that I deserve nothing else than that. Hell.

And if the torments of my own mind were not enough... other torments there are as well. Tormentors that will not leave me be. Tormentors that claw at my consciousness, at my understanding, that whisper soothing doubts in my mind that I know to be lies but which are oh so terribly seductive. They call out that I am a fool for abandoning my brightly glimmering future, that there is no God, no judgment, no torment of everlasting fire - and they hurl insult at my wounds, flaming darts at my soul's weakest points, jabbing blows against my vulnerabilities: calling out my every failure, every weakness, every faltering step.

And there is nothing I can do. I know this. I have done all that I know, all that my brothers have spoken of and recommended, all that the holy father has commended to me for ablutions. I have fasted; I have wept; I have beaten myself. None of it avails.

I want to please God. I do not know how. Because my heart is black, and He is perfect light. He is holy; I am depraved. He is righteous; I am wicked. He is good; I am bad. There is no gray here. There is the black stain on my soul and the pure white glory of God, and no bridge I see between the two.

I would in an instant trade my perfect spotless glimpses of this world for a right understanding of the spiritual one. I would give up my ability to discern between these shades of gray if I could thusly grasp - truly and firmly - the distinctions, the delineations, the degradations of the spiritual realm. If I could but for a moment understand why God so angrily torments us - those He created, and for whom He has left no escape - then I would readily trade a life of seeing clear the tepid hues of the world I now inhabit.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Part 1: The Storm

Note: the following is a first person historical fiction, not my own inner thoughts.

---

Flash. Again. Flickering. White black white black white black. And then, a deep shaking that pounds through ground and body alike.

I can't see. Between me and the next step is a sheet - alternating invisible and particulate streams of light - that would blind me even were my eyes able to adjust between the sky-searing blasts of brilliance. The sheet has drenched me, left me shaking, shuddering, unable to halt the furious clattering of molars as my body contorts against the frigidity surrounding it.

I am alone, in the dark, with the terror.

And behind me, it comes. Accusing. Screaming. Penetrating my mind with jabs that I cannot counter, that leave me dreading the future far more than this terrible darkness. Declaring my utter finitude and inability to save myself from this storm, much less the one to come. Always present, that declaration of my guilt, my iniquity.

The flashes are closer now, striking faster. I can see the gray sheet as though under a candle flickering in the night.

Searing pain. Whiteness. Agony. Blackness.

I come to slowly, shaking with the cold, extremities numb but trembling.

I should be dead. I lived? I came through that?

Impossible.

My mind whirling. How? Why? What purpose?

The world is no longer drowning. I, however, can find no sure grip, nothing to hold, and so am sinking under the weight of my mind.

I do not understand.

For I could as readily ask those questions of every moment as this one. Perhaps less spectacularly so. But no less truly: for those questions remain unanswered in my existence. Save for the pale and heartless litany: "Me. Me. Me." My own strength. My own reasons. My own desires. No other answers.

But here I am forced against the wall, leaned up against the edge of the parapet and forced to stare into the abyss beneath me, to truly comprehend the dizzying ebony fall beneath my feet should they but slip a little.

I swallow.

I know why I am alive.

The reason is not mere reason. It is a Person who is Reason. I have run from Him. He will not let me go. He has chased me even here.

But does He truly demand this of me? A promising career? A perfect bright future?

And condemnation sears again, for what have I to offer Him? Me? This puny wretch of a being, tormented by despicable thoughts and tortuous conniving? Nothing!

And how could He ever accept me? What hope have I of salvation?

Like flashes of torment in the dark the searing truth hammers again and again into my brain: that there is no hope for me, despicable man that I am. The storm is gone, but the terror has not passed.

No matter.

I know why I am alive.

I will go. He has saved my life, so I will give it to do with as He wills.

Darkness, only, now. The lightning is gone with the rain, and I am left alone in the cold, in the mist, in the impenetrable shadow of occluded night.

Hopeless.