Stare Way to Heaven


Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. (Proverbs 4:25)

Look. I’ve tried to be urbane about this. I’ve floated my cosmopolitan balloon across party lines, dallied with the temple prostitutes, and generally attempted to cultivate a religious sophistication that would find me at home with anybody from the Baptists to the Bohemians. I’ve billboarded myself as unconventional, nonconformist, unorthodox, progressive, creative, open-minded, avant-garde, offbeat, alternative, and decidedly artistic. I’ve paraded profanity as prophetic prerogative, sipped the nectar of the fallen gods, and pushed the envelope of grace as far as I dared without actually stepping to the dark side. With diabolical glee I’ve exploited the loopholes in the heavenly contract in order to explore the religious borderlands. I’ve shot my mouth off at the face of the Almighty, taunting him, daring him to rumble, to thunder, to smite, to do anything. Like an arrogant matador, I’ve strutted before the Ancient of Days, snapping my crass theological cape at him and jabbing the divine flanks with well-aimed blasphemies. Oh, I knew that he wasn’t going down, but I sure liked imagining the guy flinch.

So there I am, doing my devotions like a good Christian—after all, I figured I owed God at least that much, him being deity and all—and I’m reading my Bible at that superficial yeah-yeah-yeah-whatever-tell-me-something-new level when suddenly I stumble onto this verse: Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Suddenly, something deep inside me flares up like an acetylene torch, and in the blink of an eye, I am DEFINED. My carefully tailored suit of angst and attitude simply evaporates. To my astonishment, I am suddenly and utterly clarified. The mask is gone; the costume is gone; the hip rebel pose is gone. I’m snared in the glare of the Godhead, buck naked. Instead of burning me at the stake for crimes against the divinity, the subversive I AM disarms me from the inside: “This is who you am, buddy.”

1979, Minot, North Dakota. Two days off a pot-fueled weekend, I find myself in a pastor’s office howling for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo. The pastor, no hipster by a long shot, dutifully hears me out then, in his rich bass voice, prophesies over my bowed head. “Satan will sift you like wheat. You will not be able to do many of the things other believers can do. Yours is a narrow way.” These long years later I am still executed by lethal injunction: You must not turn aside.

Jesus nailed me; this I know: I am monomaniacal. I am indivisible. I am hardwired for one thing, and in my user’s manual there is a single entry: Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. I now see this, not as prescription or threat, but as the way home. If that’s not grace, I don’t know what is

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

—T.S. Eliot



3 Responses

  1. I wept for joy and prayed, “thank you Lord.”

  2. Welcome back–
    I love your dad.

  3. Thank you Lord for always listening. Mom

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