Last night I had a dream that I was in a rowboat with Christ. I was rowing and Jesus was talking about the idea of fathers and what they mean to sons. He recalled that moment on the cross when he cried out, “Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me” and how he’d really wanted his father to be there and comfort him. Not necessarily to get him down but at least a word or a sign. Finally he looked toward me and said, “What is it my son, you look troubled?”
I looked at him and replied, “I’m not troubled, I was just wondering if you were going to help row?”
When I was 12-years old I wanted to be Jesus. Already at that age I had a very real sense of calling, something that God had assigned to me and that only I could carry out. I began to take the language of the Bible inside of me where the word became flesh; all of that strange and beautiful language which I used then to create my own myth and idea of existence. It got to the point where, in my sixth grade English class, I tried to pass the Lord’s Prayer off as an original work—I got a C minus. Yet, the important thing was that I was taking this stuff literally, personally and seriously.
I can still remember those Sunday mornings when I was the altar boy at church. I would be in the basement of church, just below the altar, getting dressed in a white robe. I could hear the aching floor as it groaned beneath the footsteps of people coming in; the organ playing these haunting, very brooding German hymns, which cued me to walk upstairs and light the candles. It was like theatre with those deep black notes from the organ falling from the balcony like dying crows. Each year at least four people were injured from those ridiculously heavy, falling notes. If you didn’t get hit it was taken as a sign from God. If you did get hit you were sentenced to teach Sunday school.
The main thing was that sense of purpose and how I felt called to do something. Now, 30 years later, as the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, I long for that meaning, that sense of purpose I once had. I lie awake at night waiting for a sign, a word but hear only silence and feel only absence. My eyes are drawn to the clock and I watch time pass before my eyes and I think how my life is passing before me and that it’s going so slow. At this rate I’ll live forever. I’m at the edge of that life-questioning cliff, a lamenter’s paradise really, where you can walk along the edge and gaze deep into the abyss and then, as if someone is really holding me back, I bemoan the fact that I can’t jump. That my fate is to live and only the lucky ones get to leap. It’s like an impending sense of doom or worse; it’s like an impending sense of nothing.