(The writer of this letter wishes to remain anonymous)
If you have read some or all of “An Invitation”, you may be wondering what it would be like to follow a spiritual path to God. Not in the next life, but here and now in our world of traffic jams, MTV, and credit cards. This is the story of how I came to begin that journey, a journey that is far from complete, but one I am determined to finish.
But my story really starts long before then. It begins when, as a child, I experienced a pivotal event that was to cast a long shadow over my life. The precise details are not important now. Suffice it to say I felt that I had been the victim of a grievous wrong and that I had done nothing to deserve it. This sense of victimhood grew within me until it became like a second nature. No one else seemed to know or care how deeply hurt I felt. I blamed God for not protecting me from harm. As time went on, I also blamed myself. After all, I must have been guilty of something to have merited such misfortune. These thoughts and feelings combined over the years to produce a heavy and constant black cloud of despair. A dead feeling of hopelessness, fuelled by self-disgust and resentment towards God. “Well”, I thought, “if I end up dead or in a strait-jacket, it won’t be my fault. I am a victim!”
As I grew older, the despair deepened. After all, if God had abandoned me, to whom could I possibly turn? No other person would understand how I felt. And so I retreated within myself creating my own private, self-contained Hell in which I could suffer in silence. My suffering would be like a rebuke to God’s injustice in allowing such harm to befall an innocent child. But something within me hoped against hope that God would not leave me like this. I suppose this is what prevented me taking the next logical step and ending it all.
Perhaps also some stubborn instinct prevented me giving up without making some attempt to find meaning in life. I tried to enter deeper into my own religion, Catholicism, but found that it had become a pale reflection of the mystical faith I knew as a child. I dabbled in more esoteric forms of spirituality, charismatic renewal, TM, New Age beliefs. Like the person who does not understand art, but knows what he likes, I knew these could never fill the emptiness inside. So, it was in this state of desperate longing for something that would give me hope that I encountered the teachings now contained on this site. At the time, early 1980, they had been published in a different form as The House on the Rock.
The book consisted of a dialogue between Brian Cleeve and God, with Brian asking questions about life and death and many other things and being given answers. Some of the answers were strange and difficult to accept. Yet, even before I read the book, when I came across an article about it in a Sunday newspaper, I was filled with a burning conviction that this was what I had been waiting for.
A chink of light had opened up in what seemed like the permanent darkness of my life. Hope stirred within me, but then was immediately almost extinguished. I began to ask myself why God would reach down to rescue someone as unworthy and useless as me. Surely this book was aimed at good people who could serve God properly. I felt like a vagrant who had been lying in filth attempting to gain entry to a reception in the Lord Mayor’s mansion. So what if the Lord Mayor had issued a general invitation to the local citizenry to attend, he could not possibly have meant to include the likes of me!
And so for many more years I waited outside the Lord Mayor’s mansion, hesitating to go inside, and yet afraid to go away just in case the invitation was genuine. But even there, God’s Grace could reach me. Very slowly, the layers of self-absorption I had created over the years began to open. I could see how everything that had happened had been my own choice. I had determined that I would never allow myself to be hurt again. If no one else would protect me, then I would protect myself. I had shut down my emotions. I behaved as if everyone, including God, was a potential enemy. Of course, I was really cutting myself off from the very help I needed.
Very, very slowly I have began to open up, to lower my defences, to accept God’s Mercy. Not because I deserve it, but because I need it. Now I can see more clearly than ever how despite my hesitation, God has been enriching my life since I made those first faltering steps after reading The House on the Rock. Like a shipwrecked sailor washed ashore without even clothes on his back, everything I have received since, and everything I have become so far, has come from God.
And I learned gradually that God is not the remote male figure of my childhood fears, but a Gentle Woman Who offers only tenderness to those who approach Her. Maybe you are blessed to have been taught by a schoolteacher who embodied all the love and patience that exemplifies the very best of the profession. Watch how she cultivates each pupil, drawing out his or her unique gifts until they blossom like flowers under the warm sun. She seems to know exactly what to say and how to say it, whether it is to compliment success or console failure. Well, that image is but a pale reflection of Her reality.
Now, as I write these words, I feel the most intense gratitude to Her. I was a nobody, intent on wasting my life just to spite God. Then when I could go no further, when finally I reached that Gate of Despair, Her gentle voice managed to penetrate my self-preoccupation and, through Her infinite Mercy, I was able to listen. And so I began to slowly make my way upward towards the Light. I have such a long way to go and sometimes I wonder if I will make it. But She has told me I can, and I believe Her.