No Reason to Fear

For the most part it is only in my novels that I have allowed myself to speak unreservedly of what with the eyes of my heart I have seen. When old Godric makes out the face of Christ in the leaves of a tree and realizes that the lips are soundlessly speaking his name; when Antonio Parr has his vision of Christ as the Lone Ranger thundering on Silver across the lonely sage and then covers himself by adding that it may be only "a silvery trick of the failing light"; when Brendan as a scrawny, hollow-chested wreck of a boy sees angels spread out against the sky like a great wreath and hears their singing as the mercy of God; when every once in a while on even the warmest, most breathless days Kenzie Maxwell feels a stirring of chill air about his nostrils or sees a snow-white bird circling around and around in the air over him as he takes his pre-breakfast walk on the golf course--they are all of them telling my story.

To that extent I have dared risk telling what I have experienced of God, but to live the kind of life that you would expect to flow from it passes beyond risk into a kind of holy recklessness that is beyond me. If it is true about God, then, as my father said, there is nothing to worry about, not even death, not even life, not even losing the ones you love most in the world because, as my Grandmother Naya told me, no one is ever really lost. If it is true, you would live out your days as one who continues to be afraid of many things, but in the deepest, most final sense is without fear. That is a level of faith beyond my reach, but at least once in my life I caught a glimpse of it.

I was flying somewhere one day when all of a sudden the plane ran into such a patch of turbulence that it started to heave and buck like a wild horse. As an uneasy flyer under even the best of circumstances, I was terrified that my hour had come, and then suddenly I wasn't. Two things, I remember, passed through my mind. One of them was the line from Deuteronomy "underneath are the everlasting arms," and for a few minutes I not only understood what it meant, but felt in my nethermost depths that without a shadow of a doubt it was true, that underneath, undergirding, transcending any disaster that could possibly happen, those arms would be there to save us if my worst fears were realized. And the other thing was a Buddhist metaphor that came back to me from somewhere. We are all of us like clay jars is the way I remembered it, and as time goes by, each jar gets cracked and broken and eventually crumbles away until there is not a single thing left of it except for the most important thing of all, the only thing about it that is ultimately so real that nothing on earth or heaven has the power even to touch it, let alone to destroy it, and that is the emptiness that the jar contained, which is one with the emptiness of all the other jars and with Emptiness itself. Nor is that Emptiness ever to be confused with nothingness, but is rather whatever of its many names we call it by-nirvana, satori, eternal life, the peace of God. Suddenly then, in that pitching plane some thirty thousand crazy feet up in the sky, I found myself not only not afraid of what was going on, but enormously enjoying it, half drunk on the knowledge that yes, it was true. There was nothing to worry about. There was no reason to fear. It was all of it, all of it, and forever and always, good.