I was in a car crash a few years ago. I was pushed off the road and found myself trapped in a crumpled vehicle in a stinky, muddy ditch.
“God help me”, I thought. I should scream out for salvation.
I couldn’t do it. I wanted to. I wanted desperately to be able to cry out to some benign presence that would sweep in and rescue me.
It wasn’t a lack of faith in God’s existence. I think I feared to call on my god lest he actually come to me, and find me lacking and unworthy. Is there anything scarier than the prospect of being exposed for who you really are?
I knew in my heart, as most men do, that I’d never really given myself fully to his service. I’m not talking about how a priest resigns his life to the service of a god, but rather to how a man suspends his own judgment and desires, and relies on what he has been told his maker desires of him. Always, I had held back from that commitment.
I had always believed, I discovered, that when I was an old man I could become devout and make up for my heedless youth.
Age seems the perfect time to practice self-discipline and charity and patience. When I was old, I would give generous tithes and spend hours in meditation while watching the sweet flow of my waning years from the lofty vantage of a respected … no, loved … elder.
When I was old, and my blood no longer bubbled with ambition and lust and wild curiosity, then I could settle down and be content in my God.
Foolishly, I had believed that I would always have the opportunity to be a better man – later. Obviously, a man’s life could end at any time. A car accident or a fall down the stairs, an infectious disease, even a stray bullet; youth is no armour against such fates.
A man could lose his life by accident, at any moment. Some part of me, perhaps, has always known that, but I’d never believed it at a gut level.
And I’d certainly never considered that at any moment, a rogue gonyeti trailer could materialize and demand my life of me.
I didn’t merit any god’s intervention and worse, I feared his judgment. The God I thought I knew had the ability to plunge men into endless torment, apparently solely for His own amusement.
Such anguish, gifted on a whim, suddenly seemed preferable to facing a just banishment. For I found it easier to think of God as a flighty, rash and unreasonable monster with the ability to consign a man to Hell with a wave of his hand; than to imagine being judged solely on my actions and the rowdy misbehaviour of my shiftless youth.
Better hell, I thought, than make me face my deeds and be justly punished for them. A cowardly thought, and pure, raw humanity at its worst.
My cry of supplication died in me unuttered. I looked up to where I’d always been told heaven was, and felt myself quiver with resignation and then grow still.
Nobody was coming for me. There was no-one to judge me, or make me look in the mirror. There was no reason to fear, for beyond this moment, there was no thing to fear. I would either die here and pass into emptiness, or I would live, on my own terms, in my own way.
Then I heard the sirens. And I *was* saved, but not by any God.
Unless Jesus wears a MARS uniform and plays fast and loose with a hypodermic needle.