Last Sunday, in church, we talked about Hell. I already know I can't work my way to heaven----good works don't work like that. But I'm pretty sure I can work my way to hell. Or someplace close by, far, unimaginably far from the presence of God.
I know this because I've done it before. I used to live there at one time. And I’ve been unfortunate enough to try to go back and visit, on occasion, when things don't go my way.
If you want to go or even just pop in for a quick stop, here's some of what you have to do. It's a bit daunting, but I have faith in you!
*Watch a sunset and suppress all urges to look skyward and praise whoever makes such gratuitous kaleidoscopes.
*Watch a sunset and in your joy bow your heart to the sun, the moon, the stars, every inanimate faceless faraway thing that will not hear you, answer you back or require anything from you. You hope.
*Attribute power and deity to the inanimate world around you. When they don't cooperate with your wishes, placate those fairies, gods and goddesses with little prayers and offerings. It's a bit harder and more free-form than, say, going to church, but I'm confident you can figure this out!
*Attribute power to yourself to create, define, recreate, redesign yourself any time you please, since it is, after all, your life and your body, to do as you please with. Be immovable on this.
*Consider your beautiful children accidents of sex, nature, genetics and time who serve no purpose but to do whatever they find to make themselves happy.
*Feel free to eliminate any unborn children who mess up your schedule and your life plans. After all. you were here first.
*Watch massive storms with amazement, but don't give in to wonder or fear. Both are dangerous and can lead to further questions, even to considering the possibility of a being greater than yourself. Instead, channel all your marvel and faith to Science and Nature.
*Suppress the persistent sense that you're made of more than flesh. Deny that you long to live for always.
*Suppress the persistent sense that your life has meaning and significance beyond even your own apprehension.
*Refuse to forgive any slight or offense, no matter how large or minute. Hold onto it, magnify it even, let it fester into revenge. Then exact the exact revenge you need to keep feeding your rage. Let it spill over into your other relationships.
*Believe that nothing and no one is more important than your happiness and freedom however fleeting both appear. Be dogged in your pursuit. Don't give up believing that something somewhere will finally bring contentment.
*Ignore the many times your own wishes, dreams and prayers are answered perfectly, beautifully, just in time, as if someone were watching, listening.
*Attribute your neighbor's healing from cancer, your own recovery from your fall, your mother's health after a heart attack to the wonders of the body. When you hear people thanking God, smile patronizingly and change the subject.
*Claim all the love and goodness in your life as the simple result of your own talent, wise choices and hard work.
This is just a quick cheat sheet of ways I've ended up in that place, panting and exhausted, that Fiery Lake of Self-Adulation and Shame. Doubtless there are a thousand other ways to get there, but mind you, you'll have to work hard. You'll have to outrun the Hound of Heaven himself, who pursues you for two reasons only:
to love you. to give you a new name:
"Daughter" "Son" "Forgiven" "Beloved"
Will you still keep running?
I am done.