Darkness always has been a staple within my thoughts. A dual pronged steel clamp in my nightmares. As a child, I had so many questions that I felt that the more I found answers, the less like a child I felt.
In most ways, I do not remember my childhood. In fact, in looking at the dusty images in my mother's photo album, I can scarcely remember important events. Birthdays, Christmas. Often times, when I force my mind to unlock itself, I find things that I wish I had kept under unguided lock and key.
Images of darkness, clouded with shadows and fear. I still remember a specific scent of copper, like a bloody mist, lingering in my room.
Flashes of fire, tearing flesh from my muscles, dripping onto the ground.
Laughter in the darkness. A haunting, piercing menagerie of unrepentant hunger and loathsome desire manifested in the glowing eyes of my own fear.
I was only 9. Of this, I remember pretty strongly for some reason.
I was also, I think in hindsight, a Universalist. Though I did not know of such a term or concept. Let me explain.
I do remember very specific instances of reading the Bible. Many verses always stuck out to me, specifically my favorite verse in the Bible to this day: John 11:35.
Jesus wept. Every time I opened the Bible or sat and thought about it, the most prominent picture of Jesus that came to mind was that of a father. A man who played in the mud like I liked to play in the mud. A father that had dirt under his fingernails, who smelled of sweat, who laughed deeply.
It all seemed to make some sort of sense.
This does not suggest that my own father was in any way deficient or a poor mentor. In fact, I think he is exceptional. But, he hardly compared to Jesus. For when my own father wasn't around, Jesus was. I remember running down a hill, and feeling the wind stroking like loving fingers through my hair as I vaulted over rocks. Jesus didn't seem as something or someone far away. He seemed to be a present reality, a father who was never beyond my thoughts.
Jesus was the perfect Father. And He was weeping.
I struggled to remember why something like that would stick in the mind of a child who had no concept of such things. I was a sensitive child, and was often bullied in both physical and mental ways. None of it bears any real mention, but much of it had to do with people who professed Christ. Of course, I considered them forgiven even back then, but it doesn't add much healing to an open wound.
I remember so strongly the concept of an eternal man. A man of gentleness. I remember first seeing a crucifix of Jesus hanging on a wall. Even then, I found it odd that many professed him as risen, yet insisted that he still hang.
This troubled me for a while. I tried talking about it, but mostly it seemed too odd to speak about. I went home and sat on my bed and began to play with my beanie babies. They were all my favorite, though I preferred the jaguar.
And then it clicked.
Jesus weeping. Why would a father cry? The perfect father was crying. I struggled with those for so long that I don't remember much of the specific details. But one thing sticks out.
He was weeping not out of pain or out of fear, like I did when I had bad dreams or got lost in the dark.
He was crying because of something deeper. Weeping because of something much stronger than the sensation of affliction or of isolation.
He was weeping because He was dying. As a child, I do remember being very scared of dying. One time, my dad had a rough case of the flu, and I cried in the bathroom for an even number of hours, begging Jesus not to take my dad. Death was a lingering specter in my life, and I realized that Jesus was not afraid of death. He was bigger than me. He was bigger than death.
But I think He was imagining how it would feel for me to die and be alone, in the dark, away from Him. To never see me and play with me.
I had never thought about love in such a way. This is not to suggest that my parents were not unloving or that they did not care for me, far from it. But, having the God-Man cry over me was not only agonizing, but made my physically ill. I didn't think I was worthy of being cried over, much less loved in such a selfless way. In many ways, I still don't think I am.
I didn't want him to die. I didn't want to see him go away, to miss his smell and our times together.
But He had to. He had to go to a far away place and be alone in the dark. And I didn't know why. He never spoke much to me, but I could always sense him even when I didn't see him. I didn't quite have any real sense of heaven or hell, but I had a vague notion that there was only darkness and light.
That is my earliest memory of the perfect father, and He was leaving me. To be even a minute away from Him, knowing I could never see him again caused me to not eat for what felt like an eternity. Probably only several hours, but that alone is a lifetime to an imaginative child who doesn't see any hope beyond the horizon.
I never thought I'd see Him again. And I was certainly surprised when I did.
To be continued.