I know what you’re thinking. You think that when Jesus Christ said that the kingdom of God was within, He was speaking of goodness and joy, of love and peace and honesty and not of a place that is like the new earth to which He will usher us aspiring immortals at the end of the ages. You think I misunderstood and you have been too polite or too disinterested to tell me to my face.
Well, I have a confession to make and it’s true so I know what I’m saying. I have been there.
When I went I was not trying to go there because I didn’t know it existed. Neither did I know then that Jesus Christ said the kingdom of God was within. I thought my way there but it wasn’t my thoughts that sent me. God did, I’m sure of that.
It was February 1974. I had graduated from art school in December and was working a temp-job at the headquarters of Ginn’s Office Supply Company to earn enough money to go to Las Vegas to be with my best friend for the birth of her first child. My job was filing papers in densely packed cabinets. Almost every time I had to insert another sheet of paper my fingers were either cut or hurt from old cuts.
One day while standing at the open drawer I suddenly and without warning went to a blue light filled place. I felt euphoric; it was incredibly beautiful. I was there even as my body stood in front of the file cabinet at Ginns. I didn’t want to return. I also had no choice when I was sent back. I immediately tried to return by thinking the same thoughts that seemed to catapult me but nothing happened.
I think I know why God opened His gates to me, and that is why I know that a person must be invited and cannot enter by his or her own will.
I was young and pensive. I had recently come back home from a trip to England and Greece where I went to be with a young man who loved me. I had met George the summer of ‘73 in Greece. We played in the sun all day, water skiing, swimming, and sun bathing and at night we went to clubs with our friends and danced. When I returned for my final semester George wrote me love letters and called often. He lived in London and in Greece. He hadn’t gone to college because his father was a shipping magnate like Aristotle Onassis and George worked for him. He invited me to come to London for New Year’s Eve to meet his parents and then we would fly to Athens, to his condo.
In Athens I pretended that I was a rich wife. I dressed up every morning after he left for work and sat and read all day. The maid cooked and cleaned, and spied. I read CS Lewis’ the Screwtape Letters. That book taught me how to act peacefully and calm when George’s grandmother who lived next door came over to demand that I leave. Fortunately I had my uncle’s home to go to and then back to the States. George did not want to let me go, but the threats from his mother fought powerfully against young love.
Back in the States more calls and love letters came to me from poor sweet George who I grew to dislike for his weakness. At the time, I still thought that I had a choice of whether to return to George or move on.
Here I was, young and thinking that I could be the author of my life, a life for which I was desperately searching for meaning and purpose. I was now reading Neitche and Gide, not reading but drinking them in like water for a parched throat. They became companions of my impassioned mind.
In the young Greek Englishman I had found someone who was very different than my other friends having no college degree or even a driver’s license and being so dependent on his family and therefore easily controlled by them. I disliked his gossipy world and his dependence on his family, even his clinging to me. Having never been required to pay bills, his family money did not matter. What I liked about George was his purity and his innocence and his desire for me. I was torn like the ripped papers that refused to slide into the drawer, torn like the skin of my painful fingers.
What was the meaning and purpose of life? What was love? After weeks of reading and furiously writing out my thoughts in words and pictures that morning at Ginn’s I concluded that love was distasteful but the only true purpose for life. I concluded that I would sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of love, for surely I didn’t think I could be happy in George’s world. I would devote myself to love as the ultimate purpose, the ultimate lesson, and that commitment immediately opened to me if only for a moment, the inner kingdom of God.
George’s mother won. She hired someone to introduce him to Athenian prostitutes to distort his passion and threatened to disown him financially. It took a while but it worked. After Vegas, I went to teach art in Africa and eventually God gave me a poor young man who also loved me and gave me plenty of chances to practice denying myself for love.
I have never been granted a return to that light-filled place but I am always there in my memory of it. I now realize that the desire to go to the inner kingdom of God will never get me there because my yearning is self-centered. What a quandary.