In The Dark Of Night

I just wanted to have a word with him. He’d really done some astounding things and that had made him a kind of threat not only for the government, but really to any of us who were in leadership positions. We liked things to be quiet and predictable. The worse thing for all of us was instability…change. We’d become pretty comfortable with the status quo, imperfect as it was.

It was too dangerous to seek him out in the daytime so I waited until it was night and found him walking along the outskirts of the city. I signaled that I wanted to speak with him and told him that I had been impressed with his teaching for a long time, but that the confrontation he had provoked the other day was quite beyond the pale and, unless he really was being protected, not only by his followers, but the the very power of God, I feared for his safety.

He had smiled and said that those we thought were “in charge” really weren’t, but that I probably wouldn’t be able to see that unless I started all over again. I didn’t really know what he meant by that and, in any case, I didn’t believe people got second chances in this life. I told him that one of my teachers used to say that what has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

Again, he smiled, shook his head, and agreed that is what most people think…conventional wisdom. But that there was another perspective, another reality, that he could only describe as coming “from the spirit”. And that reality, he suggested, could only be perceived by starting afresh, starting over again, looking with new eyes. It would feel like being born all over again — washed this time not by our mothers’ water breaking but by the spirit’s inbreaking. I must have exhibited astonishment on my face because he got suddenly serious and said it was the only way.

The evening breeze picked up about then and, as it tousled his hair, he said it was something like the wind that he was talking about. Something unexpected, unseen, and yet absolutely real and completely necessary. This “spiritual” reality was like that for any who chose to start afresh a new kind of perspective. When I expressed my doubts, or at least skepticism, about all that, he gently wondered how I could claim to be a teacher in our community at all if I did not understand such things.

And he went on to say that he and his followers and friends were all about bearing witness to this new (and yet old) way of seeing the world. The frustrating thing, according to him, was that so many were quite willing to acknowledge and even appreciate the help he’d been able to provide any number of people, particularly the poor and outcast in the community, but they seemed unwilling or unable to acknowledge the source of such power.

He seemed perfectly willing to serve as a model for this way of being even if it meant standing out in the crowd as a beacon of hope like the mystical bronze serpent our ancestor had held aloft in the desert when all hope seemed to have vanished for our people all those centuries ago.

Our conversation concluded with his observation that the kind of reality, the kind of power he was talking about was none other than the power of love, the spirit’s own love, which he had dedicated his life to embody no matter what the consequences. And he didn’t really understand why people were so threatened, so fearful, and so defensive about this message because his point was that it was all about freedom and new life, not about the condemnation of anyone.

Maybe. But threat, fear, and defensiveness were exactly what his message seemed to evoke in the leadership, no matter how hard I tried to convince them otherwise. And, many months later, my old teacher’s observation that there was nothing new under the sun seemed undeniably true.

As, on a day of preparation, I met my friend Joseph in the garden. To bury yet another prophet.

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