It’s never as fun as in Peter Pan. It’s murder—A public execution. Peter Pan flew, but I don’t know how. I’d drown.
Being forced to jump backwards into blackness, being pushed off the place where I’m barely balancing, falling into terror, into no control, into the death of all I know is what I dread more than the misery of staying where I am.
When I fall backwards, I let go. I’m forced into it. I would never choose this. The things that push me off the edge are so cruel—drugs, shame, addiction, humiliation. Pain. Illness. A broken heart. Despair.
I can’t plan this, and neither can you. It’s foolish to even think so. Who would choose such fear and pain?
Instead I have to fall backwards into space I can’t even imagine. Something forces transformation over my head and holds it there. I can’t breathe. I have no idea what’s possible. All I can feel is the far edge of despair. I cannot comprehend the openness of surrender, of giving up.
But for some, something good is possible— even though it makes no sense and seems impossible. Just thinking this offends me. How dare anyone suggest that there can be goodness in rape and torture? In despair and suicide? In the starvation of innocents? In horror?
The answer is I don’t know. I have no idea. But on the other side of horror some people come to know a reality of love, courage, help and hope. No one can deny this.
I can never understand this healing, this new life. It’s just not of this realm. It’s not sewn from my thoughts.
What I know for sure is this: There is a mystery, a power, a touch that is overwhelming. Goodness is possible after despair.
Life is possible after all hope dies. I am not talking about heaven and angels. Even when I fail utterly, even when there seems no hope at all, things happen beyond it.
Think of the Ravensbruck prayer. Ravensbruck was a Nazi concentration camp for women and children. When the Allies finally freed the camp in the spring of 1945, the soldiers discovered a prayer written on a scrap of paper next to a body. On that ugly little scrap, written in the horror that drove good people insane were words of courage. Words of God. Words of love.
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will
but also those of evil will.
But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us;
remember the fruits we have borne thanks to this suffering—
the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this;
and when they come to the judgement,
let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
How did this happen? I have no idea. But it did. Can we comprehend how this warmth was possible in a place of utter cruelty? No. And that is the point.
No one planned this. And neither did some fantasy, omnipotent God, sitting on a throne, point a finger and say, “Now that woman can suffer so much that she writes a great prayer.” This is too childish. It’s like a high school student trying to explain aging to a 90 year old.
I’m not saying we’re silly or small. We are not. But there are enormous realities that lie beyond my ability to sense anything at all. Science isn’t enough, and neither is faith. We just do not know, and that’s okay.
The Divine Flow is much stronger, deeper and more loving than any facile explanation. Thinking it’s a person planning is like thinking that because I baked the cookies, I also made eggs and chickens. Butter and cows. Wheat plants in the sunshine.
Death often eases great pain. Often, as someone floats free in death, their spirit shines. Ask a hospice nurse. She has seen it many times, but she cannot explain it.
It has happened that people who have suffered unimagined torture and pain somehow claw a way to acceptance and joy.They may even become able to hold out a hand to the next person.
Should they have been forced to grow in this way? Of course not. There is no excuse or reason for the pain. And we should do everything we can to prevent any such injury.
But if we fail to prevent it, then afterwards, after the girl has been raped and tortured, after the child has been starved, after the man has put the gun into his mouth, that is the moment when we fall backwards into “I don’t know what is possible.”
In this place we discover miracles. Real ones, daily ones. Some people heal out of despair and then they help others. It is possible. We never intend it, and neither does God. It just happens, even though it seems impossible. I will never understand it, and neither will you.
That’s the point. That’s the touch of God. It’s real. It’s what we fall into when we fall off the end of the plank.
In the space beyond the end, in the opening of impossible possibility, I realize that I am safe, always. It’s the instant you look in my eyes. It’s the instant of caring, of love.
We are never alone—never. The Divine Awareness always holds us close. We may have grown hard and cold, we may have blocked out its touch, but God is always in us, with us, for us.
Death is not real. What we think is death is transformation of the shell. Our bodies give us pain and pleasure and the chance to love. But our essence, our “me-ness” is not the body. We’re spirits having a physical experience. We’re God-flakes that float into a physical experience of thoughts, confusion, pleasure and joy. And then we melt back into the Divine Flow.
Everything is known. Because we are all the One, the Divine Awareness links me and you and them and all existence. Usually though, we’re too armored to sense this. Yet even though it’s hard to sense, and much of it most people never sense, God knows every thought because God is every thought. Right here, right now, I am in God and God is in me and in you.
There is no judgment in the Oneness. There’s only unspeakable tenderness, gentler and sweeter than anything you or I have ever known. Even for the drunk who killed a whole family when he drove home last night. Even for the man who rapes children. I don’t understand this in any way, and there’s no point in trying.
But what matters is that I must love myself because God is in me and God understands. The Awareness, the Christ Consciousness, the Universe knows and loves and keeps on loving without any hesitation at all, and so must I. Once I see it, I have no choice because this is the flow that feeds every part of existence, including me and you.
There is only one answer: Reach out. Touch me. Kiss my cheek. Feed the ones you hate. Hold up the ones who smell of urine and feces. Touch someone. Listen. Honor not only the pain people go through but honor the unexpected, holy growth that might start in hell. And believe in impossible healing.
I do not know, and neither do you. We don’t know what’s possible. We don’t know what is kindest.
That’s why, when something forces us backwards off the plank, we grab something bigger, something stronger than anything in our little stable of prayers.
We have to choose a much bigger, broader horse, one where we are not the master at all. “May whatever happens next be for my higher good.” “May I grow in forgiveness and love, whatever that means.” “May I heal.” “May I open to God’s love in new ways.” “May I accept transformation that I do not understand.”
We have to allow transformation. Think of the big horse we landed on. This is power that we never imagined. It canters to places that we never even knew existed. It carries us.
What guides the power, what’s holding the reins of transformation is possibility itself. Openness to change that we have dreaded or wished for or never even imagined.
We cannot take the reins, just as a high school student cannot teach how to be ancient. It simply is not possible. We are not that big, and that is okay.
And so instead, falling off the plank, we surrender. We trust. That does not mean giving in to a cruel God who is looking for a way to punish us.
It means allowing the possibility—just the “maybe,” just the “okay”—that we do not know, but that there are solutions, blessings, joy, hope, healing that none of us—none of us— can imagine.
That’s exactly God. We can surrender into Divine Love. We can rest in the Mystery itself. It’s too big to be named, too exquisite to paint, too powerful to rein in, too loving to deny. God is safe. God carries us home—but not by any road we know. There is no prayer, no technique that makes God obey our small wishes.
Instead, after a while, we discover that we can stand up. We squeezed our eyes shut but now maybe we are willing to open them just a little bit. From here we can lean further back, we can look eagerly into the openness, into forever.
Try this image: Something forces us backwards, step by step. We feel anger and terror. Finally we fall backwards off the end. We fall and fall, falling, floating, floating…. This is what we cannot plan or imagine because it is not of this realm. It’s not my little plans or hopes. It seems that something is here. We can rest in it. We can breathe. It’s easy. We’re not alone. Around are others. I hear someone gasp in joy–—It’s me. This is easy. This is light.
For some it is time to join Love itself. It’s time to melt like an ice cube. How lovely to be the Love itself. I am the Ocean itself. I am the Oneness.
But if I am still in this body, I come back into a day that I don’t recognize. Maybe my arm moves and I think maybe I can move both arms. My foot moves. Maybe I can move my foot, my leg. I try some movement. I try changing because I must. We have to. We have fallen backwards into ourselves. We have died to our old selves and now here we are, right here, right now, moving a finger. Moving a leg. Whatever we were doing before did not work. We cannot claw our way back up the plank.
From nowhere, from everywhere comes a tender touch. A wisp of a whisper. Right here, right now, in the openness, something, someone touches us. Goosebumps rise, we gasp as we realize that we are not alone at all.
There’s a nudge. We try something. We wake up just a little bit.
One day, knowing what we know now, maybe we will call God by name. What we see now, as clear as a new mirror, is that I am the soft touch of God’s fingertip for you. You are the shining in God’s eye for me, for the world.
God is happening right here, right now. It’s me as I love you; it’s you as you love them; it’s them as they love that child; it’s that child as he loves the prisoner.
The plank was just a birth canal. The new air, the tiny body is me in God and you in God, which is all existence.
We are dancing, right here, right now, to a love song. The plank, the terror, the selfishness, the confusion are long past. I touch your finger. With one hand you caress my cheek, with another you reach for the one who is falling right now. My eyes are God’s eyes, your hand is God’s hand, their lips are God’s lips.
As you walk the plank, take a soft breath. We can step lightly. We have no idea what’s beyond, but we can dance right here, right now, holding hands. Hope itself is singing.
Let me pull you close. That’s right, gently. And now it’s your turn to reach out to me. Here is my heart, here is my hand.
by Jean Gendreau