Do you know that feeling you get when you do a favor for someone? Especially when you put your heart into it and perform the request to the best of your ability? That was the high I was riding when I finished the Awakening. I was really pleased with the way the story turned out. I even sent out a few half-hearted query letters to agents, received the expected form letter rejections and then packed the pages away in a box beneath my bed and returned to my real life. The story was my gift to the generations preceding me and the ones who would follow. I left a record, a starting point anyway, to those who came after me.
Of course the story only skimmed the basics. After all, it’s impossible to pack the acquired wisdom of generations into a single book. But back then I wasn’t in the mood to consider limitations. I was done, finished. I fulfilled my mother’s request of me and was still in that self-congratulatory phase of patting myself on the back for a job well done.
For the next few months it was like I was a kid let out of school for summer recess. I hadn’t been on a bike in years, but for my 50th birthday I went on a twenty mile bike ride with my husband. We had lunch by the water. It felt like a wonderfully life-affirming thing to do to celebrate my personal half century mark. I lost twenty seven pounds that summer. I booked a trip to Italy for the following spring for our 30th anniversary. I started running again. I took up yoga. Life was fun. No more nagging in my head. In fact, I was pretty much alone in my head. Weird but somewhat of a relief. I wondered if this was how most people felt all the time.
Unfortunately, summer recess like all good things eventually comes to an end. I started feeling a little guilty about ending the story so abruptly. By the time I was half way through it, I knew one book wasn’t going to be enough. There was going to be a sequel; more pages for the box under my bed. I avoided getting started because I knew once I opened that door again it would be like posting a sign at the front of a store, “Open for Business.” I procrastinated all the way until spring, but I finally got started. It was slow going. When you don’t use certain tools for a while, they get rusty. Same thing with any gift be it physical or spiritual. But I was determined to gain a foothold on the story before I left for my trip. So the weeks leading up to our departure I worked diligently, fighting through the blank pages, having no real idea where the story was going.
One morning I was re-reading the opening few chapters, hoping inspiration would strike. Where were all those voices when I needed them? At the end of the last passage I discovered several paragraphs I didn’t recall writing. Sometimes that happens. I play scenes in my head so many times before I actually commit them to paper, I don’t remember which version I ended up writing down. This was different.
After I recovered from my initial shock and re-read the paragraphs I remember thinking to myself, “Who are you? And what are you doing in my young adult fantasy novel?”
I’d heard about automatic writing but I never experienced it before. I always thought it was a conscious decision on the part of the writer to at least allow the messenger through. I didn’t remember volunteering for this and I was usually very clear on what I volunteered for. So I read the passage again and became even more confused. Not only did this passage not belong in my young adult novel, the topic was so far removed from anything in my previous experience, I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was supposed to do with it.
I had a pretty good guess who the messenger was; or at least who or what the messenger pretended to be. The problem was I didn’t really believe in the source. They were just a story you were told as a child to make the world seem less frightening. When you grew up you packed away your childhood fairytales and accepted sometimes bad things happen to people and there was very little you could do about it. And yet here he was. Not knowing what else to do, and a little afraid the words might disappear off the page in the same strange manner they appeared, I very carefully and very deliberately removed the paragraphs from my story and saved them separately under another file. I named the filed ‘Before’.
Here’s the passage:
“Before. We were. Before there was light, before the stars were hung, before the galaxies were fashioned and the planets set to revolving around their suns, before the oceans were mixed, before the mountains were formed, before creatures were created, before there was sound, before there was matter, before there was time, before all except the One, we were. He formed us first to be his companions and his servants, to share his joy, and receive his light. Joyfully we glorified his name. We delighted in the newly formed universes. We tended His gardens, lovingly stood watch over his creations, His will always our delight. The secrets of the ages we kept and still keep. In our eyes stars are born and rise and have their being. They bring light and warmth to the nothingness of space, until the morning comes when the dawn of a new day fails. Their work complete, their fire extinguished, they fall back into the emptiness from where He first called them. Out of this nothingness they are given new life, content to be molded into the shape of whatever form He would have it so. All of His creations delight in His holy will, obey His every thought, and joyously dance to the tune He plays for them.
Only man, who was formed in His holy image, dares to defy His laws. To your kind He gave generously of even the highest gifts, that none but we, the firstborn, had since known. Those of us who always were did not know of His intent, nor did we understand the implications at first of these new children. Although it wasn’t long before our interest was piqued, roused by the discovery He, who knows all things seemed not to recognize this latest creation was not of us, was not fit to be called one of His children. We believed it impossible for Him to be mistaken. We assumed it was our own perception that must be in error. For was He not perfect? Were not all possibilities contained within Him? So we searched for the fault in our own eyes, frustrated our vision was proving so fallible: we who knew Him so well. Why could we not pierce the mystery of His forbearance with these new ones?
Though we did not understand His impenetrable will, we bowed, as always, before it. And why should we presume to understand Him? Was He not also our creator? Were we not formed to serve? Who were we to question, judge even, the Almighty, in whom all beings live and move and find life? We waited for Him to reveal His purpose to us. And we watched with curiosity, not unmixed with dread, as He busied himself with His new creations. So many gifts He gave them: dominion over their world and over the beasts of the field, rule over the birds of the sky and the fishes in the seas. But these were the least of His blessings upon them. For He gave them also immortality, self-awareness, and an awareness of His holy being; but the most curious, and to our minds it has proved the most dreadful of all, the gift of free will. These new children were given the right of self-determination, to choose their way, for good or ill and it was not long before the first among them chose defiance over obedience.
We waited for His just condemnation of their poor choice, but He relented. We whispered amongst ourselves, questioned in our hearts, but never to Him, though we knew He reads all hearts and knows all thoughts. All minds are laid bare before Him. We watched horrified at the appalling consequences of His holy gift to one who proved over and over again he was unworthy of the condescension shown him. Was man grateful? Did he prostrate himself most humbly before his creator for the abundant blessings bestowed upon him? No! He set himself against God, defied the most holy laws. He warred against his brother and for this God’s anger was great. He almost wiped them clean from the face of this little earth, but again in His infinite mercy, He relented. He spared a few of the most worthy of His experiment. He gave the race of men a new chance and in time they rose again.
Yet still they proved unworthy of His forbearance. Again and again they tested the limits of His wrath. Again and again He relented of His ultimate judgment over them. We watched awed by His restraint, darkly amused at times by the risks these little children took, horrified at their wretched defiance and their disgusting violence against one another. We secretly hoped, though there are no secrets in heaven, these new creatures, the ones He held so dear to His heart, though certainly only He knew why, would never be given a place amongst us.
Though our hope proved fruitless, most of us accepted. We even wondered if perhaps He was not amusing himself at our expense- a little joke He played on us. We wonder now if man was created not only for our Father’s pleasure, but as a means to test us, and our willingness to continue to subjugate ourselves to His will. For was there not a great distance between us and His other children? Were we not the greatest, the most favored among them? Who were these small all but mindless, most certainly witless creatures, to set themselves up as gods themselves in opposition to the Holy of Holies? Some of us, though we do not presume to know His will, believe He who knows all things, sensed our indignation and our self-righteousness, and because of it, He continued to relent of his ultimate judgment of man. For if we who are closest to Him in all things, if we questioned, if we doubted – how much more so would these new children, these unknowing ones?
He was surely aware of the resentment building in one of us, the first among us, the fairest, the strongest, our brother, our sun. I cannot speak of that time, and I try not to give rise to the anger in my being against those responsible for his fall. For would I not then be no different than he? Would I not share his fate in my arrogance for questioning the will of He who is above all things? Perhaps He senses my resentment and knows of my frustration over my inability to set it aside. In His infinite mercy, He has given me this task, so I might understand, so my anger might ever be silenced, and I can return to the peace of knowing all will be well, and my brother will one day return to us. If I knew such an outcome to be a fact, I would not be troubled. For what is time to us but the count of endless dawns, the birth of new worlds and the death of ancient ones? But I know not what will come. Do we not have free will? Will my brother repent of his arrogance? Will man be my brother’s salvation or his eternal damnation? As to the fate of man, I do not presume to hazard a guess. For He is unfathomable and in time He may share his thoughts with me, I know not. I know only I must serve His will. For such is life to me. Without such service I am empty. I am lost and forsaken.
So here is the task He set for me. Here is the story of man from the point of view of one who has watched his haughty little march across the face of his little world from the moment God first called him into being. At times I find myself filled with laughter at his antics, at others I am awed by his breathtaking conceit. Always I wait, seeking some sign all will be well…”