Excerpt From the Last Chapter: Reaching

“…He isn’t withholding knowledge of Himself out of capriciousness or wrath or cruelty. [It’s simply that] we don’t speak Heaven’s language. We don’t read it. We don’t understand it. We must learn. And first, we must want to learn,” I wrote.

Z exploded again, “‘[W]e must want to learn.’ [B]ut why would we want to learn? [W]hat could possibly set us upon a path towards knowledge and understanding of scripture? [T]he answer, unfortunately for you, is that there is nothing. [T]he wanting to learn presupposes some reason to want to learn. [B]ut having some reason to want to learn presupposes some knowledge. [B]ut having some knowledge is only possible if one wants to learn. [S]o round and round and round we go, until we either vomit or concede that this is a path to nowhere. [W]e only want to learn if we have knowledge, but only have knowledge if we want to learn. [B]ut all this is part and parcel of the christian [sic] blame-the-victim mentality. [I]f only you wanted to learn… [I]f only you would open your heart… [T]he real issue is god’s [sic] existence or his sanity. [O]ne or the other must be absent.”

He believes there is nothing that could set us on a path to learning to be in communication with You. But it’s like what happened with Georg:

Georg read from my book:

“So she was burnt with all her clothes,
“And arms and hands, and eyes and nose;
“Till she had nothing more to lose
“Except her little scarlet shoes;
“And nothing else but these was found
“Among her ashes on the ground.” (1)

“Paulinchin!” I crowed and bounced in my seat. “Papa reads that story to me in German!” Carsten, Georg’s little brother, pressed close to the older boy’s side. “She burned up,” he said softly as his thumb inched into his mouth. “She did!” I bounced again. “She played with matches and danced around the fire and burned up!” I bounced out of my chair and twirled until I fell on the floor in a dizzy heap. When the room stopped spinning, I looked up at Georg, “How do you know what those black marks on the page mean?” “I can read,” he told me. “How?” my voice was a long breathless wonder. “I learned to read in school,” he said definitively.

“When can I go to school?” I asked Marmar. She started back a bit, creases came into her forehead, “When you’re five. I suppose…” I nodded and swaggered off to play with my wooden train.

“And how old are you?” the strange man asked me. I backed myself against Papa’s leg, my eyes opened wide. “How old are you. Lysse?” Papa prompted. “Five,” I held up three fingers. “She’s three,” Papa corrected me. I looked up at Papa, “I’m five.” Papa and the strange man exchanged glances. “She’s three,” Papa told him.

“I’m five!” I ran through the hall singing. “I’m five!” Marmar called me into the sitting room. “Lysse, you know you’re three,” I stood before her clouded face. “I’m five,” I insisted nodding my head. “Why do you keep saying you’re five? You know you’re three,” Marmar used her serious voice. “Because,” I began. “You said I could go to school when I’m five.” Marmar blinked, “Why do you want to go to school?” “I want to learn to read,” I told her. “Read?” she asked, her forehead crinkling. “Georg learned to read at school. I want to know what those black marks in books are.” Marmar pressed her lips together for a moment. Finally she said, “I’ll talk to your Papa. Go play now.” She sent me off with a pat on my bum.

“Lysse, I want you to meet Mara,” a young woman with curly red hair reached for my hand. She was taller than Marmar; red freckles covered her face. I kept my hands behind my back. Marmar lifted me from the floor. She spoke gently, “Mara has come to teach you to read.” I looked at the curly, red haired woman. Her brilliant blue eyes crinkled as she smiled. My eyes widened; my mouth shaped itself into a little smile.

I didn’t know what school was. But Georg was tall and swung me and Carsten around and played with us on the floor. He read the stories only grown ups read. I wanted to learn to read like him. He showed me something new and like a baby learning to crawl or walk, I reached. That’s the way You’ve made us, to reach for more.

Yes we need some knowledge. We must know there’s something out of reach. But we also need the desire to stretch out and grab hold of it. Without that desire, we’re like that poor eight month-old baby whose father left him in the playpen all day as he watched sports. No matter what I tried, he wasn’t interested in anything. He’d sit in his highchair and prop his head on one hand. When one arm tired, he’d prop his head on the other side. I’ve cared for so many babies but never encountered another eight month-old like him.

He opened his mouth and let me spoon food into it. He ate Cheerios one at a time. He didn’t gobble the things he loved or squawk when something odd was popped into his mouth. He was a lump. Oh Beloved, I wish I’d been able to sit for him more often, take him out, play with him. But they didn’t want to spend the money. I do pray You healed him. That baby was not as You’ve made us to be.

1) Heinrich Hoffman, Slovenly Peter or Cheerful Stories and Funny Pictures for Good Little Folks (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, n.d. (1900?), (http://germanstories.vcu.edu/struwwel/pauline_e.html)

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