The Magic Kingdom is a long, very personal essay I wrote in 2003, which I am posting here in installments, without re-reading or editing (because, once I start, I would edit it into a different essay!). This is the final section
I The Magic Kingdom I–The Varieties of Magic
II The Magic Worlds of Art and Nature.
III Deep Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.
IV The Magic Kingdom of Prayer
V The Ones He Calls and the Ones He Chooses
The Ones to Whom He Opens the Door.
And in church, the veil of sin between me and Him hangs heavily, for we had once known sweet fellowship, and I realize my greatest betrayal was that I turned my eyes far from his lovely eyes, and I cry out for forgiveness, and for his life to once more flood me. And I remember that the publican who went home justified before God merely cried, “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one Anita who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous who do not need to repent. “For all the fitness he desireth is to feel thy need of him.”
And I cry out, “Oh wretched woman that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? For I am a woman of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” And time and time again, in response, the veil which I long to step through is ripped in two from top to bottom, and I step over, and with the eyes of faith, I see the Lord, seated on his throne, high and lifted up, and the whole earth is full of his glory, and I ask him to brand me so deeply that I can never stray, and I feel my heart and lips touched by the burning coal of repentance, and I hear the magical words, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
And I might be asked to speak at a church function, lead a Bible study, write a spiritual piece, and I think “Who am I?” and I remember another to whom he opened the door, a murderer in hiding who had quite literally broken–not just lamps and mugs–but all the ten commandments in one fell swoop–who had the same reasonable query, and was reassured, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say;” “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”
This is the deepest magic I know: that God is agape, that he loves the lazy and weak-willed and vacillating, the undisciplined and messy–like me–and though I may slap on a smile and shine my house, and close the windows when I lose my temper, and dangerously shove laundry and secrets and skeletons into closets to molder in the darkness, I am still loved by One from whom no secrets need to be kept, for his serious direct eyes see right through them, and he loves me anyway, the kind of love which, when offered us, however imperfectly, by a father, a husband, a mentor, a friend, a child staggers and transforms us.
Yes, this too is what prayer is like: not being able to meet the eyes of Him my heart loves, for the golden life-line that bound us has been so frayed by rage, hatred, revulsion, fear and frustration; and I feel like stone–cold, hard, dead (and a little crazy); and I realize that I have never known how to love; and my betraying heart says with Enobarbus in Anthony and Cleopatra, “I am alone the villain of the earth.” It is then to discover that when the dead trees of the ice storm snapped all visible cables, the underground cords that bound me to him were not, could not be, severed, for they were secured deep, in the basement of my personality, when I implored him in, and he came and set up his dwelling within me. And though I have filled my mind and days with sin and folly and distraction, in the bunker basement of my being, unscathed by 5000 pound bombs, or the hurricanes and tornadoes of the heart, he remains, the heart of my own heart, a love so extravagant and stunning that I cannot quite get my mind around it.
The magic of the Kingdom is that the imperfect and erratic such as I can enter it, that its doors are always open, that repentance is the key. That I am in the grip of deep grace; that he will not let go; that the days when I run to him, humbled by my failures, are the days when I, in fact, have the most room in my heart for him; when I most resemble the ones he chose. That this is an eclectic sampling of those to whom he opened the door: yes, yes, some of the ninety-nine righteous, but also Augustine, fettered by lust, horrified at the implications of conversion: “Give me chastity, but not yet,’ he famously prays; Colson, feeling furious, framed, shamed by Watergate; Anne Lamott, drunk, doped, hemorrhaging after an abortion, whose audacious sinner’s prayer was, “Fuck it. You can come in.”
Those He Transforms
Samuel tells Saul–“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power and you will be changed into a different person.” Is there anyone so self-satisfied, so smug, for whom this promise holds no magic? Psychotherapy, self-help books–vehicles of hope for modern man–at best help us to bear fortune’s slings and arrows by increasing insight, modifying behavior. To enter the magic kingdom, to become a true Christian, modifies the heart. This is the promise of the new covenant: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” “For if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation;” Paul writes. “Very lovely, but not really true,” I thought when first a Christian. I now believe it–and not just because I believe Scripture is inspired. Nobody could talk the blind man of John 9 out of his own experience: “One thing I know. I was blind, but now I see.” I know God can dramatically transform the human personality because I find myself experiencing it with great joy.
For as the yeast of the Kingdom rises through me, everything I consider important or impressive, the eyes with which I see people; the way I live my life–it’s all thoroughly reshuffled. I rapidly change, every few months, so much so that I can read the journals of six months, a year ago, with sadness and bemusement as if they belonged to another woman, and say, like Angelo in Measure for Measure, “but that was in a far country, and the wench is dead.”
A drab brown caterpillar in our garden shriveled into a chrysalis, inconspicuous as a dead twig, before it streaked across the garden, a striking orange and black kite, a startling paraglider, a Viceroy butterfly. The same Ancient of Days who designed those metamorphoses designed ours: that the yeast of ancient words, and a spirit, ancient before there were days, should transform us with ever-increasing glory from lumpen dough to warm, nourishing, golden, glorious bread, until we barely resemble the woman we once were.
This then is the
: powerfully transforming, but invisible so that its reality can be doubted in my own life, or in other peoples’. When the resplendent streamers of the aurora borealis play on it, it shimmers, solid and immutable, and I am certain that I will never live in any other reality for its joy pulses through my blood and bones. Yet the mists of pressure, foolishness, fury, weariness, or despair can obscure that iridescent castle. I reach out through the fog: Have I lost God, or have I never known him? But the mists lift, and at dawn, I see him, and he is the rising sun from heaven, the bright and morning star, the King of Kings, seated on his throne, and I know that he is my friend, and that he has established his magic kingdom within me, and all around me, and it will never pass away. Magic Kingdom
Share on site of your choice … Wikio