The Light on Heaven's Porch


The Light on Heaven’s Porch

A Personal Essay by Cathleen Hulbert


           I learned about Jesus as a child and I felt really good about Him as a brother and a friend. But the Heavenly Father, as portrayed to my young mind, frightened me. I tried to be good. But I never felt good enough to get into Heaven. And fiery visions of the other place were invoked in me long before I knew the true meaning of bad.

           Sometimes during daily mass at my Catholic school I would hold my breath until I blacked out and fell over. I was about 7 or 8 when I started doing it. A kindly nun or a teacher would help me up and I would wait in a nearby classroom looking out the window. It was then that I felt closest to God. He didn’t scare me when I saw His brilliance in the colorful flowers and lush trees that grew in our Florida town. On a balmy day I imagined Him as the wind that would come through the classroom window, tickling my face. Other times I heard Him whistling at me in the songs of birds sitting in a tree or splashing in the birdbath just outside. It felt like I was sitting on His front porch admiring the beautiful scenery. God was right there, playful and loving. I think this is what Jesus was trying to teach us. And I’m pretty sure that this is what the adults in my life meant to teach me, too. But they were probably afraid.    

            I’m about 40 years older now but the child in me still leads the way. I savor those gentle caresses that remind me of what God is all about. Oh how I love my Divine Parent! We’ve been through a lot together, He and I. Or She and I.  Pure Love has no gender. That much I’ve figured out. We’re the ones who split hairs, genders, races and atoms. We are contentious, tribal, punitive and stubborn. It’s this mix of very human qualities that we have projected onto God. And we’ve been doing it for the longest time.   

           No wonder we’re scared.

           So I asked the kid in me, the one who remembers being tickled and serenaded by the wind and the birds, if she would help me out with this. What does the Innocent One in each of us, the beloved Christ Child, want us to know about our Maker? You see, this kid that I was, and I am, is the closest connection I have to divine innocence. She’s my pipeline to Source, my little bird in the window. It is good when I remember to ask her.  

            And this is what she said to me: “Forgive each other and be joyful. Love each other and feel safe. Even when your bodies and minds feel threatened, know that your spirits are indestructible. God does not harm His children. She does not destroy those who have wandered too far from Home.”

My heart heard and understood. It is not in the nature of Pure Love to withhold Love. It is not in the nature of Love to destroy Her creations. We -- as God’s powerful

offspring -- have been granted free will. We have created a space in which to play and create. But we have forgotten the sacred stuff of which we are made. We have forgotten the simple rules that my inner child spelled out to me. So now we are lost, tired and our pride is hurt. We point fingers because we know we’ve made a mess of things.

        “But guess what?” the child in me asks when my thoughts get negative.

        “What?” I say, anticipating her good news.

        “The prodigal girls and boys will be welcomed Home with open arms!” she answers excitedly. “God loves us no matter what! We’re not being punished. We’re just being stubborn. We worry too much.”

        No wonder Jesus loves the little children. I love them, too. And I really believe in the wisdom of this eternal Child in me. I trust her instincts. Her answers resonate as Truth. Why? It’s the only explanation that makes sense. When I was a social worker in a pediatric hospital I watched children suffer through illness, die from accidents and recover from the broken bones and broken hearts inflicted by abuse. Sometimes I would go home and have it out with God. I’d do all of this before my husband and step-son came home. Better to get it out of my system, I’d say to myself, before I start handling knives and chopping vegetables for dinner.

       I did this more than once. And never once was I struck my lightning. I wasn’t even knocked over by a hard wind. God listened. God filled me up with unconditional Love

and then back I went to the hospital to hold hands and wipe tears and be a listening ear. When I ran out of spiritual gas, so to speak, I’d go home and look up at the ceiling and start yelling again. God heard my hunger and my thirst. And again I was filled with unspeakable Love.

        “Oh, I get it,” I’d say to myself sometimes. “God didn’t create this mess. We’ve gotten ourselves all tangled up in a world of our own collective making. It’s a world where the innocent suffer, so there’s no chance that it is a just world. No, God as a loving Parent did not do this to us. We did it.”

         There is something liberating about taking ownership of my mistakes. Being defensive takes too much energy. One of the best parts about adulthood is that I get to learn that beautiful lesson again and again. So it stands to reason that as a collective Child of God we are going to feel a whole lot better when we can just say we’re sorry for running away. Oh sure, there are some wonderful aspects of humanity. There is beauty and innocence in us when we are looking at each other through the eyes of Christ.   

            But how often does that actually happen compared to the number of times our egos find something in another human being that prompts us to feel judgment, disgust, suspicion and hate? We’re confused about ourselves and each other. Can’t we just say we

are very sorry and actually quite lost and go Home in peace, knowing how much we are loved?

I believe we can. I believe that if we knew how much we are loved by God it would break our hearts. It would break them wide open and we would be free. I wish I could have said that to Dan, my late husband, before he took his life. I don’t know if he could have heard me. I’ll probably never understand what made a seemingly happy man gas himself in the family car. It had to be awful for him to leave his precious 10-year-old son. He left a letter condemning himself for his imagined sins. They were not real.

           Had I known anything about his suffering, me, the wife who held his hand when we fell asleep at night, I would have taken that same hand and said, “Look up at the ceiling and share your pain.” I would have stood by his side while he yelled and cried for help until he was comforted by God’s unspeakable Love. I would have looked in my husband’s eyes and said, “I see the innocent Christ Child in you, my beloved. You don’t have to destroy yourself.” I never got the chance to tell Dan these things, although I think he understands it now, probably better than I do. He couldn’t destroy the part of himself that is eternal. I believe that is the lesson he learned. I can feel it in my heart that he is at peace. Sometimes I think he is even whispering to me, “If you only knew how much you are loved by God, it would break your heart. It would break your heart wide open and you would be free.”  I can’t go back in time and tell the flesh-and-blood Dan that I saw the Christ dwelling in him. I saw it when he stood radiant at the pulpit of our church, reading the liturgy as an elder. I saw it when he carved a pumpkin with his son and when he smiled lovingly at me across the dining room table. Maybe I didn’t yet have the wisdom to convey this. It all seems so long ago.

           But I can tell you what I see. I can tell my co-workers and my brother and my parents and my friends. I can tell the woman who rings up my groceries and looks exhausted near the end of her shift. Maybe I won’t go around conveying this holy message the same way to everyone. The cashier doesn’t know me from Eve, so hearing that I see her divine innocence would probably create more alarm than comfort. But the kid in me can wink playfully at the kid in her. I can send her love while she is handing me my change. And the loving woman inside of me can smile warmly and convey that she is good and beautiful and divine. I can say this silently with the kindness that flows from my eyes when my heart is open.  

          She is all of those wonderful things. We are all of those things.

          I think that is what the grownups meant to teach me when I was a kid. But this world is confusing. It’s natural that some of them got turned around and upset, expecting the worst from God. Maybe in their own way they were trying to protect me.

         Jesus knew the Way. And when we hear Him now in our hearts, we hear the Truth about what is waiting for us. I feel really good about Jesus, the way I did when I was a kid. And the older I get the more excited I am about Heaven. I’m close enough now that I believe I can see the porch light burning. Thanks for keeping it on so long, dear God. We’re coming Home.

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