An Analogy of Salvation

The Paper

But after more time in the Hall of Religion, I again stray into the Main Hall. I have reached the point where I am repeatedly wondering why believing for believing’s sake is not an exercise in self-deception. How can believing in something that one does not really know exists ever be helpful for anything? I am not willing to say that God does not exist, but despite all of the time and effort I spent in the Hall of Religion, I am ready to admit that I have not been able to find him. And I don’t know of anyone else who has found him either.

I wander down the Main Hall and find a bench and step up on it. I gaze over the heads of the crowd that is moving slowly up and down. In the distance I can see the doorways that I have never entered. There is the Archway of Science far down on the left, and on the right is the Hall of Art and then the Hall of Music, and farther down there is Theater, Mechanics, Mathematics, Medicine, Law, Electronics, and others as well. I look at these portals of humanity, these doors that are supposed to lead to all that is good and all that is great, but I must confess that they seem to be just so many empty promises.

Inside of the halls are fine old men and women, masters of life who are there to make life complete and make it good, but they can do nothing with this thing inside of me that never sleeps.

How many of them carry the same silent scream?

They work their marvels within their fields and they speak from the insides of doorways and they have acquired all that can be given to them, but they cannot touch the one thing that I must solve before any of these things can ever be what they promise to be.

I watch them and I wonder. What am I seeing? Am I looking at a corridor of gold or is this a midway with ticket booths and barkers grinning? These doorways are everything and they are nothing.

I sit down and inside my pocket I find the crumpled paper that the stranger gave me. Across the top of it is written, NOT FOR EVERYONE and below it are the words, “There is a God and He is outside.”

What fools! The children who write these things are living an illusion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not judge these people; and I know they really believe the things that are written on their papers. I know they too must deal with reality; they too must try to turn this life into what it cannot be. They are searchers as well. But really. There is a limit. Reality does have its place and imagination, as lovely as it is, must at one point yield to reason or we will be forever lost in these dreams of God and visions of a spiritual wonderland.

You are a fool, stranger. There is no outside. Get used to it. I did. What you see is all there is.

Of course, there may be a God, I really don’t know, but one thing I do know is that wherever he is he is not “outside.” God is within us. God is the embodiment of all essence. He is the center, the core. He is the Credo, the Principle of what we all must live for. All spiritual expressions lead to God. And if we believe hard enough we will eventually ...

This is all there is. It has to be.

But there is a map on the other side of the paper and I want to follow it just because I am curious. I read it.

After an hour of walking, the map takes me to a narrow hall without a door. It is poorly lit. I hate places like this. But, fool that I am, I follow it, and I come to a small door near the end of the hall. Over the door is written just one word, “Christ.” I open the door and find another dimly lit corridor. I am insulted that anyone would demean Christ in this way. It is narrow and the lights hang from the old ceiling on wires; there is a musty smell and I am afraid. I walk the entire hallway and I finally come to the door that is marked on the map and on the door is written the word “Outside.”

I find another paper pinned to the wall to the right of the door. It says, “God has created the house and everything in it, but you are separated from Him because of the lies that you have told, because of the pride that you have loved, because of the people you have used, and because you have loved darkness and pretended it was light.”

Oh my God. This is so Sunday School. God is a god of love, not hate.

“These things,” it says, “have caused you to die inside. The void is the spiritual part of you that is dead. And you are far more dead than you know.”

I am not happy with this. I should throw this ridiculous paper away and go back to the Hall of Religion.

The message says that the death inside me is eternal and it will consume me in the end. But Jesus Christ died for me. It says that He paid for my death with His death. He became sin for me. It says that I can choose to have the benefit of what He did if I trust in him and he will give me life. This life, it says, is free for the taking. It is a gift.

This is so terribly childish. It is demeaning, primitive.

It says that the gift that He gives is eternal life and that His gift will fill my death-void with life. I will experience the presence of God. It says that God will make Himself known to me.

Quite frankly, that is the first time anyone ever told me I could actually experience anything about God. Everything that they have been talking about in the Hall of Religion is how to have enough faith just to believe that God exists.

However, in order to know God I must open the door.

This is crazy. Everyone knows that there is no outside, so opening the door is not a reasonable act. And not only that, by opening the door I am admitting that I have done bad things and I am not ready to admit that.

But the door is in front of me and it is only a door, one of many doors that I have tried.

On the back of the paper are these words, “Christ is the door.”

I don’t like this. Christ is not a door. And if I open this door I will find out for certain that there is no outside and that there is no God. And I don’t know if I am ready for that or not. And this thing is silly anyway. This dying for me theme minimizes and denigrates God. Christ was a great teacher, but he didn’t die for anybody; the cross was an example, not a payment. God is not something that needs to do that.

And God is not something that is accompanied by the non-person like the boy who gave me the paper, and God is certainly not to be found in a back hallway that smells vaguely like a stable. God is the center of our being. He does not communicate with us by writing on doors or on paper or anywhere else. He is the ground of being and all that, and he is not really, you knowanywhere.

But this door is in front of me and I must leave or I must try it.

And the paper says, “I am the way.”

This is not for me. There is no “way.” I need to go back to the Hall of Religion where I belong.

“I am the way.”

I am going to take this paper and shred it when I get back. No one should have to go through this condemnation. Where is my companion when I need him? I don’t need this abuse.

Over the doorknob are these words, “If you are insincere, you may turn the knob but the latch will never catch.”

This is ridiculous, completely ridiculous and I am not going to do it.

But, in reality, this is just one more door to try. It may be true that nothing ventured is nothing gained, but by God, if I am going to try this I am finished with pretending.

OK, God, let’s get honest. If you are there and I tell you that I believe in you, you’re going to know I’m lying. And I don’t have any more faith than what is necessary just to turn this doorknob. But I will try because I don’t have a thing to lose. So, God, for what its worth, I am placing all of my faith, whatever it is, in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all the wrongs that I have ever done. I am trusting in what Christ did by dying on the cross for me. And God, if you really are there, and you will give me the peace that I am looking for, I will give you everything I’ve got.”

I turn the knob and I feel the latch engage. The door is opening.

In the crack of the door I am seeing an intense light. It is blinding me because it is so bright. I raise my arm to shield my eyes and look down. I push the door wider. My eyes are closed because of the light. I feel air moving as if by fans, but I hear no fans. I take a step into the room. I smell a freshness that I have never known and there is softness under my feet. My eyes are opening slowly now and I see green grass growing out of the floor. As my eyes become accustomed to the intense lighting in this room, I look for the opposite wall and it is so far away that I cannot find it. Now I am looking upward into the light and I see ... I see blue, blue everywhereoh my God, my God, my God, there is no ceiling. I am outside!