Everlasting Is the Past
Walter Wangerin Jr.
Rabbit Room Press, 2015
Paul J. Pastor
The Suspension of Disbelief
"Marooned," as the pitiful, wonderful Canis Mundi Dog perpetually mourns in Dun Cow. "Maroooooooooned!" And he is the one who ends up saving the world!
I wonder whose voice is speaking through the dog.
"I want my land made new again," says Chauntecleer, feeling loss even after victory over the subterranean enemy. "I want the past scrubbed out of my soul. I want to never think of it again." The red-throated Pertelote speaks to him, of "that scrubbing of the past which you want so much, because it is confession. It is the new birth of the present, which you want so much because it prepares for deliverance. The one is separated from the other by forgiveness."
"Where now is my past?" Walt asks in the last words of Everlasting. "Where is the me that once was me but is me no longer?" Standing in the sanctuary of the church he led for 16 years, his mind swirls with images: the weddings and funerals he officiated, the Eucharistic moment, the traditional songs of a swelling choir.
Who is Walt? Where is he?
In the music. In the air.
He is all the countless ghosts of his past.
And I am preaching…
… Look: I am the child who enters the room where his father trimmed the Christmas tree.
I am the student considering suicide.
I am the man translating Jerome's Latin Bible and landing on the verse in Galatians which calls him into the ministry.
I am the newlywed, walking with my wife out of the church and into a high wind which blows her veil like a ship's sail over her head.
I am the father, raising chickens.
And I am preaching.
My past is so heavily present that I can scarcely bear it. But I am my past.
Forgiveness, of self, of God. Forgiveness, closing the chasm-like scar in the earth's face, large enough to gobble Volkswagens—about as big as the doubt a soul can carry. What opened it? Only a little thing—an egg, a question. But it grew to threaten the universe of one man, and perhaps, of all of us, though we did not know it.
It became a story about forgiveness. About faith. The past? Not scrubbed out, but newly born. Here, and personal. Maybe everlasting.
Paul J. Pastor is the author of The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Life of the Holy Spirit (David C. Cook, 2.1.16).
Copyright © 2015 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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