Does the Lord delight in my work?
The question came to me after a talk with Sasquatch. See, my work is dark. I wrote Chaste and was told by a reviewer that it was evil. She told me she and her husband did not want a Jesse Teller book ever sent to them again. There was no need for some of the things in that book, and they did not want any association with Jesse, the man or the writer, ever again.
This hit me pretty hard. I went to Sasquatch broken. I came to him and asked him what he thought.
He had made the comment a few weeks earlier that he thought once I accepted the Lord in my life and had worked out all the darkness from my past, that my work would not be as dark as it is now. That I would not feel the need to pump that sort of evil into the world. He foresaw a time when I was writing “Regular Fantasy.”
After my work being called evil, I came to him and I asked him, does he think God delights in my work? Was I doing God’s work or was I a tool of something darker?
His answer was very noncommittal. He said I needed to answer that question myself. Did I feel it necessary to traumatize my reader, or did I think I could do better? These were not questions he could answer. He asked me to pray and find the answer myself.
He knew I could not pray. And let’s look deeper at that and find out why.
Prayer was a thing I lived with since I was thirteen and had first joined Harmony Baptist. I had begun to talk to God and ask Him for blessings. I wanted Him to grant me this and I wanted to really have that. But that is not how prayer works, and I never found that my prayers were working.
As I got further and further into my walk with the Lord, my church hit the Sin Button pretty hard, hammering into all our heads that we were sinners. They talked a lot about how we didn’t deserve God’s love. How we didn’t deserve to be saved. That all of us deserved death and blood and eternal burning. That we were filthy, but, but Jesus, in His benevolence, had decided to forgive us. That in our wretchedness, He saw something worth saving, so we had to do what we were told. Admit that we were shit. Embrace that the only way we were ever going to be worthy of anything but flame was to agree He was it for us. Then we had to do everything He told us to do, try to be like Him, and He would let us in The Kingdom.
So I ate that right up. Servant had been told all his life that he was not good enough by Rose. He was the only one who brought her any happiness at all. Still, with everything he did for her, she criticized him. He got a pat on the head every now and then, but always the sharp word was not far behind.
Rose would grow cold and get quiet, and he learned this meant she was mad. At what, he did not know, but there was a crisis and he needed to figure it out. He would try to please her, try to do anything he thought might make her happy. But in the end Servant knew he was flawed.
For no reason, Rose would yell at him. For no reason, he would get in trouble, so he already knew he was unworthy.
He began to pray for forgiveness. He decided if he did, if God forgave him for all the darkness within him, that he would become worthy. His mother would stop screaming at him. His self-worth would improve. And the constant guilt he walked around with would dissipate. All of it would go away if he could only get God to forgive him. So he prayed.
But soon it was obvious he was fooling himself, because the message doesn’t change from there, it only gets worse. Not only are you unworthy, but even when you don’t want to sin, you do anyway. The Christian church enjoys telling its followers that not only have they sinned, but they will do it again. That no matter how much they fight and try to be clean and do as God tells them to do, they will fail.
‘If you think it, you might as well have done it’ is one of Jesus’s greatest hits. And all sins are equal in the eyes of God.
Servant knew that Char had hurt us pretty bad, that he had hurt Rose, that he had hurt Less. Servant knew Char was a monster who deserved hell. But Servant also used God’s name in vain once in class when he couldn’t remember the answer to problem nine. So Servant’s curse was just as bad as Char’s rape, Char’s molestation, his infidelity, his breaking of Pain, and all the horror he had committed on all of us.
God saw no difference.
So in the eyes of God, Char and Servant are equal. In the eyes of God, there is no saving yourself from Char’s level of damnation.
But it’s cool, ’cause Jesus loves us anyway.
No matter what we do, we can never be worthy. No matter how hard we try, if we even have a sinful thought, we have committed it. And for a teenage boy, that is the most damning thing you can possibly say.
Servant prayed for forgiveness. He swore he would do better. He waited for God to tell his mother he was a good boy. He waited for the church to lift him up. He was sure that any minute God would give him a nod. And every sermon was another pounding of the idea that we are all sinners who fall short of the Glory of God.
When Servant was hit on the mouth for saying he didn’t like the way Rose had spoken to Less, he knew he was never going to be good enough. He stopped praying and left it at that.
Shadow had decided he would talk to God about the things he found unfair and fair. Let him just keep a dialogue with God Almighty in his head all the time. He decided that everything he thought, he would invite God to hear.
Shadow cursed. And he realized the eye of God never turned from him. He felt God’s love, even though Shadow was vile in the eyes of everyone else. He became so in tune with God that he could tell when God thought something was funny. He would get a surge of hilarity, and Shadow and God’s relationship began to kick off.
Shadow decided everyone was interpreting Thou Shall Not Take The Lord’s Name in Vain totally wrong.
God is not petty. He is not an arrogant ass. God has better things to do than get pissed when Shadow says, “God dammit.” Why the fuck would he care about that sort of shit? War. Genocide. Rape. Murder. And God is so petty that he takes offense to someone saying “Jesus’ sake?” No.
Shadow came up with a new idea. What if God did not care about that sort of shit at all? It was not the curse that God cared about, but the Word.
What if God did not hate a Christian cursing, but He despised when His words and His name was taken out of context to smite another. What if thou shall not take the Lord’s name is vain meant, “If you take my name or my word and use it for your own purposes, if you use my name to lie to another, to gain power over another or to push your own agenda, then I’m gonna get pissed”?
So Shadow kept talking to the Lord. It was a constant conversation that at times he would have alone, other times he had in front of people. He would look away from the person he was talking to, say something as if breaking the fourth wall, and when he did he was talking to God.
Then everything went wrong with Camelot. The lust of one woman tore down Shadow’s entire ministry. It set at least nineteen kids back in their faith. And then that woman and her family picked up and went to find another home, a new church, and a new start.
Then Shadow didn’t want to talk to God anymore. Then Shadow did not care to hear God’s hilarity. After the fall of Camelot, Shadow could never talk to God again.
Shadow was on a path of flame. And it was headed off to nowhere, to a place without God, salvation, or redemption.
So when Sasquatch told me to ask God, to pray and find out if God delighted in my work, he knew I could not. I told him so. I told him too much had happened between me and God. I could not get over it, and I could not find my way back to a conversation with God.
Sasquatch said nothing. He asked no questions about what Chaste was about. He asked no questions about why I thought my work might not fit in God’s plan. He just dropped it.
See, he wanted me thinking I was not on God’s path. Sasquatch wanted me to feel lost and needed me to feel like a sinner. Because I had taught him so much about art and manhood, he decided the one thing he could teach me about was God. Sasquatch had to be the one to lead me to God, and in order to do that, he needed me to be a sinner. He needed God not to delight in my work.
He would not say it himself. But he had a dog in that fight.
I would not get over this for years. I hated myself for creating what I wrote for years. I could not stop. The inspiration was dark and I followed it to dark places. I hated myself for a long time.
Then I overheard a conversation about Chaste between two readers who did not know I was listening. I was on a Facebook page and the topic of Chaste came up.
“Have you read it?” a woman asked another.
“This is the most important book I have read in a decade,” the other said.
I started to think about it, and at its core, it is not about evil deeds or darkness at all. At its core, Chaste is a journey of one woman who was born to a holy family and has lost her faith, has grown bitter at the actions of her god and has to face him. And deal with that bitterness.
Chaste is a book about rediscovering your faith.
This book is as well. At the end of this book, I will face God. I will tell Him of my grievances. And I will wait for His inspiration. By the end of this book, I will find out if God has anything to say to me. I will see if I can work it out with my Lord.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.