As the sun bore down, I once again felt tricked by the dream of catching the big one. I skirted the yucca-covered shoreline of Rattlesnake Island, and wondered if perhaps the snakes were stirring from their wintry slumber. I felt some relief when I finally spotted my boat anchored off the south shore, and knew that I'd be there soon enough.
There have many promises and prophecies, since the time of Christ, that have convinced countless believers that dramatic change was indeed imminent. For instance, as we approached the new millennium, I know that many of us expected that the close of the century would bring changes, the likes of which the world had never seen. At least that is many people came to believe from Biblically derived prophecies, or from the Biblically inspired prophecies of such from one of the best-known seers of our times -- Edgar Cayce. Steeped in a life of devotion to his Master, and informed by prodigious Biblical study, the Sleeping Prophet described scenarios, similar to those found in The Revelation, that would unfold from 1958 through 1998 that made spiritual sense, and which provided a motivational basis for innumerable seekers during the last half of this century. Other modern seers concurred with Cayce's assessments, and offered their own flourishes to his compelling millennial vision.
Indeed, there is good evidence that God -- or whatever you choose to call that power that sustains us and beckons us forever onward -- engages in at least two types of deception. First, He seems to makes promises that may be spiritually true -- and which inspire us to do the work we need to do -- but that never come to pass in this world. Second, He seems to withhold information that would undermine our willingness to to do the work we need to do.
Christ said that even Suso may have hesitated.
If it's still hard for you to accept the idea of God withholding the truth from us, then consider the example of a loving father who must decide whether to tell his child a devastating truth, or to deceive him in a way that will keep his dreams alive. More specifically, consider the example of a father who dearly loves his son who suffers from an incurable disease. As the father sits by his son’s bedside, feeling the anguish that only a parent can feel when his own child faces death, what does he say when his son asks,
When I reached the boat, the tide had receded so much that I had to push it two hundred yards to deeper water before I could start the motor and head back home. Straining against the weight of the boat, I recalled another "promise" that had come to me as I wrote and rewrote a little book, titled The Perfect Gift. Almost as soon as I began writing the Christmas story in late 1997, I began having visions in meditation of a Christmas tree ablaze with lights. My wife, too, began to have the same vivid experience. From this, we believed that the book would succeed, and so we never gave up hope, even when a major publisher almost bought it, but ultimately did not. We went on to publish the book ourselves, and she wrote a screenplay for it, believing that the story would, in time, win wide recognition. But while a new agent has high hopes for its eventual success, it still has not sold. We are thousands of dollars poorer, and I sometimes wonder if we were foolish to believe in it.
But then I realize that we tend to measure the fulfillment of our dreams by the wrong criteria. Like Peter, who wanted to erect a booth and sell tickets when he witnessed his Lord transfigured, we tend to evaluate the meaning of our lives in crude, numerical terms, and then find ourselves either acceptable or not on the basis of this assessment. To God, I am sure, it's not the number of books we sell that matters -- but the lives we touch.
Now I am not so naive as to think that every time we feel tricked by fate, or by God, or by whatever seems to pull the rug out from under us, that God is up to his tricks again. No, in most cases I would agree that our sense of God's betrayal stems from holding onto the reasonable expectation that good things should happen when we do the right things. It makes sense, but that's not the way the world works, at least not at first. We usually have to wait a long while for some of our efforts to bear fruit But the human proclivity for expecting to be rewarded for doing the right thing does not account for all of the promises and phophecies that have been made -- and that remain, as yet, unfulfilled. No, there is something far greater than our own active imaginations operating to keep us expecting things that do not come true.
In the end, if we feel betrayed when certain things do not come to pass, let us remember that even Jesus trembled in Gethsemane, and that Edgar Cayce reportedly doubted the value of his life work in the final days of his life. It is essentially human for us to hope that the great Dream will manifest in its fullness in this world, and in our own time. And, it is essentially human as well, to weep when it does not.