On a rainy Monday evening when the streets of the city were silent and most of the windows were dark, Duncan and I slipped into the chapel basement and I set out on my great journey to meet God.
The first thing I discovered was how foul the mushrooms tasted. My eyes watered and I clamped a hand over my mouth, willing myself not to throw up. The second thing that happened was – nothing. An hour went by, then another. I got impatient, then queasy, and I started shivering. Duncan handed me a blanket.
‘Just breathe, dude,’ he said. ‘All good things take time.’
I tried to focus on the Scriptures – I was reading the Psalms – and the queasiness subsided. By the time midnight arrived, I was up to Psalm 21 and beginning to think it was going to be a washout.
But I was wrong.
As the church clock chimed the hour, Psalm 22 began to flicker, the letters leaping out and then sinking back down into the page. Mesmerised, I read on.
I am a worm and not a man. My heart is like wax, melting within me…
I put the book down. Time stretched out like a rope, lean and supple and endless. Later I noticed a luminous thread of light and I followed it all the way down to the floor. But the floor itself was moving, the rock solid slabs shifting to and fro, like waves across a sandbar. I gazed at it, amazed that this pinkish stone flecked with the tiniest of tiny motes of grey and cream and brown, each one alive and vibrating – could be so infinitely flexible. I sank my fingers in and watched with wonder as my hand moved through it, down into the dark, rooted earth under the chapel. I lay down on the shifting colours and closed my eyes, feeling the air move in and out of me. Each breath seemed to last a thousand years. I was one with the cosmos. The connection was deep and strong and I was filled with happiness. I didn’t need my eyes or ears or mind to know that He was there.
‘Thank you,’ I whispered, so grateful to be in His presence at last.
Duncan told me later that I’d tripped for nearly five hours. When I could walk without having the floor move under my feet, I went home and slept all day. I woke up starving, so I made a huge sandwich and sat at my window. On the street down below, rain glinted on the rooftops of parked cars, leaves floated in puddles and a small dog strained at its leash. I took stock and realised that my heart had expanded. My chest felt wider and a strong pulse boomed in my ears. It was as if I had been filled up with something that hadn’t been there before.
The next day, when I picked her up from hockey practice, I told Marguerite what I’d done. She laughed. ‘You’re kidding me, right?’
‘Not a bit.’
Her eyes widened. ‘Lloyd! What were you thinking? You could get thrown out for this.’
‘Calm down.’ I wanted her to know that I was different now, that what I’d experienced had changed me in a deeply fundamental way. But more than that, I wanted her to try it too. Only by seeing what I’d seen, and feeling what I’d felt, could she really know and understand what it meant to me.
‘Never,’ she said. ‘Never in a million years. I don’t even drink much. What makes you think I want to do drugs?’
‘This is different. I didn’t do it just to get high. I did because I wanted to see if I could find God. And I did!’ I laughed and gripped her by the shoulders. ‘I wish I could tell you how utterly amazing it was. It’s like all my life I’ve secretly wondered, but now I know.’
‘Drugs scare me,’ she said. ‘I hate the thought of not being in control.’
‘I know,’ I said. ‘But that’s one of the things this has shown me. We think we’re in control of our lives, that we can organize our days and weeks and years. But we’re not. We’re just clumps of atoms floating around in the universe – and yet, God loves us.’ I kissed her forehead. ‘Besides, I’d take care of you; I’d make sure you were quite safe the whole time.’
It took me a week of long conversations and late night phone calls, but in the end, I wore her down.
‘You won’t regret this,’ I said, when she finally agreed. ‘You’ll see, this will change your life.’
‘I’m not going to any creepy church basement,’ she said. ‘I’ll come to your room. And you have to promise me you’ll be there all the time. You won’t leave me alone, not for a second.’
I held her tight. ‘I promise. You’ll be safe with me.’