Delivered at an event for SNR’s (Spiritual Not Religious)
“I Know The Way You Can Get”
by Hafiz (Shams-ud-din, 1320 CE Persian)
I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:
Your face hardens,
your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.
Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
And into one’s self.
O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:
You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.
You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.
You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once
I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love’s
That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
Just Wanting to help.
All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!
“I know the way you can get
when you have not had a drink of love:
your face hardens,
your sweet muscles cramp,
children become concerned
about a strange look that appears in your eyes
which even begins to worry your own mirror…”
Think about Hafiz,
14th century Persian poet and mystic writing that,
and how perfectly it pertains to you and me
seven hundred years later.
Here’s the deal.
If you have never felt as if God
could be your lover,
then you probably haven’t ever sensed
could be your intimate friend either.
And while that won’t kill you,
and you can still pass “Go” and collect your two hundred dollars
if you keep God at a rational distance,
it also means you’re missing more than you’re getting.
Now, you might rightly say to me,
“God, if there is a God,
can’t possibly have a personal relationship with us.”
You might wisely object,
“God, if there is a God,
is not personal and intimate, rather,
an amorphic energy in the universe.”
To which I would admit,
there is absolutely no rational argument
that can possibly pitch God
as a lover.
To which I would concede
that reason and logic
can be used to sketch the outline of God
as a distant possibility
but certainly not as the voice,
let alone the face
of a lover.
To which I would also
say to you,
every mystic of the ages that I know about –
male and female,
Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindi –
at some point,
with some poem,
imagines God as lover.
Are they all nuts?
Are they simply the lunatic fringe
of human culture?
Were they malformed personalities
we would diagnose and medicate today?
That is for you to answer,
but I know what happens inside me
when I read something like this:
“Let thought become a beautiful woman (or man).
Cultivate your mind and heart to that depth
that it can give you everything
a warm body can…”
I feel curious.
I want to know if my mind can do that?
I want to close my eyes and imagine
the closeness of a warm body
and see if I can imagine God
as my lover.
Can I dare to do it?
Could I stand that much intimacy
with something that knows me that well
from the inside-out?
If it could happen,
would it be too dangerous?
Wouldn’t that be going over-board
for a W.A.S.P. like me –
trained by culture
only dispassionate analysis
anything wild or dangerous?
Hafiz has made me laugh and remember
another time, and another place.
I was pretty young
when I became the lead minister of
on the campus of The Ohio State University.
I wasn’t very grown up to tell you the truth.
Some wonder at my maturity now,
but I guarantee you,
it was none too deep then.
And there I was,
with our first baby,
and a church full of college types,
and supposedly I was the grown up in the bunch.
My first week there,
I walked into the dark sanctuary one night
to find a group of graduate students
sitting around some candles on the floor
behind the altar,
talking in hushed voices.
I said, like some giant bouncing Tigger.
They looked up at me with mild bemusement
“What are you talking about,” I asked innocently.
“God as lover,” one of them said. Silence.
“Excuse me,” I asked.
“You know, we’re talking about whether it is possible
to have a sexual relationship with God.”
Trying not to look startled, and as if the idea was not new to me,
I shook my head knowingly and said,
Then I turned and left feeling a little freaked out.
Now, after fifteen years or more of reading the mystics,
I realize they were way ahead of me.
What is love without passion?
I know there are different kinds of love,
but doesn’t any love rooted in devotion and care
for another human being, or even another species,
have passion in it?
Isn’t passion an element of any love
that is deep enough to thrive under our skin?
Isn’t there passion in friendship?
Isn’t there passion in com-passion?
Isn’t there passion in hope, in conviction, and anything with commitment?
So a passionate God or a God with whom we are passionate…
It is quite possible to keep God as a good idea,
or as an intellectual speculation
or a pseudo-rational argument against atheism.
But that kind of God
is nothing to get passionate about – it’s an idea.
The question is, can we dance with God?
Can we flirt with God?
Can we see the serendipities and
strange encounters we call spiritual,
as God’s seduction of you and me?
Can we imagine God wants us?
“My dear,” as Hafiz writes,
“let prayer become your beautiful Lover
and become free…”
So this is an invitation, a little tease.
Allow yourself to imagine a passion for God
and that God has a passion for you.