You might as well know that I am one of those geeks who grew up more comfortable in a library than a football field. Though I don't look like it - blessed with some height and a barrel chest, I was most at home during my halcyon days of summer in North Mississippi - deep in the musty shelves of the old public library of Southaven.
John Grisham (A Time to Kill, The Firm, etc.) must have gone to that library, but being seven years my senior, I never knew him.
I can still smell those dusty books and hear the old dinosaur of an air conditioner blow sweet relief over my face and my mother's as we escaped from the stifling Delta heat into the military green sheet-metal building.
Its all gone now. They built a far more beautiful and luxurious one on the other side of town, away from the Elementary School and the Military Surplus store. (It was North Mississippi. You have to have lived there to understand the community layout. I saw more guns by the age of seven than I had comics. I kid you not.)
But I digress. I loved libraries and their sacred spaces. Bullies couldn't come in or were inevitably asked to leave. It was a haven for my mind, and I guess, now looking back, my wounded heart.
I loved to dream of other worlds and heroes on far flung planets. I loved the stories that logically progressed from one seminal discovery to a massive cultural overthrow. Isaac Asimov was a master of this. I also swallowed down big gulpfuls of Roger Zelazny and Clifford D. Simak (and him all because I liked werewolves - so I read The Werewolf Principle. Wow. Talk about mind-bending for a thirteen year old boy in a small town! I'm STILL must be recovering from it, 'cause I HAD to put alien "werewolves" in my novel, a work in progress).
I owe these atheists and futurists a great debt.
Yes. You read that correctly. They permitted me to think outside the box and chase down all the logical implications a major scientific discovery or invention could have on mankind: sociological, political, psychological.
I romped among dimensions and alternate futures with gentle aliens and humans who were inhumane. My imagination and creativity were sparked, and I fell in love with a hopeful future.
And then every night, we would read the Bible. No, it wasn't King James and grim. More often than not, I read or my mother did. My dad was not as interested, but he did read it. And I saw in its pages - perhaps like Isaac Asimov did, or Stan Lee did, that God liked heroes and did promise them a future. But there was always a problem.
God had to empower the hero Himself. God was always getting the credit and on top of that, He acted like He owned everything, knew everything and was in control of everything. The book of Revelations did NOT sound hopeful.
Yeah. Thirteen year olds don't dig that. Asimov, along with Einstein and many others - Freud, Feynman, etc. became disenchanted with their faith. The Master of the Universe seemed cold and distant. The evil of the Holocaust destroyed the faith of many. Bullies and abuse did mine quite a number.
I see this pain, this hope that if God won't fix it, we must. Many children start out by believing in God, but as the pain of the world becomes apparent to them and their frailty, they despair. The turn to find answers in science or rationalism or fantasy or worse things.
But there is a dimension we simply do not understand. What radical mystics like the apostle Paul called the inner man. "Radical mystics?" you may spurt. Yeah. Radical in belief and action, but all because they first commune with God - deeply.
We need strength and truth to face the lies and attacks of the world. We don't need everything ELSE to be easier (sadly, the hope of far too many) but rather that we have something greater inside to Push Back with.
"You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free."
Jesus said that. (Its also, ironically enough, inscribed on the floor of the entrance foyer to the C.I.A. Go figure.)
I thought about how much strength I get from Jesus by prayer, by reading His gospels. It is so very counter-intuitive, many feel Jesus was an idealist or insane. In fact, He knew what our problem was. We have believed the Lie.
"It is everywhere, Neo. It is the lie that has been pulled down over your very eyes."
- Morpheus in The Matrix.
The way to counter the power of the Lie is to go deeper than what we see. To destroy the spell cast on our hearts and minds: "All you see and touch and smell and feel is real. Anything else is LESS real."
That is the Lie. The truth is that what motivates us, what strengthens us, is MORE real. Even these words have more impact on you I hope than just the glowing display few inches in front of you.
What causes man to wage war or make sacrifices? Is it not the "less real" things of heart and mind?
And so, this "spiritual dimension" I thought should have a name. It is often referred to by evangelists and spiritists and shamans, and I do not equate the three as one, but rather they are arguing all about the same arena of effect: the inner person, the spiritual man or soul.
I call it "strewth". It's my fourth dimension.
We have height, length & width (or depth) and it seemed to me that it should have a "th" at the end to identify it. Then I thought about how much invisible force is there inside us - what we call our will or character strength, and how vital it was to have integrity at that level, even if wrong. (Mistaken people can move really far on the wrong path, you know.)
So I blended "strength" and "truth" to make "streuth" or, less elitist, "strewth".
I also remembered a Shakespearian contraction making "God's Truth" into "'S'truth", so I was even more pleased with myself.
What purpose does this have, to invent a new word to describe a spiritual dimension?
I don't know other than I had to.
I am creating a SF Christian fantasy about an intergalactic knighthood who's armor and weaponry come from sub-space - a quantum-level pocket dimension. And I thought "These guys would have to have some descriptor for how their armor and other things work in a fourth dimension. In fact, they'd just assume it as an invisible but vital aspect of life. Even trying to find ways, like we have, of working with it or using its properties to empower themselves."
So I came up with strewth. A fourth physical dimension that mystics (like my knights) also "strengthen" by prayer - like we strengthen our arms or legs by working out.
Sound confusing? It shouldn't be, but it is.
If I could go back in time and talk to that young boy again, I'd tell him that God is in charge. He is working everything out. But He's doing it where its the hardest to see yet makes the greatest impact.
He's working beyond the sub-molecular level. He's working in sub-space and even deeper.
He's willing to make HIM a hero. To give him a sacred place no one can ever touch again.
And to have the strength to not be afraid, to face those bullies, all he has to do is ask.
"If you - being evil - know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
Thank you, Jesus.
He understands us and the very things we are missing.
"I tell you the truth - you must be born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven."
That's what you and I need. A new birth from God. An imparting of His strength and His Spirit.
Confession, by the way, isn't groveling, its just admitting we're wrong, hurting and in need.
Go get the hope and strength you always longed for. From God. From Jesus.
Amen, brother. Amen.