The Presence of God and the Power of Memory—an important new memoir from Gregory Floyd
The most unforgettable experience of my life happened when I was eighteen years old. In the middle of the night my life changed dramatically. There have been many experiences since that fateful evening, but that one held the call. Call it a vortex night, one that the first eighteen years of my life fell into without being lost. Call it time bending over itself, some elastic reality that allowed everything that preceded it to find a home while at the same time opening up everything about the future. Whatever else it would prove to be, that night divided my life in two: the time before that 3:00 a.m. and the time after.
Since that night, I have been engaged in a battle. Before that night the battle raged as it has since the beginning: I was simply a casualty. That night, however, was a call to arms. I could never have identified it as such back then; only in retrospect would grasp the dimensions of the struggle. The battle has involved my wife and my nine children, including the death of an incredibly lovely son. It has reckoned God and the devil as its main protagonists, and my small and relatively insignificant life as the battlefield. Not that I have been an unwitting participant or a passive observer: I have served in both their platoons. The battle is set in the world I live in, with all its beauty and terror, good and evil, darkness and light. It will continue until the day I die. That day will come in the not too distant future, and when it does, I will hopefully see God face-to-face. Sometimes I think that when I see him, I will never say another word. I imagine there may be a relief so deep that words would never suffice to express it. But for now, I must speak.
Of what? Of a love that met me at eighteen in the winter of 1972. Of a voice that spoke my name in a way that I could not doubt. Of a wager I made. Of a soul that found rest. Of sin and forgiveness. Of a God without borders, without conditions, without boxes or categories, a God who invaded everything I could think about by the sheer force of his attraction. A God who drew everything inside me. A God whose love slid off edges and sundered boundaries and hid in corners where I thought I could not go.
A God who said things like “We wrote you,” clear as the sun setting on Barnegat Bay, casting its final flares over the darkening sky. Which is how this book began. Three small words that were an answer to prayer and a word about writing, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Nothing remarkable in those words, except that I had asked God to give me a word about writing. I was looking for a sign, so I told God that I would open the Bible and if there was a word about writing, I would write. I figured that there weren’t too many words about writing. God only needed one.
And so, after many years, I began to write again. I picked up my pen in order to return to the silence I had discovered when I wrote A Grief Unveiled. That silence was full. It had weightiness. I knew I needed to return to that silence, a silence more real than all the noise that surrounds it. My noisy life keeps me from loving God as I should, and the world I live in conspires to make me love him less. The noise of that exterior world, however, is nothing compared to the noise within: a cacophony of contrary voices that pull me toward themselves. They are subtle and seductive, and they all seem to know my name. They remind me of the battle I’m in: the temptation to love the beauty that surrounds me rather than the source of that beauty, to be so attracted to people that I fail to make a sober reckoning of the forces that prey upon them. In the midst of the fray, God occasionally pulls back the veil just enough for me to catch a glimpse of what is really going on.
-Gregory Floyd, Unforgettable: How Remembering God's Presence in Our Past Brings Hope to Our Future