I’m going to find my wife in fifteen minutes.
Today, Good Friday, we are heading into the abyss. Christ did much the same thing just over two thousand years ago. He came into the world and emptied himself of his divine privileges. He became like us so we could become like him. From the cross he gave up his last breath and descended into Hades to rescue tormented souls.
In Greek, the abyss was the abode of the dead. Literally translated, it means, “without bottom.” The ancient people, who thought the world was flat, conceptualized that beneath this top layer of puddles and mud existed an endless topography of spiritual suffering. I hope to prove them wrong. I am not descending into the abyss to pay for my sins. I am going down to see for myself what has become of my wife.
Down here, I have access to none of my privilege. No one has any use for a theologian. I am only here because of Sebastian. I have become like one of the crew, though I confess I would like this to turn out a little better for me than it did for Christ. His two-way journey required a resurrection. The only resurrection I’m hoping for is a metaphor.
Liz’s submarine made it 85% of the way to the bottom before whatever happened happened. That took just over ninety minutes. Chris tells me we can make it even faster, but Lin has warned him not to try. Lin’s prohibition wasn’t Chris’ only disappointment today.
“You can’t take Puss on the Sea Monk,” said Lin.
Chris refused to make eye contact. “Whatever,” he said.
“I’m serious, Chris,” she responded. “It’s not just that I don’t want the cat on board. Puss will die. The Sea Monk doesn’t have the same compression tech that Deadelus does. It happens too quickly. Her lungs would over-compress.”
Chris didn’t reply, choosing instead to brush by Lin with the cat in his arms. He made it partway around the corner before kneeling down with Puss in his hands and placing the cat back on the floor. When he got up, I though he had been crying.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Better than you,” he said, resuming his prior posture as man-in-charge, full of vigor. I think he likes the way Jo looks at him when his machismo is cranked to 11.
“It’s alright, tough guy,” Jo said, snaking her arm through Chris’. “I like a man with a warm center.”
“Yeah?” he asked, pinching the bridge of his nose with two fingers.
“I like flirts and floozies,” said Chris. “That what you had in mind?” Jo giggled and snuggled in tight to Chris. He actually smiled, letting the façade slip for just a moment. I smiled too.
Nessa put her hand on her pencil-thin hip and shook her head. “Man is bad,” she said.
“This Mann?” I asked, pointing reflexively. “Me?”
“No,” Nessa said, grinning, “bearded kobold man.”
“Kobold?” Jo asked.
“It’s a slavic demon that lives underground,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“I resemble that remark,” said Chris, breaking whatever small tension had momentarily risen.
“I like your beard,” said Jo. “It makes you look…”
“Undomesticated,” Lin finished for her. There was a beat, and then we all laughed. If you can believe it, all this squabbling was actually good-natured. We were all kidding each other because what we were about to do was so unbelievably cool.
We feel lucky.
“I’d like to pray,” I said. I blurted it out, actually, and was afraid I’d committed a blunder. Until Lin joined her hands in mine.
Prayer has a funny way of uniting people. It’s a paradox of religious practice. Conversation about God almost always turns into a fight, but no one ever rejects a prayer during a liminal moment: a funeral, a wedding, a crisis.
“Father,” I began, “thank you for this. We’ve wanted it so badly. I confess that much of my life I’ve been marching to my own drum. But I now know you’re composing the music around me. Help me to play along. Help me be aware of what you’re doing around and with and through us down there.
“Lord, in every way you want, and in everything you know, have mercy. Amen.”
When I finished, I saw everyone but Chris had gathered around, many of them holding hands. Nessa was happily crying and Lin had her hand on Nessa’ shoulder. Jo kissed me on the cheek.
“Thanks for that, Bible-basher,” Chris called from outside the circle, noticeably unthankful. “Let’s hope God gets his voicemail from underwater.”
Ok, that’s all. I don’t want to blog while descending; that’s why we have Twitter! I’ll write something when we get there, just to say I did; though we’re only supposed to stay for a couple of hours on this first descent. That seems like a waste, but we have plans and fuel to come back several times over the next month. I get the feeling we might even see Sebastian on one of these milk runs. Who knows? I guess anything’s possible.
See you on the bottom of the world!