God Talk Nov. 6

Conversations With God

 “About--Lepers, Home Security And Complacency”

“So, what brings you here today?  Upset the Yankees lost in the bottom of the ninth?”   God slapped his knee and laughed heartily.
            “No, sir…er…God…Is it okay if I just call you God, sir?”
            “Certainly, son.”  God reached out his great hand and placed it on my shoulder.  At first I started to flinch, nervous as one might be if a great grizzly bear were about to lay its needle-sharp clawed paw on your shoulder.   But I checked myself.  After three prior visits, I was feeling somewhat secure in the Almighty’s presence.   “Why you can call me Henry Ford if you like.  I liked old Henry.   He said, ‘I don’t care what you say about me or call me, just say my name and I’ll be happy.’   I feel the same way, son.   Doesn’t matter to me what people call me as long as they know I’m here for them, their Creator.”
            Sometimes I wondered if God could see inside me, see that I was part atheist, part agnostic, mostly skeptical, always cautious about turning over my power of belief to some source I couldn’t see or touch or feel or smell.   These visits were weakening that Doubting Thomas in me.
            “So, what’s knotting your gut, Cliff?”
            God leaned back in his great chair.  It was very similar to the one I had seen at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.   It overpowered the senses with its power and might, and God’s figure sitting in it with his white robe and long white beard, enhanced its magical aura.
            “I was remembering the lepers.   I saw their faces after all these years.”
            “I know.  It’s too bad they have to take such a bad rap.”
            I took a second look at God.  “Bad Rap,” I thought.  Not the kind of language you expect issuing out of God’s mouth, but then He liked to use modern slang to give him that earthy touch.
            “So why were you thinking about the lepers?”
            He offered me a Diet Pepsi.  I shook my head.  He gulped a few swigs down.  “I was writing about terrorism in children.  Then they just popped in my head.   All those faces.   Like my mind had taken pictures of them and the file just opened.”
            “Christmas, wasn’t it?  When you visited them?”
            “Yes, sir, Christmas Day to be exact.”
           “The kids loved it.  They were very happy.  And the parents loved you for loving their kids.  So why does something good like that make your guts twist?”
            “I felt helpless when we left.  Looking back at the leper compound, seeing their eyes looking at us driving away, knowing they could never leave there.   It seems to haunt me.”
            “Feeling a little like a leper because no one is looking at your web page.  No one is sending you ‘five highs’ for trying to save the world from terrorism.”
            I laughed.  “Excuse me, sir, it’s high five, not five highs.”
           “Really?”  God raised his eyebrow and smiled.  “Dyslexia of the tongue, I guess.”
            “I really don’t think it’s that, God.  It’s just so much work.   I write every day and can’t seem to get the promotion going.”
            “Let’s see, it has been about fifty-five days since the terrorists attacked, and you’ve done a lot, Cliff.   You’re just impatient.  Think about me.  I’ve been up here since eternity, waiting for mankind and womankind to find some common ground that would bind them together.  What makes you think you can do what I haven’t been able to?”
            I sat back.  God’s Voice raised in timbre as he spoke, as though I were His errant child trying to grab hold of his Almighty robe tails.
            “Sir, I didn’t mean…”
            “Aww…just kidding around, Cliff.   You’re on the right track.   Look, how many other Cliff’s are there in the world right now doing what you’re doing?  Trying to find some solution to terrorism of the mind, body and soul?   Think about it, Cliff?   Maybe you’re one of many and don’t know it.  Maybe there’s a whole herd of people pounding their heads against thick brick walls like you with their own systems and techniques, all leading to the same destination—unity of the parents.   Ever think about that?
            “Well, frankly, no Sir, I haven’t.”
            “Maybe it’s time you did.   Maybe you should be working on alliances with people who fight the same battle instead of trying to stand-alone.   One man’s Voice doesn’t ring as loudly as ten, or a hundred, or a thousand.”                   
            “Don’t forget the women, God.”   It was my turn to jab at his ribs.
            “Of course not.   It’s just that over so many centuries and millenniums, it takes a little getting used to—thousands of men and women’s Voices—how’s that?”
            “Much better, Sir.”  I paused and looked at the fluffy white clouds that formed a carpet upon which our chairs rested.  The round, soft texture of their shape was comforting, reassuring.   “I think it is the lepers though.   I think about a child trapped in terrorism.   Thinking he or she isn’t good enough, big enough, strong enough, white enough, smart enough, handsome enough, pretty enough, thin enough…”
            “I wished I never had created that comparison thought,” God muttered.  “It has brought such terrible results.   People looking at one another, comparing the quality of their clothes, the hang of their head, the scars they bear, the shoes they wear—even the homes they live in.   But I had no choice.  Evolution is based on the hierarchy.   There are the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the mighty and the meek.   Comparison was necessary for matter to exist.  There had to be a plus and a minus, a bottom and a top, a Love and a Hate, or otherwise everything would be Perfect.  There would be life as we know it, no struggle to achieve, no Good versus Evil.”
            My head was a little dazed by the commentary God seemed bent on having with Himself over creating the Act of Comparison.  “But, I was talking about the lepers’ children, Sir.”
            “Perhaps you were,” God said, “or, you were comparing yourself to one of those children, locked behind a fence because their parents were lepers, and the laws of society wouldn’t let them out for fear they might be infected.   Maybe, you were feeling sad you were locked in your own leper colony.  Maybe you were feeling alone and frightened for such a big guy.”
            My instincts were to argue with God, but my common sense told me that would be futile and inappropriate.   “You think I’m just feeling a bit down because the world is passing me by?”
            “I’m not saying anything, Cliff, just thinking out loud.   Look, you’re on the brink of Complacency.  I think you call it: the don’t-give-a-shit-factor, don’t you?”  I nodded, reluctantly.  “Well, maybe you’re just standing in your own leper colony looking out at a world you think you’ll never be allowed to enter.   Maybe you think nobody will ever read your words, or be inspired by them to take action and start the ball rolling.  So you’re starting to feel complacent.  The energy is draining out of you because terrorism seems to be on the wane.  No new attacks.   Just a few spores here and there of anthrax.   Hell, that’s common in sheep.   Sheep farmers get it all the time.   But, don’t misunderstand, I’m not diminishing any death or infection by people who are using anthrax to hurt others.  That’s just out-and-out a violation of all human compassion.   But, maybe you’re wondering if you jumped off the edge of the cliff thinking you would prepare the children and parents for something that hasn’t yet happened, and you’re disappointed.”
            I felt the knot in my gut cinch up.   I had no idea what God was talking about.   Complacency?   No.   I was here to talk about the lepers who came back in my memory from three- and-a-half decades earlier.
            “No, Sir.  I don’t think I’m getting complacent.”
            “Then why do you feel edgy.   You’re like the boxer who gets all ready for the championship bout and you’re dancing on the mat, adrenaline pumping, and the contender doesn’t show up.   He’s at home eating a thick, juicy steak and kicking back watching television.  And you’re all tensed up ready to fight and there’s nothing there to fight but your shadow.”
            “I don’t see the analogy, God.”
            “Okay, let’s take the Home Security system your President put into place.  Here’s a whole new branch of your government being formed to fight the shadows of the night—the threat of something that might, maybe, possibly could happen.   Imagine chairing that job, Cliff.   You have three-hundred million people under your watchful eye, and you’re responsible for all of their security.  If one child or parent gets hurt or maimed or killed by any terrorist act, the crap rolls up the hill to your desk.  All fingers point at you for letting it happen.    Now, that’s a tough job, Cliff.   And you’re worried if anyone will read your words or not, or about a memory of a leper colony thirty-five years ago.  Why, that’s not even a blink of my eye, Cliff.  And you’re making it into some giant symbol of constipation.”
            “Er…you mean, consternation, don’t you, God?”
            “No!”  He snapped out the words.  “I mean constipation…where your bile gets blocked…your sewerage disposal system gets clogged.    The Act of Comparison, Cliff, was intended for you to seek gratitude.   When you look at your problems in life, they are heavy or light compared to whatever or whomever.    Compared to the head of Home Security, you have an easy job, Cliff.   You write.  No one is going to throw down the body of a dead baby on your desk and say:  ‘How come you let my child die?’  But they can and will if another terrorist attack happens.  People like to blame others for life’s pains, Cliff.  It’s a natural and unfortunate part of being human.”
            “You think I’m whining, God?”   I shuffled in my chair.  I had come to get some compassion, but was feeling like the Almighty’s punching bag.
            “I didn’t say that at all, Cliff.   I want you to understand this issue of Comparison.   Look what happens when we start to compare what we do with our expectations?   As your efforts continue, your expectations grow.   Soon they will be a huge mountain, and if they aren’t realized you will be terrorized by your expectations.   And you will run away from the front lines, not as a coward in the face of the enemy, but as a worn-out sentinel guarding a barren field.   How long can you cry wolf when there are no wolves to be seen?   How long can you hold your finger in the dyke when there is no apparent water threatening to flood the town below?  How long can you believe in a God who doesn’t show His face, or lets terrible things happen?  And how long can you pound the typewriter and manage the website without hearing a word back before you toss in the towel?   Complacency, Cliff, is a terrible disease.  It is like leprosy.   It attacks and leaves, but the residual effect lasts forever.  It’s called failure.”
            “I’m confused, God.  Are you suggesting I’m failing to believe in what I’m doing?”
            God leaned forward in His chair.  His Voice boomed through the heavens.  “Did I say you were FAILING?”
            I clutched the arms of the chair.  “No, sir.”
            God swiped his hand through His long, white hair.   “Cliff, so many of you worry about doing the right thing, then when you do it, you worry it’s not right enough.   You start comparing your good actions with how much better they can be, and then you crumble in a pile of complacency, looking up at your expectations as though they were the terrorists themselves.    Just think of this guy in charge of Home Security, Cliff.  Think about a guy who has been given a hundred million households in America to protect, and, about a hundred million children of all different sizes, shapes and ages, and over ten million businesses—small ones, Cliff, maybe five to seven employees—and this one guy, the head of Home Security, is responsible for anything bad that happens.”
            “I’m sorry, Sir, but I am not following what you’re saying.”
            “You want to know what it’s like to be God, Cliff.   There’s six billion people counting on me in one way or another.  Every time something goes wrong---a bird’s wing is broken, a dog is hit by a car, a hurricane storms ashore, a child is stillborn, a woman gets an abortion, an older woman falls and breaks her hip, a war breaks out, a child is abused—guess who gets the heat, Cliff?”  God rose from his chair and stabbed his finger into his chest.
            “Me—moi—estoy!   I get the heat, Cliff.   Now, this guy who heads up your Home Security will be getting the heat.   Your President put him in charge to take the heat off the President.   It’s easy to bomb caves and desert villages thousands of miles away, but try and catch a shadow in your own backyard.  You can’t do it.   So this Home Security guy will be the fall guy, like I am.    People say, ‘Well, if there is a loving God why did He let this happen?”   God was stomping back and forth in front of his chair. Chunks of the fluffy clouds shot up and disappeared.  
           “These questions make you think—hmmmm, maybe there isn’t a God…. maybe he really doesn’t care that much about any of us if he would let this happen….   Well, this Home Security guy will take so much heat.   He’s your President’s target.   People will shoot him for failing to protect them from the bad guys, and then your President will fire him or he’ll resign, and another target will pop up.    Your President will shield himself from being responsible for Home Security because he can’t be.   Home security belongs to the parents.”
            “But…but…” I stammered…”why are you so upset…”
            “Because I don’t have a shield.  I don’t have someone in charge of Home Security.  I don’t have a fall guy.  I take all the shots to the chin.   And that pisses me off sometimes.”
            I shrank down in the chair.         
           “Then you come up here and start to grovel about lepers, pretending to be all upset over some memory you have—when you’re real agenda is impatience.   I’ve been here for eternity taking the heat.  I’ve been expecting mankind…and womankind to one day reach across the barriers and embrace one another…and you have the impudence to come here and feel your guts are twisted because you haven’t heard a peep in fifty-five days!    Grow up, Cliff!”
            I said nothing.  I wanted to slip down off the chair and into the clouds where I could not be seen.
            “But, at last, I’ve got something to compare.    I’m going to watch this Home Security guy, Cliff, and watch him take the heat as I have been forever.   I’m going to see what he’s made out of.  I’m going to compare a little, how he handles it versus how I’ve handled it.   I’ve been watching the Pope for a long time.  I cringe a little when he does his WE thing, talking as though he were ME.  But, he’s got his fall guy too—Jesus.   When things go wrong, he kneels at the cross.   Jesus takes his bullets.   So, Cliff, are you telling me you want to blame me for no one giving a damn about what you’re doing, or do you want to blame me for what you haven’t done? You want me to be your fall guy?  Do you?”
            “Sir, no….I really didn’t mean that at all.”
            “Then why are you here?  Why are sitting before Almighty God, sniveling about a dream you had about an experience you had with lepers…what has that to do with letting the world know why they should be a Parent of Vigilance?”
            I felt like Jell-O in the chair, melting under the heat of His eyes staring down on me.   “Complacency?”  I cried the word as a child might yell “uncle” when wrestling with an adult.
            “Finally!   Finally!   His holiness admits weakness.  Admits fault!”  God sat down exasperated, and popped a fresh Diet Pepsi.  “I thought you’d never admit it.  Sorry, about being so tough on you.”
            “Admit what?”  I shook my head.  I had no idea where the word Complacency came from, but it shot out of my mouth at just the right moment.
            “Admit you’re running scared…you don’t have to say the words…I can see it all over your face…constipation…consternation…worry…concern…frustration…doubt…   It’s okay…how are you going to be honest about terrorism without experiencing it…and you’re wallowing in it right now…and so is that new guy who has the job of taking the heat for all the terrorism in America.  I’m serious.  I’m going to watch him, maybe learn from him, maybe give him some tips.”
            “Then you think I just came here to whine, Sir?”
            “Absolutely not.  You came here to turn your fear into courage, your intimidation into conviction, and your complacency into action.   I just dramatized what it took to face all those things.  It’s not easy.   Every day I feel them.  I get afraid for you humans.  I get intimidated by your lack of faith, wondering why I’m even here.  And, I get complacent, sometimes thinking about calling in the Big Meteor and starting afresh.   Except I know it would all be the same—all of us struggling together to be better parents.   I want to be a better God, Cliff.  I evolve.   I grow.  We all do.  The universe is expanding all the time.   Life is elastic.  And, it leaves stretch marks.  It’s painful when old skin molts and  new, tender flesh takes its place.   It’s not easy.  That’s why you come here.  You face God with your problems.  And even though I stormed all over you today, you didn’t crap your pants.  Look, the seat’s still dry.”
           God began to laugh uproariously.
            “You still want to talk about the lepers you visited thirty-five years ago, Cliff,” he said, chuckling to himself as he sat down.
            “No, Sir, I have to go.  I’ve got some promoting to do.”
            “By the way, tell that guy in charge of Home Security I’ll be watching.”

            I had a feeling He would be watching me too.


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