A few years ago, I wrote a novella, God Eats Pad Thai. Just for me, just to put words to a story that had been floating through my life for the last several months. I wanted to write a story of what might happen if God actually showed up on someone’s doorstep to explain himself. We ask him often enough…
This week and next, I’m sharing excerpts. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(If you missed the first excerpt, check it out here.)
The memory blurs out, and I’m back watching a few sparkly stars fight their way through Los Angeles smog and light.
I really want to know. So I ask. “Doesn’t it even bother you? Wars mean soldiers. Dead soldiers. Broken families and bodies and souls and minds. Little kids get killed by misguided bombs.”
“I know,” he says. “It breaks my heart.”
“How can there be good anywhere in that?”
“So we’re basically just screwed?”
“I’m in everything. I’m always there. And I am always working. I’m not just going to leave you empty-handed and alone. But everything that I want for you is getting destroyed at every turn.” I’ve never seen such heartbreak and sorrow in someone’s eyes before.
I look straight at him. “I’m never going to forgive you if Ash and Kara don’t come back from Afghanistan.”
“What if I’m asking them to be there?”
“I’m never going to forgive you if they don’t come back. How can you possibly let them go? You don’t get it. Ash is my brother. If he goes to Afghanistan, he could die. And I am so proud of him. So incredibly proud that he would risk his life for any of us. But I am not going to survive if he doesn’t. And my family…” I drift off.
“I’m going with him.”
I spin around. “What?”
“I am going to take every step with him.” I hear the words, but I am not comforted in the least.
I can’t even thank him. What do you say? Thank you for walking through bomb –infested roads? And what does it matter if he’s there if they die? I close my eyes, willing away the visions. Blood. Horror. Fire. Alone in a hole, half-buried in this worthless ground we’re fighting for. Sobbing, tears drying almost instantly in the sticky heat. More blood. More horror. More fire. The screaming. The sound of metal twisting and bending in the heat and gunfire. And there’s the prayers of soldiers, shimmering in the heat, waiting for God to hear and answer. But they feel so alone out there. So very alone. And in these horrific visions, I want Ash and Kara to come back. Alive. But it doesn’t matter. He’s gone, and she’s gone. And I’m standing at funerals trying to come up with three words to say. I can feel the suffocating black dress I’m wearing already. This is what free will gets us? Really?
I pull myself back onto the beach, where God and I are still sitting. I take a deep breath. And another. Ash and Kara are fine. Alive. Happy. Whole. Doing what they so deeply love. I have to stop racing ahead to the worst of it all. It’s going to destroy all of my days.
“Do you even notice how much we’re all hurting?” I ask God. “Or are you so intent on giving us our free will or honoring our choices or whatever that you let little kids join armies? You let teenagers get killed by roadside bombs – and why? What about the little twelve year olds who pick up a gun because they’re afraid of starving tonight? What about the fifteen year olds recruited all across Africa, forced to become murderers?” I’m angry. Angry at the injustice. Angry that he’s allowed any of this to happen. Livid.
He’s crying. I get face-to-face, almost nose-to-nose with him. And I’m screaming. WHY?!? WHY?!?
“I want so much more than what’s happening now,” he says. “This is not what it was made to be.”
He closes his eyes.
He doesn’t speak, and for a moment, it’s as if there’s no sound at all. But there’s something. A rounded, life-giving… something. The sounds form into words. Life. Hope. Fully alive. I hear the words of redemption he’s speaking over the entire world already. Words refreshing body and soul across the world. Words that are life. Words that are ending wars. Words that bring food to starving mothers and their bellies-distended children. Words that are sending children back into the arms of their families. Words that let a father wake up alive after finding his son dead. Words that breathe hope to broken marriages. Broken families. Broken people. I watch and listen. I can’t help it. I’m swept in, and I breathe in the words. And I’m suddenly aware I’m not the only one clinging desperately to the words. God, let me live here. The words pour over me, over my heart, over the sand and the beach. They pour into the ocean, spreading out, spreading through. I find myself wondering what it would feel like to dive in now. I open my eyes, and the words shimmer and dissipate.
“They’re rejecting me. My words. My redemption,” he says. I try to will the words back into my ears. “Imagine if I did nothing.”
“But you could fix it!” I’m incredulous. “Just do it!”
And for half a second, I understand. He could fix it. And it’s breaking his heart. Suddenly, I’m drowning in a choiceless world. There’s no love here. No joy. No grace. No anything. Just one word – “yes”. There’s no shades of grey here. No shades of anything. Black and white. My mind turns itself off, burying itself deep away. I’m just doing things now. No thought involved. No me. How could this possibly be worse?
I’m back to the world I know. And once again, I can hear his sweet song. He’s calling everyone to come rest. To come, and to simply be. And those redemption words swirl and twist into a melodies and harmonies and counter-melodies, and I breathe deep.
Sing louder. I think. Sing louder. We can’t hear you.
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