For me, 2007 was the thirteenth Circle of Hell.
Yes, I’m well aware that in Dante’s, “Divine Comedy”, there are only nine, but trust me–2007 was an exceptionally difficult year and actually, it felt like there were 20 circles and I traversed each one of them.
I won’t bore you with details, just suffice it to say that 2007 was horrific; filled with colossal loss, disappointment and personal illness. I was never happier to see the calender flip at midnight, December 31st.
Additionally, the month of April always has an effect on me. It automatically hurls me into the midst of this metaphysical tailspin. For starers, it’s my birthday month and then, the 26th marks the anniversary of a horrible automobile accident that changed everything. EVERYTHING. It was life-altering and in a very painful way, one of the most life-affirming events I’ve ever endured. And this year, I commemorate the 17th anniversary of meeting myself and my maker on the crumpled hood of a truck at the base of overpass on Interstate-10, not far from San Antonio.
I tend to get extremely introspective when my life starts to crowd me and it always seems to be relentlessly crowded throughout the month of April. I have to make room for the two of us–me and all those things I’m so damned scared of.
What you’re about to read is a by-product of that.
I entitled this piece, “God Called” and writing it a year ago (hence some of the dated references) helped me grapple with some rather serious existential issues.
Reading it again a year later makes me realize I’m still grappling.
But I’m working on it…..
3:46 PM Thursday April 26, 2007
SCENE: A cramped and messy apartment, somewhere on the West Coast. Laurie sits at her desk. The phone rings.
It is God.
God: Hey LK. What’s shakin’?
LK: Hey God! It’s good to hear from you.
God: Good to hear your voice, too. You had a birthday recently, right?.
LK: Don’t remind me. You know, I’m surprised to hear from you.
God: You shouldn’t be. I think about you a lot.
LK Still, this is a real surprise. You never call me.
God: I felt like talking.
LK: So, what are you up to?
God: Oh, you know. I’m like the McDonald’s of redemption. I answer six billion prayers a day. I wake up the next morning and there are six billion more.
LK. We mortals are a pesky, relentless bunch.
God: Yes, you are, but I love ya. I wanted to call to ask if there was anything on your mind these days?
LK: Yeah, there is. God, there’s a lot of crap in the world now. Heavy stuff happening. I just don’t understand why things are the way they are.
God: I know. Most of it’s hard to wrap your head around. Like why Eddie Murphy didn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Dreamgirls”. And of course, there’s the whole Sanjaya thing.
LK: What was that all about?
God: Sanjaya? Oh for that, you can thank all the girls in the fifth grade class of the The Palmer School in Winnetka, Illinois.
God: Prayer circle.
LK: Interesting. Why then was Sanjaya voted off “American Idol”?
God: For that, you can thank all the the boys in the fifth grade class of The Palmer School in Winnetka, Illinois.
LK: That’s pretty funny. Still, it seems odd that we’re praying for Sanjaya when there are so many other things that need your attention.
God: People pray for a lot of different things. What’s pressing to some, won’t be to others. I don’t rate prayers or prioritize them. If you need something, you ask me, I hear you.
LK: But do you always answer every prayer?
LK: Doesn’t seem like it.
God: I do. Take you for example. There was that little issue of penis envy in fourth grade? Remember that? You prayed to me, asking me to turn you into a boy. I answered your prayer by keeping you a girl.
LK: But you didn’t give me what I wanted. I really wanted to become a boy. And by the way, WHAT was I thinking?
God: Please! You were eight years old at the time and no, I didn’t give you what you wanted, but I gave you what you needed. Don’t get me wrong. Sure, I could’ve done it, if you believe what you read. Perhaps, I could’ve snapped my fingers and you’d have gone from Laurie to Larry in a flash. But that’s not how I operate and that wasn’t what you needed. That’s not what Madolyn Welsh needed, either.
LK: Madolyn Welsh? My college roommate?
God: If you wouldn’t have been you, you wouldn’t have gone to college, moved into the dorm and you wouldn’t have roomed with Madolyn. When her mother was killed in that car crash that fall, you wouldn’t have been there to help her. That was a very difficult and trying time for Madolyn. She needed you and you needed to be there. And the fact that you were there made a difference. It saved her life. Saved yours too. Remember? You were having a very tough Freshman year.
LK: I remember. What would the alternative have been for both of us?
God: You don’t want to know.
God: One life affects so many others in ways you aren’t even aware of. We’re talkin’ real “It’s A Wonderful Life” stuff.
LK: I’m glad I was there for Madolyn.
God: And be glad she was there for you. It wouldn’t have worked in any other way. Did you know she went on to become a doctor? A surgeon. She saves lives everyday and you helped make that possible.
LK: I had no idea. We lost track of each other our Senior year. I’m glad she’s doing well.
God: She is.
LK: You know God, there’s something I don’t understand. If you intervened with things all those years ago with Madolyn and me, please explain what happened at Virginia Tech? Where were you? And while we’re at it, let’s address the Challenger explosion and September 11th. Why didn’t you intervene then? A lot of people are asking that question.
God: I was on campus at Virginia Tech. I was on board the Challenger and I was also in New York; at the Pentagon and in that field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania five and a half years ago.
LK: But why did all of those…….
God: Those things happened because sometimes, bad things happen. For these people? It was their time.
LK: That seems so simplistic! Especially coming from you! As if I’m supposed to take that as an answer and be OK with it!
LK: Then why didn’t you prevent these things from happening?
God: I gave humans free will.
LK: That explains nothing.
God: That explains everything. For every action there is a reaction. That’s the way it is.
LK: That’s the way it is? I’m supposed to accept that? I suppose then, that Calvinism is correct? Our lives and how we live them, and end them, are predetermined?
God: Well, that’s over simplifying the point really, but there are some things that I want and need all of you to do.
LK: Now see? This is what I’m talking about!! I don’t get that! There are things you “need” us to do? What does that mean?
God: Everyone has a mission. Something they’re here to do. You’re here for a reason. Everyone is. The reasons are big and grandiose for some; quiet and unassuming for others. I changed that up for variety. You know, to add a little spice. But every life touches another. It’s part of my Divine Plan.
LK: But I don’t understand.
God: That’s why it’s “divine”. Look at it this way; do you know for a fact that when you go to sleep tonight, you’ll wake up tomorrow morning?
LK: Well, yeah unless you’ve got other plans.
God: Don’t be a smart ass. Answer me.
LK: Yes, I do.
God: Ok, that’s faith.
LK: What does that have to do with any of this? And what about Virginia Tech and 9/11? More than likely, the victims were operating on faith. They believed that they could go to class or work and be just fine . Not get shot to death or vaporized in their office after a hijacked jet crashes into their building. They believed! Maybe they felt covered by some kind of Divine Protection clause–part of that spiritual Deity/Follower privilege. What I think we should be getting when we sign up for our role as “Believers”. Where was your divine protection then, God? Those people had faith that their lives would go on just fine, yet they died horribly, tragic deaths!!
God: I told you, I was there.
LK: Then why didn’t you do anything?
God: Did it ever occur to you that I did? I was there. When and where they needed me the most.
LK: I still don’t understand why there are thousands of dead people as a result?
God: Look, faith is just that–believing that you’re covered, because you are, no matter what. Things always happen for a reason. Things are always taken care of. They always will be and so will you. You have to believe they’re always taken care of. That’s faith.
LK. Sometimes it’s really hard to do this blindly.
God: I know it is, but you’ve got to try. I gave you this ability to believe.
God: Because hope keeps you alive.
God: Hope keeps you coming back for more. It makes you want to come back for one more chance to experience life. You do this for the off chance that maybe…just maybe one day, you’ll possibly get a guarantee that something just might happen.
LK: God, with all due respect, that makes no sense…
God: It makes perfect sense. It’s faith.
LK: OK fine, but this faith stuff is asking a lot of us sometimes. I’ve had faith before. Exercised it regularly. I prayed to you for things that I wanted and needed to happen. But I was let down when my prayers weren’t answered. I’ve never been married and only came close once. You know that I really loved Nick. When he left me, my heart was broken. What happened?
God: You’re prayers were answered. You just didn’t like the results. I gave you what you needed.
LK: But I loved him.
God: Trust me, I gave you what you needed.
LK: And what was that?
God: You needed a life without Nick.
God: I could give you a million reasons why, but only one really matters: Nick was never the right guy for you. If you were with him, you’d never get the chance to meet the man you’re supposed to be with.
LK: So, where is my Mr. Man and why am I alone now and so miserable?
God: You’ll meet him when the time is right. You’re alone now because you need to be and you’re miserable I guess, because for some reason, you want to be.
LK: I want to be miserable?? As if I have some control over that? What purpose would being miserable serve?
God: Only you can answer that.
LK: I’m so confused. You say you’re here. You say you’re there. You say you sometimes give us what we want, but you always give us what we need, yet the decision to be miserable is mine. I choose to remain brokenhearted?
God: Yes, you do and it will mend. I heal the sick and wounded by giving humans that inherent ability. Let me put it this way: sometimes you suffer heartache and pain to prove your resilience; that you can heal. You humans really are an amazing lot. Like I said a minute ago, it’s not like a snap my fingers and bam! I’m mean I could, but hey, I’m not Samantha Stevens on “Bewitched”, for MY sake! It doesn’t work like that and those who think that’s how I operate, like I’m some magical Genie, they’re wrong. The journey of life is paved with so many things–happiness, sadness, joy, sorrow; tears, smiles and faith…things you have to experience.
LK: Yeah? Well, a lot of people think you’re magic or supposed to be, anyway.
God: A lot of people are wrong. Blind faith is an intangible and really irrational when you think about it. A lot of people have faith, but to keep it, they need to have it backed up by something that can be proven. They have to see it with their own eyes. It took all different kinds of people to successfully inhabit this Big Blue Marble; it still does and some of them are limited mentally and emotionally. Tales of bigger-than-life magic are the only things they can comprehend. So,enter parable and metaphor.
LK: But if that’s all some people know, all they’re able to handle, why do you disappoint? Sometimes, it seems like you look the other way. There are so many times I wonder where you are.
God: I’m right here–where I have been; where I always will be. Listen to me–I give you opportunities, Laurie. You make of them what you will. You decide how to react, how to feel. This is how it works. This is life.
LK: This is how life works? There’s pain and disappointment, God! It happens everyday. It’s happening everywhere. If this is the way it is, then with all due respect, this seems like a very flawed plan.
God: Again, this is life.
LK: OK fine. It’s life…I get it.
God: Do you really?
LK: No, but you’re God, did you really have to ask?
God: This is why I like you, Laurie. You’re fearless. You’d even be flippant with a deity. This is good. I wish more would ask questions.
LK: Then you’re in luck, because I’ve got a ton of them like why am I out of work and with no idea what I’m supposed to be doing?
God: I’m giving you this time to figure it out. And you will if you try. You’re accountable for some of this, too. You have some control, some say in how your life turns out. But make no mistake, I’m always in the background and will always give you what you need. It may not always be what you want, but it will always be what you need.
LK: Why do you put evil people in our lives?
God: I don’t. People come into your lives and it’s up to you to recognize their inherent goodness or their layers of evil. How to respond is your call. One of the best things I ever created was the “red flag”, those little things that just don’t sit right. It’s that little nagging voice that reminds you something just doesn’t feel right. That things are amiss, to the point that it gnaws at you. If you’re experiencing this, it’s entirely up to you to ignore it or not; to stay or go. It’s your call. It’s your free will.
LK: God, you and your ways are like this huge conundrum!
God: Yes, I guess I am. I like that word, “conundrum”. It absolutely explains nothing, yet explains everything, don’t you think?
LK: You know that I get very frustrated with you and I get mad at you sometimes.
God: I know and that’s OK. I understand.
LK: Divine plan, right?
God: Sometimes getting angry and expressing it is exactly what you need.
LK: I need to know why there’s so much deceit in the world? Why do liars exist? Why do people take advantage of others?
God: My textbook response would be for power or to exert control. Both maybe. They need to be something they’re not and lying and deceit accomplishes this. But the soul response is that without these charlatans, how would you know honesty exists?
LK: Why is there pain?
God: To prove the depth of real joy
LK: Then why bother? Can’t you pick a team for us and let us play through being incredible happy and knowing real joy, all the time?
God: No. You need to understand the dichotomy and then you have to experience all that life has to offer…the good, the bad and the indifferent. That makes the journey what it is. Besides, you’re worth it.
LK: When my heart is broken I certainly don’t feel worth it.
God: Yes, but you know it when you’re happy, right?
LK: I guess. So, let me try to get this straight, God: what we’re talking about here is the difference between what we want and what we need and that we can’t always get what we want.
God: Yep. Mick and the Stones backed me up on that fact about 40 years ago.
LK: And beyond that, this is about probability and outcome. The end result of these events in my life would have been far worse than just my experiencing the disappointment because they didn’t happen?
God: This is true.
LK: OK, you spared me, but why did you let me go through all that pain and disappointment in the first place?
God: Because you learned valuable lessons from each of the experiences.
LK: Like with Nick?
God: Especially with Nick.
LK: Then, you’ve always had my best interests at heart?
LK: I guess I never looked at it this way. You know, I feel close to you right now.
God: This is good.
LK: That reminds me…you knew my Aunt Sarah, didn’t you?
LK: She always said she felt closer to her maker whenever she flew.
God: Your Aunt Sarah was a mean old broad. Not very nice at all. Believe me, she actually would’ve felt much closer to her real maker had she traveled by submarine!
LK: You’re funny. I love that you have a sense of humor.
God: That would explain the Geo Prism.
LK: I guess I better go now. Thanks for everything.
God: You’re welcome.
LK: We don’t do this enough, God. Let’s talk again….soon. Next time, I’ll call you.
God. You know, nothing would make me happier. Sometimes, you give me exactly what I need.