In Missoula some weeks ago, I stopped for a quick lunch while running errands. I’m not in the city often anymore, so Asian food sounded great. God wasn’t invited, but that never matters.
“Your work isn’t finished, you know,” She said, helping Herself to my Pad Thai.
I sipped my tea. “Oh, I know,” I said. “I’m always busy.” My tone was dismissive. The past two years had been rough. Maybe God was trying to comfort me, but I wasn’t in the mood.
Undeterred, She gave me a toothy smile. “You won’t like what I’m about to say.”
I hate that lead-in. I rallied my defenses, though I knew it was futile. God and I have an arrangement, and it’s not about going to heaven when I die. It’s about peace in my remaining days. If I don’t listen, my soul gets prickly and confused, and I tend to drink too much.
God of the toothy smile continued. “The house looks nice. The children are grown and lovely. I enjoy your little poems. But you’ve been hiding. Playing it safe. You need to find more driftwood and shards of colored glass. Step a little further into the abyss.”
I put my cup down angrily, spilling a little tea. God paused, gazed out the window, and faded. But like the grin of the Cheshire cat, the toothy smile faded last.
Lunch was over. I rode my bike into the afternoon, pot holes rattling my bones. I thought of places I like to hide. Caves and hollow logs, small dark closets, little shiny houses with hidden doors, big houses, subdued by a certain humility, spaces under bridges, nests in trees. I know about hiding. I know about shelter. I’ve used sticks and stones, glass and granite, spit and dirt.
God caught up with me. “I want co-authorship,” She said bluntly.
I stalled. This was not going well. “But I, um. Well, you’re never entirely coherent.”
“Coherence is overrated,” God said. “I’ll have my attorney draw up the papers. There’ll have to be some deadlines.”
Fuck, I thought. I bet She’ll have a penalty clause too. I was upset. Frightened.
“Of course I will,” God said, from inside my head. “If you want an advance, you’ve got to get real. You can’t have forever. And to tell you the truth—which I pretty much always do–you wouldn’t want forever, honey. It’s a burden you’re not ready for.”
Resigned, defeated, I mumbled an apology for my language and rode on home in the gathering dusk. I paced, ranted, fasted, ate, and hid. I sang off-key, fell on the ice while stomping, fed the chickens, contemplated an early death, and generally came apart. Came utterly apart.
Those who’ll put me back together have begun a slow procession across the bridge. They’ll come down the alley and settle into the open-faced sheds they helped me build, politely waiting. Like God, like me, most have been broken. Discarded. Some will die. But they will be of great help. I’ve known this my whole life. Trash and transformation—a holy circularity. God incarnate, God in the mirror, God in the people, God at the bottom of the heap. This is where we should look. This is where life itself hides out.