Driving along I 90, God and I spotted an ominous black billboard with red letters proclaiming “After you die, you WILL meet God.” The absurdity made us laugh. When God rides shotgun, the drive gets much more interesting.
“Now there’s an eyesore! Who do you think put that up?” God asked. Oh fun, I thought. A road game, like I spy with my little eye. (I play this with the grandchildren.) We’ll call this one Who put up that billboard?
“Well,” I said. “I’m guessing it’s someone you know quite well, but who only knows you through the lenses of judgement or vengeance. Am I right?”
“You’re warm,” God said.
“Okay. Let’s see. It’s got to be someone who’s unaware of all the places you hang out. Someone who doesn’t understand you make everyone’s acquaintance long before they open their eyes.” God nodded and gazed out the window, wispy tendrils of lavender floating around his head.
“And someone who has trouble understanding your infinite, ongoing, outlandish forgivingness. A bully, even. Trying to scare people into thinking you’re a bully too.”
God looked at me, grinned, and adjusted the seat. “These Prius seats are worse than economy class on the newer airplanes. Really hard on my lower back,” God said. “Think you can get the answer before Butte?”
I shrugged. The game was losing its appeal. I realized I didn’t like the person behind that billboard. I wanted to put another one alongside that said “You’ll meet God too, buddy. He’ll be gay. She’ll be the hungry one to your left. The homeless, uninsured drunk. He’ll be the one you put in the private, for-profit prison. She’ll be cold. Broke. Possibly abused. You will have crucified her more times than I can count.”
“Any more guesses?” God interrupted my line of thought. An answer had occurred to me. I didn’t want to say it, but with God, there’s no such thing. I hemmed and hawed. Then I just blurted it.
“It’s my neighbor, isn’t it?” I tightened my grip on the wheel, eyebrows knit together, angry tears welling up in my eyes.
“Right!!” God said. “Ding, ding, ding. You win. Way to go.”
“Ah, shit,” I said, using a word I usually avoid. God had tricked me again. “I should’ve known. I can’t love people like that, God. I just can’t.”
“Sure you can,” God said. His gnarled black hand covered mine for a moment, sending a wave of heat through my body. “I believe in you. Go for it. Remember, I’ve got your back.”
“Nonsense,” I said, giving God a punch in the shoulder.
“Nonsense,” God answered. We stopped in Butte for coffee.