God and I cried this morning as we listened to the conditions my government has imposed on migrant children. “Yours is the only species I’ve had to make any sacrifices for,” God said, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“I know,” I said. “I’m so sorry. You did such a great job on trees.”
“What do you think keeps going wrong?” God asked. I took a few swallows of stale beer, trying to rise from despair to contemplation. People should try this more often. It’s hard. I got caught in the downward suck of anger but kicked free and grabbed the buoyant green of early summer.
My old bike was nearby. I wanted to ride away, ride fast down a gravel hill, ride into the rising sun, buy things, crash, scare people—anything but hold steady. Somehow, I managed to keep my rear end glued to the chair and my soul open to the broken heart of this gentle God.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I think about this all the time. Is it fear? Do you let some people turn out evil just for the fun of it? What’s our attraction to suffering? Why do we inflict it? It seems like we are always in a great civil war, unable to identify the enemy.”
God was listening intently. This was unnerving. I babbled on. “Okay, so clearly the enemy is not hungry children or despairing parents…” I stopped cold. How do I know they aren’t the enemy? Their needs terrify me. The solutions might involve sacrifice on my part. The unwashed masses, the ignorant hoards, the surging Other. Their demands might overwhelm our systems and end life as we’ve known it. They may yank us down into their awful misery.
“Exactly,” God said. “They have that effect on me, too.”
We started crying again. I cried for myself. My lack of wisdom. My selfishness. My inability to channel my anger constructively. The bruising pain of hitting the wall with compassion thinned down to nothing.
God cried for the children. That’s all. The children.
“They aren’t pawns,” he choked out.
“Yes. they are,” I said in a cold voice I did not want to recognize.
God laid his head on the table, wrapped his arms tight so I couldn’t see his face, and continued to grieve. I found a stack of handkerchiefs and left them beside him as I slipped out the back where my friends, all white and wealthy, were waiting with easy answers. I needed this toxic comfort. I confessed my sins all the way to the bakery where I intended to buy everyone scones and double-shot Americanos. So tasty. So good.
I rattled off the order.
“Got it,” God said. “Can I get a name on that?”
Somehow, I wasn’t surprised in the least. “Don’t you remember?” I asked. “After all, you named me. Was it that long ago?”
God leaned over the counter and whispered, “They aren’t pawns.” He shook his massive head, and small children rained down, tumbling and laughing. A storm of pure of children. “They aren’t pawns,” he repeated as he gathered them like clouds and flew away.