Valentines

broken heart lightened

God has been making fun of me lately, trying to get me to wrestle, insisting I lighten up. I resist because of this sense of impending injury. God doesn’t realize her own strength, and I tend to fight back, even if it’s all in fun. But is it ever all in fun? C’mon, God. Is it?

God pulls her tickle-fingers back and takes a deep breath, accidentally inhaling millions of locusts, eleven planets, and so much disgusting space debris that she sneezes. I grab a well-installed towel rack and hang on.

“Bless you,” I say automatically. What a stupid custom. No demons are going up anyone’s noses, especially God’s. But I say it and mean it for whatever that’s worth in this strange condition of being alive. And I am alive. Alive in sage green, burnt orange, and lavender paint spread over the chalky primer. Alive in the demolition and reconstruction of shelter. Alive like the probiotic bugs I’m sipping to recolonize my ravaged digestive track.

“Bless you again,” I say, as God’s second sneeze rattles the rafters. I add, “I’ve never really thought about you sneezing.” God rubs her nose and wipes her eyes. “Yeah, I’m allergic to some things you’d never guess,” she says. “And besides, you can’t think of everything. Want me to do a little thinking for you?” She grins.

“Oh no.” I say this in a very firm voice. “No. Absolutely not.” I figuratively wrap my arms around my brain and hold my hand up like a guard at a school crossing. “No.”

One thing I’m clear on is this: God’s thoughts are not my thoughts. God’s ways are not my ways. I prefer my own thoughts. Otherwise, what’s the point? God has grown Vulcan ears, and her eyebrows are thick and angular. “Mindmeld, anyone?” she says, clearly having way too much fun. “Oh my God!” I say, starting to laugh despite myself. “Could you just leave it alone?”

“It, or you?” God asks, and adds, “I can drop a subject as quick as anyone, so yes, I can leave it. But you? Sweetheart, you might think you’d like a little distance, but you can’t understand how bad that would be. So, you? Nope, I won’t be leaving you alone. Ever. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but I’m God. I have certain prerogatives.”

My face is stony, but the glare is facetious. I just don’t feel like admitting my relief. Right now, a nap sounds good. “Excellent idea,” God agrees.

“Yes,” I say. “I’m glad I thought of it.” Then with exaggerated dignity, I crawl into her chest cavity, very near her broken heart, and fall asleep.

 

Warm Heart

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It is evening. Snowy. The vicious ways of humanity have crawled up on the couch beside me, surrounded me, touched me, and laughed. I see them loading their guns. I offer to eat the bullets. They laugh.

It is the end of a day, an era, minutes strung together with a thin cord falling through the ice. Going under and away. God is the Titanic and the iceberg. I want to refuse the cold comfort, but I can’t.

This is not of my own doing. It is a gift of God.

I warm my hands over my own chest, tuck them under my own arms. I open my mouth to admit my fear but what comes out is anger. This, I quickly see, is what has warmed my heart. What to do with this fire? It is hypnotic to the eye. Searing to the touch.

Recently, I read a book about World War II and said to myself, “Those horrors were only 80 years ago.” I am lured by the distorted consolation of disbelief. My soul entertains the idea of a stealthy migration to meaninglessness; the reabsorption of my face into the masses.

But long ago, in a desperately poor institution, I saw a naked boy caged in a window, his pink-tipped penis, long and limp, his muddy eyes slow-moving and opaque, arms draped through the ornate bars, fingers exploring, imploring anyone to hold his hand. Anyone.

These decades later, I wonder where he is. Did the cage fly open? Did his penis grow erect? Did anyone ever hold his hand, and if they did, did they survive, or did he pull them down into the half-life of that underworld?

He would be a man now. He would not remember my face if he happens to be alive, but I think he’s not. Such poverty sucks the marrow from the bones of the children. I have grieved this child my entire life, and I doubt that even death will change that. He is a part of what I know.

This is not of my own doing. It is a gift of God.

Sabbath

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“I’ve been rethinking the whole Sabbath thing,” God says, as we share a green smoothie and watch a spectacular sunrise. “I don’t think people get it anymore, and I’m afraid it’s been pigeonholed as something exclusively Jewish or contorted by the evangelicals. They’re masters of contortion.”

“Ah, um, well,” I say, caught a bit off-guard. “What is it we’re supposed to get?”

“You tell me,” God says in her slyest voice.

My defenses flare. Flecks of spinach float in the blueberry kefir. There was a time when I had a grasp on Sabbath—the crossing over from chaos to rest. From flailing to faith. It wasn’t Jewish. It wasn’t Christian or Muslim. It was kairos—the fullness of the moment—an eternity in which nothing and everything mattered, including me. It was a fleeting glimpse of nirvana, a deep plunge into enlightened trustingness. It was a backfloat on the salty sea of oneness—effortless disconnection from the workaday days and dream-addled nights. But the ways of the world drained the sea. I often found myself floating on mud, so I crawled away from Sabbath, and now I shop, grateful the stores are open.

I look deeper—I can’t help myself. I remember the way in—through a door where guards strip-searched souls for fear, shame, and crippling uncertainties. Then, the chilling nakedness was quickly covered by 5-star hotel bathrobes of pure compassion, tenderly wrapped around the body; furry slippers placed on weary feet. Someone pays the bill in advance, but you have to share the room with yourself. I’m not an ideal roommate.

Resting in God is a place to live. Entering the Sabbath is what children do when they build a treehouse high in the clouds. It is soft and safe up there. There’s hope and magic. Crackers and apples and cheese. Communion. I had a treehouse like that. I built it mostly by myself, but my dad had to shore things up here and there. The memories make me dreadfully homesick.

“Okay, you’ve made your point,” I say, dragging my restless self into the present. “Let’s drop it, okay?”

God tips her head back, shaking the last slow drops down the inside of the gleaming glass. They spill into her open, happy mouth. “Good smoothie,” she says. “That really hit the spot.”