At 3:00 AM I was unwillingly awake with an old church song stuck in my head. I tried to breathe it away. I tried to layer another song on top to cancel out the insistent tune. I finally fell asleep, but now, with the dawn, the song is back. Coffee, Paul Simon, a nice Vimeo poetry reading—nothing has obliterated this song. So, like any sensible, mystically-oriented writer, I Google the lines to see from whence they come. Alas. It was an easy Google. New Testament. Writings of a fellow mystically-oriented writer called Paul in the book called Romans. Here are the words of the song:
We are heirs of the Father, we are joint heirs with the Son.
We are children of the Kingdom. We are family. We are one.
But guess what? The song is a bit selective. The whole verse has a disturbing caveat. We are one, alright…IF we share in the suffering. But isn’t God’s love supposed to free us from suffering? Sometimes, I like a good paradox. An enlightening dialectic. But this morning, I don’t like the song, I don’t like the verse, I don’t like suffering, and I hate my internal judge who says maybe I haven’t suffered enough, so I can look forward to more or die a total slacker.
God arrives gently. “How’s the book coming along?” he asks. He’s talking about a book I’m writing on suicide.
“What’s the point of anything?” I answer. “The book is freaking me out, and I doubt anyone will publish it anyway. And why is suffering even a thing?”
“Bones break,” God says. He sighs. “Fire burns. Hunger happens. I don’t like it any better than you do.”
I believe this is true even though I’m talking to the Biggest God. The One who could fix it all. The One with perfect pitch who plucks the strings of the cello, paints the sky, births the morning, ties the knots, upends the endings, buries the dead, begins with no beginning, ends the day with no end.
“I’ve been working on my will,” God says. “What would you like to inherit?”
My insides drop. “You can’t die,” I say from a very cold place.
“Of course I can,” God says. “I do it millions of times a day. It’s a job requirement.”
“That’s stupid,” I say. “You’re God. You wrote the job description.”
“Yes, I did,” God says. “Now, what would you like to inherit?”
I look at God, utterly astonished at the ridiculous question and impossible answer.
“Nothing,” I mumble.
“What’s that?” God says, leaning dramatically across the couch.
“NOTHING,” I shout. And I mean it.
But God snaps open his briefcase, and a fully formed day leaps out, intensely pigmented, filled with the aroma of baked goods and lilacs, songs in my head, words at my fingertips, and a horizon barely out of reach. Just the way I like it.
“Okay,” I say. “For now.”
“Yes,” God says. “For now.”