In the Beginning

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I first met God as a small child, wearing my fancy dress. We played some simple games and I was smitten. It was easy. Once you get the hang of it, there’re so many things needing to be baptized or buried.  But salvation is a different story. The fat boy in third grade, for instance. He had no friends, and was bullied and ridiculed constantly–so easy to torment that even the teacher got into it. One time, she kicked him viciously in the shins while he was trapped in his desk, directly behind me. He cried and tried to fend off her blows, snot smeared on his face, hot with humiliation.

Safe at home, I fantasized how I’d save him by inviting him over to play. It would be like Cinderella, only Fat Boy was the one with wicked step-sisters and the terrible life, and I was the powerful, beautiful princess. I never invited him over, and life moved along. But it never moved completely past his pain.

The Little God I knew back then had arranged a nice white life for me, mostly safe, with a few disappointments, and some near-misses which I interpreted as signals of my importance. There were thin cracks in the mirror, and a few dangling questions, but I was on the road to heaven. It wasn’t until my divorce that Little God blew up on me. My good girl image was shredded, inside and out.

My soul was a combat zone, and I wailed and flailed. But sometime, somehow, in the midst of my rage and sorrow, Big Truth rolled in like a tank rolling into a skirmish. Big Truth lifted the hatch, pulled off His helmet, and saluted. I snapped to attention, frightened, ashamed. I could tell this wasn’t going to be a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of truth. Sure enough, Big Truth raised a bullhorn and shouted, “All have failed. All are forgiven. All are enlisted. All will die.”

It seeped from soul to bones. I repeated this strange declaration in my mind, “All have failed. All are forgiven. All are enlisted. All will die.” Big Truth nodded, clearly reading my mind, and held the salute until I saluted back. It was a feeble gesture on my part, but it must’ve been enough, because Big Truth climbed down, toting a large box of treaties and legal documents. I thought I was going to have to sign my life away, but instead, we built a fire and burned them. “You need to relax,” Big Truth said. “If anyone should be uptight, it should be me. And look. I’m calm. I’ve got this.”

“I’m trying,” I said. “But you’re freaking me out. You’re not exactly what I thought You were.”

“Of course not. Would you want me to be what you thought I was?”

Even though I actually did want God to be exactly as I thought, I knew that wasn’t the right answer. “No, I guess not,” I said. “But then, who are You?”

“Hmmm,” God said. “Good question, baby. You can call me pretty much anything. And you’ll be a little bit wrong. But no worries. I’ll hear you.”

Then God mentioned that a few of His buddies were going dancing later on and invited me along. I went straight home, shed my bulky clothes, and put on my dancing shoes.

Out of uniform, with a few beers in Him, God is one heck of a dancer. And His band, Sweet Jesus, what a band!

Before we called it a night, I cozied up to God and said, “C’mon. Really. What’s your name?”

God took a deep breath. His eyes burned with a fearsome love. “Like I said, I have a lot of names,” He said. “But for now, you can call me Fat Boy.

By Way of Explanation

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Dear Reader,

Being diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer is one way the universe grabs your attention. Awareness of mortality infiltrates your senses, your psyche, your relationships and even your definition of who you are. Each moment is both precious and bitter. The morning light is magical and tragic, and the days take on the misery and wonder of what it means to be human, frightened, grateful, ordinary, strong, and utterly helpless.

So far, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve crawled out the other side, alive, but certainly not unscathed. The treatments are over, the cancer seems to have exited for now, and all I have to endure is the aftermath: Occasional bodily invasions, chemo-induced neuropathy, chemo-accelerated arthritis and osteoporosis, an aversion to marijuana, slightly barbequed body parts, questionable lymph-node functioning, and these whacked-out, ramped-up visitations from God.

Since my baptism at age 4, I’ve known God was up to something not quite captured in the scriptures, and I’ve given chase (or been pursued) many times. I’ve followed thin strands through thick vegetation, studied, prayed, fasted, stomped my feet, and held myself absolutely still. I’ve seen God’s tail as He skitters away, heard the cry of the Mother Eagle, swam in the turbulent Living Waters, endured Holy Thirst, and been yanked back from untimely deaths by what seemed to be the Hand of God. Early on, and repeatedly, I’ve opened the Christmas gift of Salvation, and worn it with loyal ambivalence—a coat of many colors shimmering with universal grace.

Today, God and I are taking things up a notch. We’re becoming bloggers. I’ve never had such a quirky, demanding co-author, but as you read the posts, I’m sure you’ll glimpse the futility of saying no to the Creator. This is one thing you can bank on: While God endures freewill, God is also the very definition of persistent. God doesn’t give up, and blithely believes we’ll eventually get it. God has more time than we do, hence my capitulation. I’m mortal. God is not.

My heart is pounding at a rate that reveals how scary it is to go public like this. I’m nourished by my first breakfast–homemade bread and a half-bottle of dark beer. I’m fortified by sun, wind, fire, snow, and the caw of a crow outside my window. What more could I ask?

Mostly, my posts will be reports of visitations, but if God doesn’t stop by, I’ll post meditations or whatever else seeps into my soul as I listen, pray, type, and edit.

An arbitrarily designated new year is about to arrive. May courage increase and wisdom deepen, generosity expand and fears contract. May each day include awe, joy, gratitude, and mystery. And here’s my advice: Welcome the stranger, the broken, the orphan, the immigrant, the haughty and the lowly—these are among God’s favorite disguises. It’s wise to be nice.

Peace,

Rita