How I Hang On

The strands of God I braid into lifelines are made of rags, dried roots, aches, pains, snake skins, and sun. My images of God are stained by blood and the poison leaves of rhubarb, crushed, boiled, dried, and painted on muslin shipped from India, the cloth of royalty, spun with pride by beautiful brown people starving for a chance at life.

There are those who keep their meditations and rituals tight and tidy, like spiritual minimalists. They expect God to do the same. Variations on good and evil are not tolerated because of the mess that creates. But I can absolutely assure you, attempts to keep God simple and sorted out never work.

God appears or withdraws without warning. God ignores, intrudes, laughs, cries, gallops away, swims back, soars, grovels, snorts, pouts, lurks, flaps, crawls, and overstays any kind of real or imagined welcome. I lament the naïve worship of false saviors and the primitive ways we think we can protect ourselves.

“And what about plastic?” God asks, joining my foray into complexities and despair. “Tupperware was once regarded as a miracle.” God takes the shape of a vacuum cleaner, then a fridge; God infuses a book of photos of my chemo baldness and the breastless beauty of my friend’s short-term victory over cancer. God is flippant and fancy, playing the fool to cheer me up.

“Be ye still, God,” I say to all the moving pieces.

“Good one,” God laughs and pulls me onto the trampoline. God is protective, warning those close to me that I can’t be bounced as high anymore. Even though this signals the condition of my bones, I am comforted by the attention.

“I know you pretty well,” God says, watching me jump. “I wish you’d stay off ladders.”

“Oh, take a hike,” I say.

 “Good idea,” God says. And away we go.

This is the Big Truth. We can neither contain nor control God: not in rituals, not in words, not in ideas (simple or otherwise), not in rules, not in promises, not in skylines or photos—even from the Hubble telescope. God refuses to be shaken down, defined, spoken for, or reduced. Thus, it is wise to entertain sorrow, welcome the stranger, love the enemy, and find strength in the profound, complex joy that is life itself. God’s blood is the blood we bleed. It is on loan from eternity.

We Have No Sheep

Any minute now, God is going to show up with a new tattoo. He calls them Prison Ribbons. Medals of Honor. He’ll be revving a stolen Harley. He’ll be broke. If arrested, he will be killed.

Any day now, God is going to knock meekly on the outside door, waiting to be welcomed in. She will be crying. There are things too painful to bear alone.

Sometime in the afternoon, God is going to hear someone praying to win a soccer game, begging for help with an obstinate child, asking for healing, or relief, or just one more day, alive on the planet.

This evening, God is going to corral the sheep for their own safety. There’s been a mountain lion sighting. Even the dogs are nervous.

And me? Oh, I’ll be friendly enough. I’ll do some weeding in the garden. Bake some bread. Read. Think. Write. Plan. Argue. And I’ll wait. That’s the hardest. The waiting.

Unbearable, unthinkable companion, could you wait with me? Unload the guns? Unpack the anger? Could we dismantle our fears together? Maybe we could examine our jagged little pieces of hatred and throw them in the river. They won’t skip, but over the eons, they’ll smooth into gleaming stones.

I want to build a translucent wall of agate and quartz that everyone can touch—the living and the dead—the livid and the lucid and the lame—the wayward sons and daughters of a very wayward God.

But I find myself chewing my thumbnail, drinking my beer, rocking in the recliner like the old fool I’m becoming. I want to buy a donkey to protect the sheep. We have no sheep. We have terror, borrowed time, and limited vision but, as of this moment, we have no sheep.