As I’ve shared before, my writers’ group often creates something around a unique topic, theme or word. This month, the challenge was to write a “Post Fourth of July” piece about “Freedom” — i.e., no fireworks. Here’s mine.
GOD WALKS INTO A BAR…
Just so we’re clear: I am God.
Yes, that God. Well, the only God, if you want to be technical, although at one time many years ago there were several other so-called “gods” who got a lot of attention from various prophets and spiritual leaders of all kinds, but trust Me on this, there is only one, and I AM…Who AM.
Ha! You see what I did there? No pronouns, no gender. That tends to throw you a bit, but it is what it is, and I am what I AM. Anyway, I am introducing myself right from the start so that there’s no question, no doubt, and worst of all, no nit-picking from the literary types who may be reading this as to why the narrator in this story knows what everyone is thinking.
Which is kind of a neat twist, since so many of My Creation have dared to think that they knew what I was thinking. Ha! My thoughts are so much bigger than your ability to comprehend. It’s really kind of silly for you to even try. I kept telling you that for a long time and some of you got it, but then you got into the Faith business and you had to have something to sell to the masses. I get it, really, I do. I don’t like it…but that’s for another conversation.
Sorry! I got sidetracked there a bit. Fair warning, I sometimes do that. I don’t talk directly to My Creation very often, no matter what those Fundamentalists think. It’s too hard. I can’t ever get a word in edgewise…so when I do have a chance to talk, I sometimes overshare…
So, as you may have heard, I like to visit My Creation every now and then just to check things out, chat a bit, hear what you have to say. You’d think social media would have made that easier, since everyone can share their every thought about everything all the time. About that, I’ll just say this: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And contrary to popular belief, social media is not Satan’s handiwork. Not because he couldn’t. He’s very clever. I know from first-hand experience. Rather, he’s just not that evil. I mean, come on…to create something that feeds humanity’s most base, arrogant, self-centered instincts and make it as close as a few easy clicks on a computer with no awareness much less regard for the possible consequences? Only Man would do that. Still, Old Goat Face sure appreciates it. And yes, he does have accounts on all the biggies: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Of course, Snapchat is his favorite.
Darn it, I got sidetracked again. See what I mean?
So, to the point: I stopped at a local bar recently and sat down next to a patron. It doesn’t really matter who it was. You’re all the same to Me. Besides, this is just a random sampling, not a scientific process (and yes, I love science. Who do you think invented science? Although Satan had a hoof, er, I mean, a hand in trigonometry…)
But, for the sake of this story, let’s just say it was an English-speaking American male, and I spoke to him as a Christian, since that’s the faith system he was most familiar with. Really though, it could be any faith and any religion. Frankly, they’re all the same, and they all end with Me, no matter what you call Me, or how you try to talk to Me. I’ve never understood why My Creation has never understood that. It’s not a great mystery. I mean, I understand, of course! There’s political power in division that unity simply doesn’t offer. What I mean is, I don’t understand why you don’t understand. That kind of power creates more trouble than it’s worth. But again, I digress…
Anyway, I introduced myself. And, My Creation doubted Me. No surprise. All that chitter-chatter about faith and trust usually goes right out the door when someone sits down next to you claiming to be Me. It happens a lot, actually. Suffice it to say, I knew what was coming.
“So, you’re God, eh?” he said. He peered at the mirror behind the bar. He was trying to see if My reflection was there next to his own between the bottles of hard liquor. It was.
“Hey, cut that out! I’m not a vampire,” I said, startling him. His eyes snapped sheepishly back to mine, embarrassed at having been caught.
“Ok, well if you’re God, then prove it.”
“Oh, that’s not a good start,” I said. “Didn’t you pay any attention in Sunday School? The Egyptians and the Red Sea? The ten commandments and the golden calf? Forty years walking in circles in the desert? The ending of ‘Lost’? Testing Me usually doesn’t end well.”
“OK, let’s just say you’re God.”
“Then what’s your name?”
“I just told you. I AM. I knew what you were thinking and answered your question before you could even ask it. Because I’m you know, I’m God.”
“Fine, Mister I AM.”
“Missus? You mean, like Mother Nature?”
“Nope, not Missus either. Just, I AM.”
Uncertainty clouded his eyes, but he still played along. I have to say I appreciate honest pragmatism in My Creation. It helps weed out the real weirdos. People who believe everything will believe anything. Always dangerous.
“Ok, well then, can I buy you a drink?” he offered.
“Really? I thought drinking was a sin.”
“Not at all. What you do after you drink is sometimes sinful but drinking itself is fine. I want My Creation to enjoy the life I’ve given you – in moderation, of course! I love a good drink every now and again. Especially at weddings.”
“Great. What’ll it be?”
I looked him square in the eye. “Truthfully, I like all fermented beverages, but wine is my favorite. Are you sure you’ve heard about Me?”
He ordered a glass of a decent Merlot for Me, and another swill beer for himself. Yes, it is true, some beers and wines are better than others, and this was one of the cheapest and thinnest around. The kind you drink to get drunk, rather than to enjoy My handiwork. Ugh! But he was buying so what could I say?
He wound up to ask another question. “Now, please don’t get angry. I don’t want any floods. I left my ark at home!”
“Good one!” Honestly, it was not a particularly clever retort, but I try to ease My Creation’s heart in many ways. Laughter is one of the best. In cases like this a little white lie doesn’t hurt anything.
“I don’t mean to test you or make you mad, but if you’re God, like you say…” – he leaned over his drink and nudged Me in the ribs with his elbow and winked – “…then what was the greatest thing you ever gave us?”
“What is the greatest thing I ever gave My Creation. Not was. Is. The greatest thing I ever gave you is the gift that keeps on giving, as you like to say.”
“Ah! Mister Tricky with the Words!”
“To answer your question, the greatest gift I ever gave My Creation is…”
“Wait, I know this one: Your son, Jesus.”
“Ha! Score one for the doubting human!” He nodded his triumph.
“What?” His eyes spun with puzzlement. Or maybe it was the booze.
“You see, Jesus was indeed my son, and he did indeed embody my love and grace better than any of you, but you’re all my children, same as he was. You all have the exact same abilities, the same skills, the same resources as he did. The only difference was, he listened better.”
I paused to let that golden nugget settle in his mental prospecting pan.
“No, my greatest gift to all of you was something simpler, yet infinitely more difficult: Freedom.”
“Freedom. Free will. The ability to choose. To determine what you will do. How you will treat others. Who you will love. Where and when – and even if – you will come home to Me. It’s what puts you atop the rest of My Creation.”
I sipped my wine, letting it roll around my tongue. Delicious! Grapes are truly one of My most inspired inventions.
“Well, that and opposable thumbs,” I added. Another sip, swirl and swallow.
“And I’d also throw self-awareness in there, though most of you are so self-absorbed that it’s impossible to be aware of anything, most especially yourselves.”
He downed his beer and placed the empty mug on the bar. He paused. “Huh…that’s pretty deep.”
“Well, I am God. ‘Deep’ is kind of my thing.”
“Ok, supposing you are actually who you say you are…”
“Right, right, that again. Supposing you are who you say you am…er, I mean, who you are…oh man, now you’ve got me all twisted up!” He took a deep breath, then tried again. “What I am trying to say is, I suppose then we’ve really fucked things up – oops, forgive my language!”
“Don’t worry about it! Remember, I invented all words, not just The Word.” Not a bad pun, if I do say so myself – and I’ve made a lot of them through the millennia. I offered a toothy grin.
“Hardy har, har…very funny.”
His brain struggled to gather itself. I’d really put a lot on his mental plate, and it showed, but that’s not my fault. Very few of you use more than a fraction of the intellect I gave you.
“So, you’re saying we’re responsible for just about every bad thing in our lives because of the choices we make?”
“That was a bad one.”
“You even have to ask?”
“What about pain and disease?”
“Most of those are just a part of life. Your body is a glorious machine. All machines break. But yes, sometimes they break sooner or more often because of how you treat them.”
His mouth hung agape. I gently pushed his chin up until his lips met. Finally, he spoke. “If you’re the parent of everyone as you say, then you must be pretty mad at us.”
“I have to be honest, you know, being God and all. It’s been pretty disappointing.”
The weight of a thousand simultaneous guilty thoughts dragged his gaze down to his hands.
“But there have been a few encouraging exceptions. Joan of Arc, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, that little girl who stood up to the Taliban even after they shot her in the head.”
He smiled, relieved.
“And I have to say, Ringo Starr.”
“Ringo? Ringo is your favorite Beatle?”
“Without question. I love his whole ‘Peace and Love’ thing. Comes straight from his heart. He really seems to get it.”
“Wow! So, then, why in the world would you stick with us? Why haven’t you – what’s the word? Smite? – Why didn’t you smite us all a long time ago?”
“For the same reason your parents didn’t ‘smite’ you when they learned that you crashed the car when you went on a joy ride with your girlfriend while they were gone on vacation.”
His brow crinkled.
“How did you know about…”
I stared at him as hard as I could.
“Oh, that’s right…God.”
“And the answer is, because I know I raised you better, and I have faith that you will eventually do the right thing. Which, by the way, is my favorite Spike Lee movie.”
A hesitant smile peeked from his eyes. “Really? After everything we’ve done?”
“Of course. I know in my heart that you’ll get there eventually. Listen: there’s a lot of hooey in your holy books. But you know the part about me making you in my image?”
“That part is absolutely true. And listen, the fact of the matter is, I’ve made mistakes myself.”
“Really?” He laughed a little. “God has made mistakes?”
“Of course. Have you seen the platypus? I could never quite get that one right. The point is, I believe in you, even if you don’t believe in Me.”
Clearly my message hit him like a ton of bricks. Or he’d finally had too much to drink. Either way, he shook his head. Confusion skittered across his brain like water bugs on a pond. He didn’t speak for several minutes, not knowing what quite to say. Finally, he broke the silence.
“Hey, do you want another glass of wine?”
“That’s very kind. Thank you.”
As he waved at the bartender, I reached over to the water bottle sitting at the edge of the bar. I held my hand over the top and…well, you know. He turned back, looked at the bottle, then my glass, then at Me.
“Really?” he said. “You couldn’t just wait for me to order you another glass?”
“Well I could have, but why waste good water?” I smiled.
I poured a glass of the most magnificent Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep purple. Lush, dark berry flavors. Bold and complex finish, not too heavy on the palette.
Dare I say, it was heavenly.