This blog is kind of my playground to try different things. This is the first real bit of fiction I’ve posted ever. Let me know what you think if you have an opinion and help me be a better writer.
Tom walked into the café and saw God sitting across the room. He approached the quiet, bearded and be-speckled man, and flashed him the kind of wide smile salesmen give you before trying to sell you a vacuum. He shook God’s hand and then proceeded to take his seat on the other side of the little round table that separated them.
“I’m glad you came,” said God.
“Of course! I’m not going to skip a meal with the big man himself,” he said, still smiling.
“I know how busy life is right now. This means a lot to me.”
God looked down at his notes for a moment, and then kept talking: “I have things I want to talk about, but first, how are you doing? How is life going for you?”
“It’s going great! Never been better. I’m getting more involved in youth ministry, reaching out to the young kids in our parish. I don’t know if you noticed, but a parent who is also helping out in the ministry, complimented me on how moving my talk was the other night. ”
“Yes, I remember that talk. ”
“I feel so fulfilled doing that kind of thing. Like I’m really making an impact.”
Tom’s pace was almost breathless. The words came in quick succession, one right after the other, as though rehearsed.
“How is your family? How are Jean and the kids?”
“It’s… it’s difficult. But we’re doing ok. I think Jean and I have an understanding. We’ve come to accept each other as we are, you know? Not as we want each other to be.”
“That can be good.”
“Yeah… yeah, I think it can. So why did you bring me here?”
At the question, God looked into Tom’s eyes and hesitated for a moment, weighing something in his mind, back and forth.
“I asked you here because of something I’ve been worried about with you.”
Tom shifted in his chair a bit.
“Worried about? What could there be to worry about? Are you ‘firing’ me?”
“No! No, of course not. I know you mean well with everything you’re doing. But… how do I say this?”
God tilted his head slightly, weighing again his thoughts, and then settled on it:
“I don’t think any of this means anything to you.”
Tom was confused. “What do you mean?”
“I mean this whole…. this whole Christian game you’re playing isn’t getting us anywhere. And I’m worried about you.”
“I don’t understand what you’re getting at,” he said slowly, with a quizzical look. “What game? You think this is a game to me?”
God, with a kind of resignation, nodded his head.
Tom leaned forward in his chair. “I grew up in a Christian home. I’m involved in ministry. I’m faithful to my wife despite everything that’s happened. And you’re telling me I’m just playing a game?”
God sighed softly, “Tom, why are you doing all of this? Why the ministry? Why the faithfulness, not just to your wife, but to all of this?”
Tom sat back in his chair. “I do what I do because I’m a Christian. I do it because it’s what you want me to do. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes. Of course, I am. I do all of this for you.”
“When did I tell you to get into youth ministry?”
Tom was silent in thought. He looked out the window, trying to remember.
God went on: “In your haste to do what I wanted you to do, did you ever ask me if that was what I actually wanted you to do?”
“You must obviously want it, don’t you? I mean, it’s a good Christian thing to do.”
“It also takes you away from your family more than you already are. You have a busy job, working into the evenings, and now you’re taking another day away from them. Why in the world would I want you to dive into another ministry when you already have one back at home waiting for you?”
At this, Tom gently placed his hands on the table, staring at them. Visibly crest-fallen, he looked out the window and spoke calmly and evenly. “I’ll leave the youth ministry then. I’m sure they can find someone else.”
“Yes, they can and they will. I’ll make sure of that.”
Tom made to get up, but God grabbed his hand. “Please, there’s more I wanted to discuss.”
He gave an impatient glance. “Look, I told you I would do what you want me to do. What more is there to talk about?”
“I didn’t bring you here to just tell you what to do.”
“Oh, I forgot. You want to talk about how my entire spirituality is a joke,” Tom said sarcastically. “That means so much more knowing it’s coming from you.”
“I didn’t say that because I’ve given up on you. But you’ve missed something absolutely essential, and you can’t seem to figure out what it is even when it’s staring you in the face.”
“You know, I thought you had brought me here to give me a promotion. To pat me on the back for all my effort – maybe answer prayers I’ve been sending your way to heal Jean. Her disease isn’t just a burden on her. It’s a burden on all of us. Or to maybe help Gracie cheer up a bit. She’s going through this horrible teenage phase where she hates literally everything. I thought you might have seen my hard work and would listen to me.”
God looked down at his clip-board full of papers and leafed through them. “I’ve heard you,” he said, as he scanned his notes. “Yeah… no, it can’t be done. Your wife’s illness is causing spiritual growth in you – and really your entire family – unlike anything you’ve experienced before. I don’t see this Cross going away for at least another decade. You’re much further than you were even two years ago.”
“What?! A decade? This will go on for years?”
Tom got up from his chair and paced in the small space between his table and the one next to him. “I… I don’t know what to say…. I thought… I thought that there was some kind of exchange here. I give myself to you and you bless my life. I’ve been putting a lot of extra hours into this job. Where the Hell is the blessing?!”
“What?” said God in disbelief. “What are you talking about? You think this is some kind of business transaction between you and me? You scratch my back, and I scratch yours?”
Tom was silent.
“Please, sit down.”
Tom took his seat again.
“Listen. Let me cut to the point: for all the years you’ve tried to follow me, I have been happy to have you, and please, know that your reward is safe and sound. I know how hard especially these last few years have been. I know the struggle you’ve been going through. But you don’t love me. And you don’t love the kids in your youth group. And you don’t love your family – certainly not Jean. At least not anymore.”
“Love is action,” Tom retorted. “I’m around. Doesn’t that mean anything? I do things. I do good things. I do them because you tell me to. Why isn’t that enough?”
“Action can be legalism, too. Without love, what you do means nothing.”
Tom let the words sink in. Nothing. It all meant nothing.
God continued: “You know as well as I do that you took on that ministry because you didn’t want to be home. You were not running to responsibilities. You were running away from them. Tom the father gets yelled at. Tom the husband isn’t enough for his wife. But Tom the youth leader gets complimented on being so smart and so Spirit-filled. And don’t think I don’t know who it is that compliments you.”
At this, Tom blushed a little. His fingers fidgeted in his lap and he stared at the button on God’s shirt.
“Where has your heart been, Tom?”
“You don’t understand,” he replied, seething behind his tightened face. “And I’ve done nothing wrong. I know guys in my parish who watch porn on a weekly basis and can’t kick the habit. Getting on my case about Sherry is unfair.”
“Is it? I ask again: where is your heart?”
He asked with such a tender demeanor. His eyes weren’t angry. They were pleading. And Tom melted. Just a little.
“You don’t know what it’s like. I’m not attracted to Sherry. It’s not like we’ve done anything behind the scenes. But to talk to someone, to a woman, who is just… happy. I can pretend, for a moment, that I don’t have the life I have now. I can get for once instead of constantly having to be the one who gives.”
“I was always here for you to talk to. Why didn’t you talk to me?”
“I did! I asked you all the time to help me out!”
“Not like this. You never confessed this sin to me.”
“Sin?” Tom was infuriated again. “Seriously, why are you picking on me about this? You have a million prodigal sons out there doing shit way worse than anything I’ve done, or would ever do. And you ask me to meet you here so you can tell me I’ve sinned for daydreaming a little?”
“I’m not downplaying what anyone else does. But that’s not your concern. I’m here to talk about you. We need to deal with this. You’ve been letting your heart get carried away from the places it needs to return to: to your wife and children. To me.”
“It’s not that big a deal. I’m your best worker. I do everything you tell me to. My mind wanders sometimes. Why should it matter so much?”
God stared intently at Tom. “You don’t get it, do you.”
“Don’t get what?”
“If the only person to ever sin was you, and the only sin you committed was this daydreaming, as you call it, I would have still had to come down to earth and die on a cross to save you. That’s how bad sin is – even the small ones.”
As his words sank deeper into Tom, he could feel himself recoiling. The words began to push deeper and deeper into him and he tried to run from them, further and further away. But soon, he couldn’t bring himself to even look up.
“Is that really the way it is?” Tom asked.
“You know it is.”
Resolve began to build in his heart. “I’ll pay you back. I’ll figure out some way to make it up to you.”
“You can’t. Your sin means my brutal death on a Cross. My death means your eternal life. How are you going to repay that?”
“I just…. I don’t know. But I’ll try.”
“I don’t want you to try. I want you to believe that I love you. I want you to accept my forgiveness. And I want you to submit yourself to this process I started in you, years ago, when you were baptized.”
Tom didn’t hear his words. His mind went racing and the dots began connecting in his mind. “This is too much for you to give. This is far, far too much. What do you get out of this? What could your motive possibly be to do all this for me?”
God replied quietly, almost silently: “I get you. I get your heart. I get a relationship with you.”
This last statement frightened Tom more than anything God had said. He knew what “relationship” meant. It meant a quagmire you couldn’t get out of. It meant he was forever in God’s debt – not in a financial sense, a kind of indentured servitude. That he could deal with. But this? He knew all too well where this was going.
“Look,” Tom said, his voice quivering just slightly, “I give you nearly everything I have. I give you my obedience. I give you my 10% in the collection plate. I do whatever you ask me to do. And please, don’t get me wrong: I appreciate what you’ve done. The job is great! I come to Mass each week and feel warm and supported. I get that spiritual high that pulls me through the week. And you’ve been a great help to Jean. But I think there are some healthy boundaries that need to be drawn here. I mean, we have a good working relationship. I don’t see why we need to rock this boat.”
They sat in silence for almost a minute. Tom’s eyes were the ones pleading now – waiting, hoping for some positive response.
Then God finally spoke: “I knew a boy once no older than ten, who wept in his room, telling me he wanted to give everything to me for the love I had given him.”
Tom relaxed just slightly. His face, tightened and stressed till now, began to soften. He stared off again, holding in his hands the weight of what God was asking.
“That boy was naive,” said Tom.
The two sat in silence again – Tom staring at the table and God gazing on him. God’s face took on a desperate look. Words formed on his tongue, wanting to be spoken, wanting to pull Tom in. If only….. But he let go of them, returning them to a place in his heart Tom would never see.
“Is that how you want this to be?” God asked.
Tom looked up again and his face quickly formed the same smile he walked in with.”I think that would be best for everybody.”
“Thank you for meeting with me,” God said, extending his hand.
Tom shook it and stood up. “You have a good morning, now.”
God nodded his head, and Tom left a little more quickly than he came in.
The waiter at the café walked up and stood next to God, watching as Tom exited.
“That man is going to have a lot to deal with in purgatory,” he said.
“Yes,” replied God. “If he ever gets there.”