The Rev Dr Sparky Talks to G*d
(I didn’t know any better.)
People like to say there are no stupid questions.
I disagree. I think some questions about G*D are stupid.
For example: “Can G*D make a rock too heavy for G*D to lift?” To which the correct answer is, “Who cares?”
But I say this as someone who loves G*D and loves to ask questions about G&D. I even went into debt just so I could go to school to ask more questions about G*D. (Where I forgot to ask appropriate questions about the terms of that debt, which you should always do, by the way.)
Seriously, though, the whole curriculum could probably have been boiled down to one question — the question of theodicy:
If G*D is all powerful and all good, why does G*D allow evil to exist?
But I actually got an answer to that one, when I recently had a vivid waking dream in which God showed up in person and we had a crucial conversation, face to face. I’m not even kidding.
Here’s how that conversation went.
It started when I was at prayer, in my usual rambling fashion. It was after I had been contemplating the origins of the universe by visualizing the Pillars of Creation and before I had begun to pray for the future of humanity. I was in that liminal state between waking and sleep.
“O God, if you are all powerful and all good and you truly love us, why do you allow such evil in the world?”
“I’m right here, Sparky. Quit mumbling into your hands.”
“Oh! I didn’t see you there!”
“Nobody does at first. Now what was your question? I gather you have some complaints.”
The image of God that was standing in front of me bore the outline of a person, but inside that outline I could see all of creation — the galaxies, the earth, and all its life. It was beautiful. But I swallowed hard, determined not to get distracted, remembering that people suffered every day and it just wasn’t fair.
“Well, yes! It’s a beautiful life, and we’re grateful — but did you have to make sickness and pain and politicians, too? And acts of war and violence? And floods that you can’t get insurance for because they call them acts of — well, acts of You?”
God just looked at me for a minute, sort of tired. As if these questions had been asked before.
“Oh, wow. Theodicy. Right. You went to seminary.” I swear I heard a sigh.
“So you would rather have a life without any of those problems? Just ‘sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows’? That was a decent song, by the way.”
The outline shifted, and the vision of the galaxies and the earth inside of God’s outline faded to a pale shimmer.
“Well, yes! All we know is misery and struggle!” I was getting wound up now. “Our whole human history has been one long struggle against the evil You let loose around here.”
“Do tell.” I failed to notice the edge in God’s voice.
“Well, You made us so weak and fragile, nobody can survive on their own. And then You let some of us get so mean and twisted that everyone else has to be extra vigilant just to build any civilization at all. And — well, this is why we can’t have nice things!”
“But you do have nice things. Art. Music. Those butter mints. Mr. Rogers — ”
“But it’s no thanks to You!”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I was just over at the Vatican talking to Francis, and I saw all kinds of pretty things supposedly inspired by Me. Most of it not really My style, though. Too representational.” The interior of God’s outline shifted again, now looking like the inside of a kaleidoscope.
I realized I had lost the thread of the conversation, though amazingly, God was still there listening. I tried once more.
“I still think You should answer everyone’s prayers and fix this place. People are losing faith in You, because of all the misery and the meanness that’s going on all the time.”
“Ah. You still think the world should be trouble-free and fair for everyone?”
“Yes! Aren’t you all-powerful and all-loving and all-good?”
“Sure.” Suddenly I imagined I could see that power and love and goodness in the space where the face of God would be. There was light there, and warmth. I pressed on.
“Then why don’t you fix us? Why don’t you fix our world?”
There was suddenly a deep and awful silence.
“I choose not to.”
I was stunned, and then my heart broke a little bit.
“Well, I don’t accept that! I don’t want that kind of God.” I fully expected to be smited any minute. “That’s a terrible way to be God.”
“Yes. It’s a terrible way to be God.”
“Wait — what?”
And now I could see the pain in the face of God, right there with the love I thought I had seen, and the icy remoteness.
“I’m in everyone and everything; every moment and every process. Everything you endure, I endure with you.
“I feel every bit of your pain and your triumph. Only multiplied times infinity. That’s the God part.”
Suddenly I realized Who I was talking to.
It struck me that this kindly avatar was only a particle of the infinite God, and my continued existence was only by grace.
God was still speaking.
“But I’ve got to take the training wheels off, if you’re going to make anything meaningful of yourselves, right? Otherwise, what would be the point? You’d all be passive as a box of rocks. Rocks have their place; nothing against rocks. But I’ve got plenty of rocks.”
I just sat there, with all my objections feeling lame and stupid in my mouth.
“Now, you’ve got some optimistic prophets promising that one day I’ll give you guys a miraculous, apocalyptic do-over and wipe away all your tears and so forth. Just between me and you, I wouldn’t wait around for that day. There’s plenty you can be fixing on your own right now. I did make you all pretty clever.
“In fact, since you’re all clever enough to criticize My performance, how about putting those big brains to work cleaning up some of the problems you’re smart enough to see around you? How about that?”
I think I know how Job felt when God asked, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
Finally, I just nodded.
“Good. See to it, Sparky. And tell the others.”
Then God — or the outline of God — shimmered again and began to move away.
“Gotta go. Oh — and by the way — pro tip on prayer. When you ask God a question, take the time to listen for the answers. I talk to people in many ways.”
I started to say thank you, but God had vanished, so I didn’t say anything. I just sat there, paralyzed.
Then, across the room, I saw words being typed across the screen of my laptop:
“What did I tell you about the voice of God coming from many different places, Sparky?”
“Oh, right!” I said. “Thank you, God. I really appreciate your showing up today.”
“You’re welcome, kid.”