(note: I read this piece at our Writer’s Readout in March. We only have 5 minutes to read so I wanted to put the completed writing up.)
Having it out with God.
I am crawling out of my skin. I have been sober for 4 months and now there is no block…no buffer…no end to my pain. I understand the reason but reason doesn’t remove the pain. I have been numb for 20 years and now I am raw. I turn to my therapist, we talk but I am still in pain. It is then I go to see my spiritual advisor. Everyone should have a spiritual advisor. Mine has tattoos, wears a leather jacket, used to deal heroin, rides a motorcycle. Usually these things would scare me but he has a light in his eyes. A kind of light I want. He talks about serenity and breathing. He listens to me when I speak. Except I don’t speak, I unload.
He smiles, takes a deep breath and says, “You need help, and unfortunately it’s more help than I can give you. You need to ask someone else for help.”
Who do I ask?
“You are going to have to ask God for help.”
And I felt like the guy on a rope hanging off a cliff. The guy is screaming “help me! help me!” and he hears a voice, “Yes my child, I am God I will help you”
“Help me God”
“Yes my child .,.just let go of the rope”
( a long pause)
Is there anybody else up there?
Not God. Not that bullshit. They tried to sell me God, when I was a child but after a while, after disappointment, after fear, after betrayal, after feeling like a thunderbolt was being thrown in my general direction on a daily basis, after all of it, I look up, I was on my knees looking up for God, kneeling by my bed needy, hopeful, discouraged, and I looked up and I saw only ceiling. There was no God. And now you tell me I have to seek God for help. He’s not up there! And if he is he doesn’t give a shit about me. No not God. Not the God that sent the Laughing man and Mr. Cinnamon. No Way!
My spiritual advisor takes another deep breath, he looks at me and he said, “you need to go somewhere. You need to go somewhere deserted. A mountain, a Valley, a desert. Somewhere with space, somewhere where you can be alone, just you and God, and then you can have it out with God once and for all. You can yell scream kick punch do whatever you want. But when you’re finished you have to listen to what God has to say.”
Well that sounded good to me. Me against God. Mano-a-deity. Me against the capital italics Him. Me against the myth that there actually is something out there.
So I found a mountain and I got a backpack. And I started to prepare myself. Started to get ready for a 10 round no holds barred winner take all battle with the supreme being.
Cue the Rocky music and the training montage. Now it’s an out of shape Jewish Rocky, and I have Mick with me. He’s training me to be an atheist. And I am doing sit-ups with the works of Voltaire and the Communist manifesto strapped to my chest.
I am memorizing quotes like:
“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.”
I grunt and snarl as the training heats up. I start to jog up the mountain with quotes from Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain and Gene Roddenberry. And I keep moving up the mountain slowly methodically waiting for a chance to knock God on his eternal ass. Because I was pissed. All the events in my life where I felt abandoned and betrayed flickered one after another like an illuminated scrapbook. I was ready to confront this God of theirs. I am ready, I am abstinent, I am clear, I am clean. I have nothing but a backpack and I take that to the top of the mountain.
It is quiet and the clouds roll through the top of the mountain like fog.
In a clearing I see the ring.
I climb in.
Start to dance.
Show off a few moves with a couple of quotes about the nonexistence of the supreme Being. I’m getting myself pumped up I am ready.
The microphone drops from the sky and the announcers voice begins, “Ladies and Gentlemen. Beings and creatures. All life on the planet. We are here tonight for 10 round battle for self-determination. For a final solution. For an answer to “is there or isn’t there”. For the Enlightenment of the soul. Let’s introduce our fighters. Let’s meet the challenger first. In this corner. Masticator, Hunter gatherer, prone to fits of depression, anger, low self-esteem, warlike behavior, selfishness, self-indulgence, masturbation fornication defecation a flesh bag of meat, once exiled from the Garden of Eden it’s the one the only man.
My hands fly in the air I dance. Moving back and forth in the ring there is silence. A wind howls through the mountains. Nothingness. Emptiness. Silence. I stopped dancing and move back to the corner and wait.
The announcer speaks again,
“And in this corner the being who is supreme. The spark of all life. Holy one of being. His name has echoed through the world in 100 different languages. Energy of prayer. Praise for the ruler of all rulers. Mother. Father. Brother. Sister. Friend. Beloved. The Clear Channel of all energy. The great creator. The universal presence. The one, the only God.”
Voices begin singing, chanting. Choruses of Ohmmm and Ahmmm and shalom fill my ears. A thousand birds fly overhead singing praise, and the animals are shouting and roaring. Crackling lightning and thunder, the clouds part and the sun shines. Then there is an eerie silence. The clouds again begin to move across the mountain top.
I looked across the ring and I could almost see a figure but no, there was nothing there. There was a light. And the light seemed to move. There were no referees. No ring girls in bikinis carrying signs. No one was in my corner or in the Deity’s corner either, just the light shifted back and forth and suddenly there was a bell. A clear Bell, the bell I was waiting for. I saw nothing from the other corner so moved in that direction, the direction of the fog and light. I move from my corner and started to raise my fist, raise my fist to smack God right into oblivion. In a millisecond I was hit, hit with a wave. A wave that picked me up like a tsunami. A wave that exploded across my whole body and I was powerless, motionless, frozen and in slow motion I started to fall forward toward the mat. I’m falling forward but I heard a sound, a sound that engulfs me as I continued to fall. I slam against the mat and hear a word. It was clear and distinct and overwhelming. The word was “Love”.
It was an instant but I am down and I am out . I lay on the ground surrounded by silence. I don’t know how long I was out, the ring had disappeared there was only the mountain and my backpack. My consciousness came back and all I could do was honor the promise that I made. I closed my eyes and I listened. All I could hear was the echoing in my head, one word rattling around that had brought me to my knees, took me down to the mat, all I could hear was “love”.
I have encountered God on my terms and now I must walk down the mountain. Walk down the mountain and surrender one foot in front of the other. The war is over and I have lost. All I can do is surrender to an open heart, to risk, to reach, to work, to fail, to succeed one foot in front of the other.
The battle has not scarred me.
I do not limp away from God after the confrontation head hung and feet shuffling.
The encounter doesn’t take my pride, my esteem, my worth, my joy.
I am not possessed, wildly shouting and speaking in tongues.
The encounter doesn’t ruin me, shame me, humiliate me.
I do not walk away from God bloodied or bruised.
I do not walk away from God broken or disabled.
I do not walk away from God with clenched fists or a broken heart.
I do not walk away from God.
I walk away with God.
Zack Hoffman 2017