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From Book 7: Full Circle. This book is sort of extra to the series, but still hopefully brings everything together and makes the rest make sense. Because it doesn’t actually matter where you begin or end on a circle, you end up in the same place.
The jewels in the path became sparser, and then they were walking on gravel. She could see a thick forest in the distance, at the end of the path across a green meadow. It felt familiar, as if the usual glad was close by. Where his feet touched the ground, small flowers sprang up. Tulips. Roses. Lavender.
“What would you have done just now if I’d dragged you over to the righthand path, or made it so that defying me and going to the left would have put you on the right path anyway? Certainly, you wouldn’t have been very pleased if I took away your choice.”
A cold breeze started in the air, making Lanie shiver. That was odd. Usually, she never felt cold in his presence. She realized it was getting darker, too, as the sun continued its unhindered descent and the forest was closer than she’d previously thought. She peered into the distance, but couldn’t make out the path ahead through the towering, thick trees.
His voice sounded like it was getting farther away, too, though he was still right beside her. “No, you need to see just where your choices will lead when you go your own way. That’s the most loving thing I can do right now. Yes, there’s a time and a place when I drag you guys, kicking and screaming. But it breaks my heart. And there’s no point in doing it every time, forever. Don’t you want better things?”
“What’s the point in any of it?”
“You mean, why do you exist?”
“Why this hellscape? Why not just snap us out of existence the moment that stupid Eve touched that apple?” It was getting really dark. And the trees were gnarled and ghastly. Unconsciously, she edged a little closer to him. She didn’t like this.
“Because I love you. I love all of you, and I knew that more of you were coming. As painful as that was, I’d let it happen again, just to meet them. Just to meet you.”
“Yeah, well, if I were you, I wouldn’t have let it get this bad. I would have killed baby Hitler, for one.”
“If you really were me, you’d understand what it is to love something so much that you’d give up everything, and die, rather than see it be destroyed forever.”
She kicked a bush. “That’s how I loved Ben! And you took him away! That’s why I needed to save him. And I’d let myself be totally paralyzed if it meant that he could have lived. I would have gladly died that day, if that’s what you wanted, so that he could live. Our children need him.”
“That wasn’t just love, Lanie. That was pride. It’s always been your greatest stumbling block, my little angel. When saving becomes avenging, the path leads to destruction”
Thunder cracked overhead, and the wind howled even louder. She recognized it, now. It had been the same wind that had rocked the yachts. The one that haunted her nightmares. She wasn’t sure how, but it sounded the same. Had it been his voice, his hands, trying to get her attention?
Rejecting the thought, she crossed her arms. “You let children die in the street, rather than risk your so-called plan. You let us be abused, and kicked around. They did nothing! Nothing to deserve that. And still, they’re suffering.”
“I know, Lanie. Is that enough? Is that enough for you to turn to me, and stop being one of the people who contribute to the evil that let’s those things happen?”
“Why would I turn to you if you could stop it, whether I do or not?”
“No, it’s not bad enough yet.” He sighed, gazing in the distance. “Even travelling around and seeing children blown up and raped and sold into slavery isn’t enough evil for you, Lanie, to realize that your way leads nowhere but to destruction, and death. Even if you can feel good about yourself along the way. The furnace isn’t hot enough, yet. The refining fire hasn’t cleansed you yet. Cleansing is the only way to defeat evil! Keeping it from existing in the first place doesn’t work, because like we talked about before, it would always manifest itself eventually. Earth is the place where you realize what happens when you defy me, and that your rebellious choices don’t give you what you think. It doesn’t give you that freedom, or that happiness, or that fulfillment. You can let yourself be cleansed, and the purity of heaven is maintained, and then you can come and enjoy it too. This moment, right now, is proof that it doesn’t matter how much I talk. Some love me all their lives, but some like you won’t listen until the pain is bad enough that you feel what I feel every day!”
They were both shouting over the storm as they continued down the miserable trail. “Snap your fingers and make your own pain go away, then! Put us all out of our misery! Just take us all to heaven and be done with it! Or, just erase us!”
He looked at her, and blinked, and for one dizzying instant, it was a beautiful, sunny day in a meadow of flowers. Then he passed a hand over his face, and they returned to the howling forest. “This is the only way to pull back the veil on evil choices, and show evil and sin and death and depravity for what they really are. The only way to defeat evil is to expose it, and kill the desire for it. That’s what erases it. When your eyes are opened to how ridiculous this is, evil loses its power.”
“Yeah, well, I think it’s got all the power right now.”
“And what will make you turn from that power? If humans don’t value their lives, or the lives of their children, or even their eternal lives, what hope is there for goodness? There’s nothing I can threaten you with that will make you change! Even the threat of death and eternal death aren’t enough for most of you to turn from your sins.”
“So, I’m just going to hell, then?”
“Do you want to?”
“Of course not!”
“Then how much evil do you plan to let into your heart before you stop being stubborn and accept the good things I’m offering you?”
“My life means nothing without him!”
He groaned. “You asked me why I don’t just take you to heaven. That’s all I want to do. I can show you the way. Let’s go!”
“But in your heaven, I’d be a worship zombie. Day and night, going on and on about you!”
Light blazed, and she was blinded for a moment as his voice surrounded her. “I’m the God who created the heavens and the earth. Through me, all the good things that you love were created. Your relationships with your children. Popcorn. Music. Long walks on the beach at sunset. If I wanted praise robots, I wouldn’t have bothered giving you free will, obviously!”
This made her take pause. Her hair whipped her eyes. “Won’t it just be us sitting in white robes at your feet, bent over for eternity, just singing with those creepy celestial beings?”
He laughed, and once again, things calmed for a moment, and she shivered violently. “Hey, I promise they’re not as weird as they sound. You’ll like them once you meet them! But that’s not what I want from you, Lanie. Those who want to be with me do it because I complete their souls. They sing and praise me because it’s the natural result of knowing me. It’s the same reason you smile when you think of Ben, or tell your children how special they are. To know me, is to love me. To love me is to have eternal, unimaginable joy.”
She looked around, trying to see in the dark. They were so far away from the garden. She couldn’t even remember whether it had really been there.
“So, what? I’ve ruined your grand plan now, and you killed Ben out of revenge?”
“Of course not; don’t be dense. I know the exact minute of every action that every human will take. I’ve accounted for all of it. You never needed Ben to travel the world and go on missions with your kids by yourself. You don’t need legs, either.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You can do whatever you want. We, on the other hand, are little pawns in whatever sick game you’re playing. Do you just like the drama? What is it that you want?”
“It’s not a game to me, little one. It’s a very delicate balance. Nothing is unexpected to me, and I know exactly what I’m doing. I know what needs to happen for my plan to work out. But I’m still a dreamer, Lanie. I know every possible outcome and future that could have existed, and I dream of what I would do for my children if they listened to me sooner.” He sighed a deep sigh, and a contrastingly warm breeze rustled the trees around them, and she felt it even through the icy gale. “But, even that dream of Ben growing old with you wouldn’t lead to the best possible future. Of course, I know what you would do, as much as I wished you wouldn’t. I tried to tell you that. I knew the ripple effects would bring about my exact will.”
“See. You’re just herding us toward doing what you want. We don’t really have free will.”
“So, would you rather I let this world turn into an absolute madhouse?”
“You could have just made us not evil in the first place.” When would he get tired of this discussion and smite her, already? She just wanted the pain to end.
But he kept on, like he had all the patience in the world. “The evil that you’re talking about doesn’t start off with malice, Melanie. Unless I made you robots, it would always end up that way. The evil comes from not believing that evil exists. When everything is perfect, there’s no reason to listen to me. It happened with my angels. It happened with my first humans. I had two choices. Absolute free will with no outside input, or rules to keep them safe. Either they eventually start hurting each other with no idea that it’s wrong, or I give them a rule. And once they have a rule, it breeds a slow-growing belief that they know better, and that if they disobey me, and do what they want, nothing will happen. They don’t understand that bad consequences could ever happen. They have to see it, to know.”
“So, evil self-actualizes from its lack of existence?”
“Exactly. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light. For those who are evil will be destroyed. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. Their evil imaginations have no limits. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”
“That’s…that’s just a load of baloney.” Why couldn’t she swear here, even in this stormy corner of his world? “Just an excuse to send people to hell.”
“I don’t want anyone to be lost. Hence my so-called ‘herding.’ What you call herding, I call being a good parent. A caring friend. Free will without guidance is chaos. Neglect. I want my children to turn to me sooner, and live the best possible lives they can on earth as well.”
That anger, that ever-present anger, crawled up her throat, clogging it.
“Hey.” He brushed his hand down her hair, and she fought the urge to weep at the rush of comfort and peace that brief contact produced. “You promised you’d listen to me, if I saved Ben.”
“I meant if you kept him alive,” she ground out. “With me. With the kids. We need him!”
“He’s more alive now than he ever was. And he’s doing the best thing he ever could for you and the kids. He’s praying ceaselessly. This is the end, but also the beginning.”
“No!” Lanie shrieked, jumping to her feet. “Bring him back! Please! I can’t live without him.”
“He’s been in a coma all his life, and he’s just awakened in paradise. You want me to send him back to sleep?”
She started shaking. “I can’t do anything without him. He’s everything, and you took him from me! Bring him back!”
He held out his hand. “It was your choice to spite me and take the opposite path, Lanie. And you didn’t have to keep walking it this whole time. Turn around. Come with me. We can do it together. He’s waiting for you. He’s praying for you. He wants you to experience my love with him. He wants to pour it out onto you, and for us to sit together and just be. Come on.”
She stared at the hand. A hand that had presumably created the universe and set it into motion, and continued to weave the threads of time and reality even now.
She stared into the darkness. No. It was too thick. If she moved, she could get stabbed by a bramble. Trip on a stone and not be able to get up. Fear pressed in on her, and she fought it, but it was too strong.
She sat down in the dirt and put her head between her knees. “This isn’t real,” she reminded herself, hands over her ears, rocking back and forth. “You’re just dreaming. You’re having sedation nightmares. Wake up. Wake up.”
“Wake up!” he shouted urgently.
“Wake up wake up wake up…”
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13