When it All Comes Out

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“Look, Jennifer. If God or Jesus or whoever is real, then I hate him for taking Ben. A voice has been pestering me my entire life, but if it’s really God real, he’s an evil monster playing games with our lives. Making bets with Satan. Hardening people’s hearts so he can punish them for it. Setting up tests that he knows we’re going to fail, just so that he can rain down curses. And for what?”

“He can’t be that bad. His people, people like Ruth and the Andersons, do nothing but love and serve others. Sacrifice for the greater good.”

“Have you even read the Bible? All the horrible things that God did? Opening up holes to swallow families? Turning people to salt? Getting a man ready to burn his son on the alter as a fakeout? God’s laughing at us, Jennifer. This is just one, big joke, and we’re the butt of it, and he’s throwing rotten fruit at us and booing us off the stage.”  

“Maybe…But I also remember that humans were pretty terrible in that book. Kind of like they are now. And God kept telling them exactly what would happen. Do x, and y will happen. Maybe he knew they’d fail, but he kept his promise every time. He put up with them and worked around them, and even gave the worst people the greatest blessings when they had a little bit of faith. People like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Peter. Paul. They were in and out of obedience. Most of their lives were a mess.”

“That’s one thing I’ve got in common with those characters. Being a paralyzed single widow mom was definitely not part of the grand plan for my life.”

“Well, I know when I think about my daughters, I can imagine a bit of what God must feel for us humans. We love our kids so much, but sometimes they just don’t listen, and think they know better even though they couldn’t possibly know better, and we can’t explain things to them in a way they would understand because they simply don’t have the same picture that we do.”

“I’m not a child. And I really would like some answers.”

“Then keep going. Go to China. Really think about all of it. Or, if nothing else, just be happy to be a globe-trotting paraplegic single mother widow missionary. I’m sure you’re the first.”

“If that’s what God wants me to do, then I’m definitely not going. If God really doesn’t let anyone be lost, then that means that Sean and my grandfather and my father are up there. And I really can’t stomach that, because they deserve to rot in hell more than anyone else. And if there really is a hell, and some people really do end up lost there, then my brothers and sisters probably are there, according to the rules, because they died not believing in Jesus. So either way, I think I’ll pass on the whole Christianity thing. It’s just not for me.”

“Did you love those people?”

She blinked. “Why do you keep asking me if I love people? No, of course I don’t love them.”

“No, I mean, at some point. Did you ever love them?”

She thought of the intensity of her feelings for Sean. The way she’d bonded with her grandfather over tea and assassination plots. Playing baseball with her mother, father, and sisters in the park. “There were moments.”

“Don’t you want a chance to know what it would be like to truly have them love you back? For it not to be futile, or fleeting, or just a speck of light in a horrible, gloomy sky? Don’t you want a true hug from them, where they really love you, and there’s none of the toxic stuff?”

She closed her eyes, remembering all the times she’d longed for a hug. Just a hug. One that didn’t lead to anything. Just to know that she was enough. Even if she didn’t do anything other than be.

“What about Ben? Walking with him and never being afraid to have to say goodbye again? Just all the joy, all the love, and none of the heartache or anxiety?”

“I’ve never even told my own children that I love them. I didn’t tell Ben, either, or anyone else. The minute I was free from my parents forcing me to say it, or forcing me to hear it after I was beaten or raped or screamed at, I promised I would never say it again.”

“I know. Love on earth is messed up. But there’s some good love here too. I always wish I could have more of it. I know I saw it between you and Ben, and your kids. I was so jealous of you, from the moment I saw you guys together in that house. You had something really special. I guess it’s just hard for me to believe that something like that could really just be…over.”

“Denial is the worst form of insanity.”

“But – I think true love doesn’t break us down. It’s not an excuse, or something we have to hide from or fear. It doesn’t break down the walls around our hearts. It makes our hearts stronger, so we can handle more. It lets us do anything. And we can pour it out to others, and it keeps multiplying, and growing, until the whole world is just full of it.”

“Someone once told me something like that.”

“Don’t you want to finally be free from the warped, twisted pain of your childhood? Don’t you want to be free, and light, and surrounded with love? That’s the kind of life that I’m offering.”

Lanie squinted. “What?”

Suddenly, she realized that this was the hospital room that Ben had visited her in. Not the real one. The imaginary one.

The Jennifer lookalike shrugged. “What? If you won’t listen to me, I thought you might listen to a caring girlfriend.”

“Jennifer’s not my girlfriend. We hate each other. I should have known this was a dream.”

“But you have to admit,” the imposter continued, standing. “She had some pretty wise things to say. Maybe you should give it a little think. I’m around if you ever want to talk. And don’t worry, I’m leaving. I know the drill.”

She blinked, and it was him again, walking away in defeat. In the doorway, he looked back, and for a moment, she was sucked into a vortex of despair and frustration and sorrow that stole her breath. But then he gave a tiny wave, and disappeared.

His voice drifted back to her from the hall between halls, uplifted on a breath of promise. “I’ll be back, though!”

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13


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