He turned his head slightly to look at me and then turned back to look into the night sky. He was seated on a log freshly cut down. “My children have been snatched away. They are in grave danger. Most of them I will never get back. I know each one of them by name.” His voice was a whisper in the night air.
“What do you mean? Kidnapped?”
“In a way of speaking.” His back was still turned toward me, the side of his face visible in the light of the full moon.
“But can’t you just go and get them back?”
A deep sigh escaped into the night.
“They went willingly,” he said quietly.
“Willingly?” That didn’t make sense. “Didn’t you throw them out of the garden?”
“I meant before that,” he said, “when they threw me out.”
I was still getting used to this conversation and I wasn’t sure that I heard him right. I forced myself to relax and took a deep breath. He turned his head to look at me, the deep blue of his eyes rooted me to my place, though he looked at me with sadness and his voice was gentle.
“Do you think for a moment I would throw them out of my garden, away from their home, if it wasn’t absolutely necessary and for their own good?”
I could not answer. The divine perspective was overwhelming in its simplicity and depth of feeling. I ventured another question, carefully.
“Did they know what they were doing?”
“Yes,” he said, “and no. They were deceived, it is true, but I warned them of the danger.”
“Maybe they will find a way back by themselves?” I said.
“No, they don’t even want to come back. Once you’ve tasted the freedom of the forbidden, no one can come back or even wants to.”
“Freedom,” I said, “well, that’s not so bad. Maybe you just have to let them go?”
“I cannot let them go. There is no freedom from me that doesn’t end in evil, and suffering and death.”
“I’m not sure I understand. We seem to be able to survive.”
“There is no evil in your world, no suffering, no death?” he asked, turning to look at me, his eyebrow arching.
“Well, yes there is,” I said. I stopped, trying to put it all together. “Sometimes we think we have a handle on it and other times it seems to spin out of control almost as if it has a mind of its own.”
“A mind of its own, that’s an interesting way to put it.”
“But what I wanted to say is that we mostly think that we can handle it. Science and technology are providing new solutions every day.”
“And creating new problems, perhaps bigger problems, as well.”
“Maybe, but there is sense that we will get through. The indomitable human spirit and all that.”
“Many people don’t believe that. Especially the leaders and philosophers.”
“Yes, I know. They think that they can manage or, at least survive, without me but in fact, I continue to support them and make it possible for them to manage and survive. There is no such thing as “without me” until I create such a place, and, believe me when I tell you, you don’t want to go there.” His face was tight.
“You have been supporting us all this time?” I said.
“I cannot let you go. I told you that. There is no freedom from me that doesn’t end in evil and suffering and death. Eternal death. It is the nature of things. It is who I am and it is how I created you. We were meant to be together. It’s what makes it all worth while.” He paused thoughtfully. “But let me ask you a question.”
“Would you rather manage and survive without me – even with my help – or live with me, under my authority, as my children?” He wouldn’t look at me. His face was turned away.
Did the answer matter so much?
I was silent. I could answer for myself easily enough but I knew that many others would answer differently. That’s always the question, isn’t it? What do you want? Do you want a relationship with God?
That’s a question for lovers, even friends, a question every heart asks of another, a foundation for community, for fellowship, for a life lived together.
“I know your heart, my son,” he said. “But now you know why I grieve for all the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.” He sighed heavily. “I have opened up a temporary space and time for each of them to answer that question for themselves. I will support them long enough to give me an answer but, in the end, I will give them what they want.”
“What do you mean, give them what they want?” Somehow it sounded dreadful and my chest began to squeeze my heart in a vice.
“What are you saying, that you won’t…..support them anymore? Will you turn away from them completely?”
“I cannot support evil and rebellion forever. This uneasy truce that I have established is unnatural and unsustainable. The very foundations of creation groan and cry out for a return to paradise. It is because I love them that I give them this brief space and time to respond. And if, after everything is said and done, they want nothing to do with me – that, too, can be arranged.” His face was dark, unreadable.
“But will they understand the question? Will they know what is at stake?”
“I will go personally and speak to them and I will show them without question that I want them back and that I would die for them.” His eyes narrowed with thought, reaching far into eternity.
“If that isn’t enough,” he said finally, “then nothing is.”
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A Conversation with God by Bert A. Amsing
Excerpt from Tears of the Desert Warrior by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in the original manuscript.