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Christian Inspirational Coming of Age

We live as if life should be perfect, like we missed our flight and earth is an unwelcome stopover. Or we like airports too much. You know, that feeling, the topsy-turvy, fast food vacation vibe? 

Amazon delivered the wrong boyfriend along with the expensive kitchen tools that I could have bought at the dollar store. Money is tight. Sending it all back will be a pain, each thing in its own box. It could have been fun, my life.

But who knows? Behind every silver cloud there must be a lining, or something. I’ll try talking to him again. “Our lives aren’t what they should be because life is not what it should be,” I started. “I mean give us a break. We come into this life wanting it all. Its not our fault if life lets us down.” Making supper is a letdown. All the kitchen tools I need are still in their plastic clamshells.

Set free from its prison, the garlic crusher shows its appreciation by spewing garlic over the bowl onto the countertop. “Which came first the chicken or the egg? Was life supposed to be perfect or was I supposed to be perfect? Or was I supposed to make life perfect by being perfect? “ 

“All three,” Michael intones, mocking me. I turn away from the counter to face him. “That’s just like you!” I exclaim. “You don’t take anything seriously. If everyone could level with each other and stop acting all the time the world would be a better place. The world could be perfect if people could admit they are not perfect. And stop pretending all the time.”

No stopping me now. “Something from outside is needed. I’ll make a sign, put it up somewhere, no I won’t. But I really should. Something big that understands everything, is needed to make things better. I’ll make it up as I go.” 

The lemon juice for the salad was seeping into the cracks on my hands, the same cracks my ancient apartment walls have that only a bristle brush with soap and water can clean. But washing my hands wasn’t getting rid of this stinging.

“Something big, bigger than God or maybe it is God to tell us what is what. But then that’s just me. Something I don’t invent to tell us what perfection is. I don’t know what perfection is. But I want it. You’re smirking at me again.” 

“Yeah, because you’re ranting,” Michael complained, looking up from his coursework at the kitchen table. “You start a new job, in a new city in a new apartment. You have everything. Now you want God too.” Then he slouched down, yawned, and stretched his legs out so far that his feet practically trip me all the way over by the counter.

“Hey, stop it! I’m the one making supper! What are you doing?” Struggling with all the teaspoons I don’t need to measure more lemon juice; there’s more on my hands than in the bottle. 

He really needed to be put in his place. I put the lemon juice bottle down. “Oh, that’s just like you! You don’t believe in anything. Life is random. Blah blah blah. If God hit you in the face, you’d think it was a trick!” 

“No need to get salty. If God existed, I wouldn’t be asking if God exists, I’d know it. Silly question. Ask the right questions and you might get a clue.” 

I blow my hair away from my steaming face. “Fine. You tell me what perfection is.”

“What is perfection? Perfection is when you don’t talk about it because your life is already perfect,” he rambled, idly doodling on his notebook. “No need to talk about it.”

I can’t stand him when he is like this. My mother’s funeral was just two weeks ago. Her death was so drawn out, that when it finally came, it was unbearable. Cut short. The waiting, the hope, gone forever. But that doesn’t count for anything. You’re supposed to bounce back, like nothing happened.

“Can you at least set the table,” I pleaded. No air conditioning in the apartment and it was only spring. But he was so slow, asking questions, where’s this, where’s that. It was torment.

“What are you making?” he asks, plopping down again. The table was dirty, set up wrong, forks and knives reversed, no napkins, his books everywhere. It was useless asking him anything.

The chicken and potatoes were waiting patiently though. That and the gnarly salad, all limp and fussy. “What are you making?” he repeated.

“I’m going to eat properly again. Enough of the fast food. You should too. Your kitchen is a disaster!” I paused. “I’m making bean salad, what does it look like?”

“Bean salad?” he mocked, making a huge deal out of slowly unwrapping a chocolate bar. “Wow! A salad made of beans.”

I ignored him. Graduate students don’t eat, they drink, write papers and dream. “Well, at least this is a start. Serve yourself.” I pronounced, bringing the food to the table. The bean salad, the chicken and potatoes were all practically the same temperature. “I would reheat things, but I haven’t bought a microwave yet. Could you please put your stuff somewhere else?”

“Oh, OK.” He threw the half-eaten chocolate bar in the garbage and cleared up a little. “So, what is your job again?” He said as we sat down to eat.

It was all I could do just to think. Staccato-like I say, “Not sure. No interview, sight unseen hire, for me to know, when I arrive.” I started serving myself. Finally, I could rest. 

He looked up from the beans he was skewering, and stared at me, all mischief, like a kid let out for recess.

“What?” I said, eyebrows raised. I just wanted to eat. My big day was tomorrow, my first real job.

 A slow smile crossed his face, as he made me wait. That smile had attracted me to him, he could be so charming. A punchline or some big sweeping statement about life was on its way. 

“What?” I repeated, louder, laughing a little as I tried to wheedle it out of him. But this didn’t go over well. He got serious; whatever it was, was no longer funny. He had made up his mind about something. 

“No joke. Your life sucks, doesn’t it?” He said finally, staring at me in a way I had never seen before. I started to cry.

“Enough!” I yelled as I bolted towards the bathroom.

 “Hey, I’m sorry!” He yelled after me.

***

I had such a sleepless night and here I was, at my first day at work and it was off to a bad start. Someone showed me where a desk was and told me to wait there. The office was a shambles. Sorting through that mess could take days. First ten minutes passed, then what seemed a half an hour. If there wasn’t a mix-up with the buses and where I was supposed to transfer, I would have had a chance to get a coffee before rushing to get here on time. Which as it turned out, was unnecessary, there being no one here to greet me. I had to stifle a constant need to yawn.

She came in, taking me unawares. “I’m Ms. Fitch. Pleased to meet you.”

Standing with my back turned to the door, between the chair and the desk, it never occurred to me that I might nearly fall over the chair when I turned and took a step toward her. Doesn’t anyone knock anymore?

“Hi, you can call me, Amy,” I blurted, recovering my balance while trying to make my firm grip on the chair look as natural as possible. “I was just trying to find what I am supposed to be doing.”

“Oh, never mind that. You won’t be able to work here. Who said that you should be here?”

“Someone at the front entrance.”

“Well, lets get you to where you should be.” With that she turned back into the corridor, and we headed through a dimly lit area to arrive at something that looked like it could be a work area. 

“Have a seat.” She hesitated. “Can I get you anything, coffee or a tea?”

“Sure. I’ll have what you’re having.”

When she returned, she showed me the job. Programming, web design. But everything was so disorganized. Where’s the team? The project leader? When she went through the install, the software was so old. End-of-life looked young by comparison.

“You have our information package that we sent to you?”

“Of course,” I lied. It was packed with all my things. I had no time to read that.

“Start with this.” She had this pamphlet. “God in ten steps or less. We need our website updated with this.”

“Oh!” I blushed. “Religion.” She looked at me strange, like something didn’t add up. “What did you think of it?” she quizzed. She must have thought I had read the pamphlet.

I had heard some horror stories about first jobs, but I so didn’t expect to be put on the spot like this. Well, OK boomer, I thought. Something amazing needed. I scanned the text titles and subtitles to set the mood. 

I then dropped the pamphlet on the desk. “Overall, to tell you the truth, fine. If God exists, then nothing else matters. I get it. But stuff happens and mostly we don’t get it because ultimately nothing matters. Life is random. So, the question is, where does God fit?” 

Great, slayed it. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to talk, the words just slipped out of my mouth and there it was. All I knew about Christianity I had learned as a child! But Ms. Fitch got tense; she started looking around the room. That last comment, “where does God fit,” was getting awkward. Just not hitting it for some reason. 

Her empty coffee cup found the trash. “I’m sure you’ll get it,” she sneered faintly with her frozen smile, her voice trailing away. “Let me know if you need anything.” She left me to my work.

***

“What are you doing here?” Michael outside my apartment door. It was after work and my head was pounding pain through my brain. Advil. It was all I could think about. I went to the bathroom to get it.

He ambles into the kitchen. “Was work awesome?” 

I drew myself up to my full height, which hardly made much difference seeing as he was so much taller than I was. “Look we need to get something straight. I’m not doing another night like last night with you.” 

He looked sorry. I just wondered what he would say. “OK, that was harsh. Agreed.”

“Fine. Glad to hear it.” I started supper. He slouched down into a kitchen chair.

“Was work awesome?” He repeated.

“Work.” I said mindlessly. I had put it out of my mind. Cooking is so much work. Too basic spaghetti shouldn’t take much time, sauce out of a bottle. Then I was going to have another Advil. “Oh, well, ok, I guess. But I think I’ll be ghosted.”

“Really? Not good.”

I stopped and looked at him. “Yeah, work is religion.”

“Just kidding.”

“I’m not. You know it? The boss is all over it.”

“What did you say?”

“Oh, life is random, and we try to make sense of things, whatever.”

“What did you say about God?” He straightened in his chair, all ears.

“I said that God needs to fit, you know, people are busy being woke.”

At that point, Michael burst out laughing. “This is your boss. You can’t talk about God that way with your boss! God is everything to these people. And life is never random. Never say that word.” He noticed how upset I was getting. “OK, sorry, sorry.” He stood up and gave me a hug. “That was harsh. I’ll change. I promise.”

I felt stupid again. Just like me to not know how to handle people. But then, thankfully, he lost interest, sat down again, and started taking notes from a library book he brought with him. For a long while both of us aren’t talking as I boiled the spaghetti and heated the sauce in a pot.

Not long after, supper was ready, it was time to eat. “Michael, you remember when you said, “I would know if God existed, so because I don’t know, God must not exist.” He nods, “I didn’t say that exactly. Don’t go by what I say. Metaphysical truth is not my specialty.”

“OK, whatever. Anyway, I’ve got something that’s bugging me. What if its all wrong? I mean, relationships go wrong all the time. What if relationships with God are broken so no one talks about God. Then we expect life to be perfect because that relationship used to work. But we don’t know if God exists because people aren’t talking. And we’re not talking to God obviously because the relationship is broken. A vicious circle thing. Round and round it goes, no one talking. The spaghetti is done, check the fridge for the parmesan. Table setting again?”

“Sure.” He’s fumbling around, putting his books back in his knapsack, looking for the cutlery.

“The drawer. Over there.” 

He tries to clean the table. Forks and knives are where they should be. Then he stops. “OK. Well, I don’t want to upset you, but there are so many problems with what you just said it is hard to know where to begin. I’ll keep it simple. How do you know that what you say is true? Where is your proof? And that is only the start. I won’t bore you with the details.”

“Proof? What, exactly?”

“Prove it. Means exactly that. I will accept that your theory is a possibility, but it can only be that and nothing more without proof. We don’t speculate about whether someone has committed a criminal offence when we pass sentence, we need proof.”

We both sat down. Then I had an idea. “How do you prove anything that is really important in a relationship?” I demanded.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you said it. You said you need proof. Then you said proof is like a criminal trial. What if a relationship isn’t a trial? What if God is all relationship first then proof later?” 

He didn’t know what to say. I continued, even though I wondered how I could go on speaking. “My mother just died. I want to see her again. How can this relationship be gone forever?” What if everyone is more like God than we think,” I said as I started to tremble, trying to control my emotions. “We all live forever. She is not gone forever. I will never believe it!” 

“Well, I’m sorry for your loss…”

“Don’t you talk to me like that!” I erupted. “God is the only guarantee of anything that is really important! How can you not see that?” I couldn’t help it; tears were streaming down my face. 

“If you want to talk about personal issues…” Then he stopped midsentence, like he forgot something. This was him, worried, staring at me, completely at a loss. I would try one last time.

“Look, can you prove that love exists?” I said as I wiped my eyes and settled a little. “You can see how people behave. But can you prove that love is real?” Maybe proving that God exists is pointless if you don’t believe that God exists first, then…”

“Look at the behaviors of people who believe in God for your proof?” He interrupted with a smile.

I got up from the table to get a tissue. A wave of relief passed over me. 

***

On Sunday I went to church for the first time since I was a child. It was a Latin Mass. I never knew such a thing existed. Is this Catholic? 

It was so weird, so quiet. The last mass I went to, was like a party; guitars, people singing, the priest making jokes. I had no idea what to do in this incredibly quiet church where a language I had never heard before was spoken. It was smells and bells, otherworldly and mysterious.

It was so peaceful too. Everyone gave respect, like they were really praying and what the priest was doing at the altar meant the world to them.

Then they sang this old Latin song at the end, and I started crying again. Really quietly. No one noticed. I think it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard, so full of longing. I wished it would never end.

***

Unfortunately for me, the job was short term. All that trouble for a couple of months work. Ms. Fitch came by with the big boss in tow wishing me luck. They said if I had any questions I could call, my pay would be in the mail, and I could take the rest of the day off. I thanked them and left the building.

Out in the bright sunshine, I knew that there was a church down the block. One of those very old downtown types, open all day, every day. It was cool and dark, candles burning brightly. I step in, three people are scattered about the church, kneeling, with their heads down.

I put coins in the slot for the candles in an alcove, near the altar, and knelt. If there is no sense to anything, then what difference is there to what I believe? Those who argue against God are wasting their time. If God does not exist, nothing matters anyway. 

I stood up, lit my candle, and left. I will be a Roman Catholic.

April 02, 2023 15:49

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2 comments

Mary Bendickson
16:18 Apr 26, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy. Why not start with something simple like the existence of God? Oh, you did! Don't think you missed a thing.

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Joe Smallwood
03:13 Apr 27, 2023

Hey, my mind is a steel trap. In the underworld, I am known as no-typo-man. With my ever-trusty Grammarly sidekick, I stare down gremlins, nefarious con artists, and other riff-raff with unspeakable ferocity! Grammarly just made three corrections to my last sentence! I wish you could have seen it! OOPS! Four corrections, maybe one more in this sentence. Maybe not. I guess I'll stop now. My wife is complaining about the noise I make on my laptop. Bye. For. Now.

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