As a child, I learned that God was both angry and male. At nine years of age, I decided to test him.
Okay, I challenged, if you’re going to strike me dead for swearing, let’s get it over with.
I cut loose with a string of words so crimson they could’ve blistered paint from our barn. Then I ran in the closet and prepared to die. I covered my head and crouched low, ready to meet my maker, ready to receive the punishment I had heard so much about.
I waited. Nothing happened. There must be some mistake. Maybe he didn’t hear me. No, I was sure he did. I shouted and took time in the delivery. He must have heard. But I was still alive. Still breathing. I was confused. Maybe there was a time delay. Could that be it? Not with God. He’s supposed to hear everything and act immediately. Strange though, I wasn’t dead.
I envisioned God the same way I envisioned Santa Claus, except God had flowing robes instead of a red suit. These guys seemed a lot alike. One could punish me by putting a piece of coal where a present should be; the other could make me an angel or burn me in hell. Also the God-guy didn’t want us to have any fun. He didn’t even think dancing was good, but I knew for a fact that dancing was very very good. Santa seemed less threatening, but didn’t get talked about as often. “He knows when you’ve been sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been good or bad, so be good for heavens’ sake.” I knew I could never be good for a whole lifetime, which is what sparked the confrontation in the first place.
I uncovered my head and looked into the forest of dresses that hung above me in the closet. They weren’t moving. Everything was still. Maybe he’s waiting for me to come out in the open. So be it!
I unfolded my young body, wrapped my fingers around the door sill and peered into the room. No vengeful God there. I didn’t get it. Why hadn’t a lightning bolt turned me into a pile of burning ash?
I sat on the rug in the middle of the room and studied the ceiling.
I waited for a sign. Nothing.
I was going to have to figure this one out for myself. Maybe, I reasoned, there was no God. I didn’t see him and didn’t feel his presence. He didn’t strike me dead when everyone said he would. Why hadn’t he killed me? I broke the rules. Suddenly everything fit into place. If I was still breathing, maybe people got it wrong about God. Maybe like the spirits that visited me, he was kind and not mean at all. And maybe if he was kind, I’d better stop swearing at him so he could have some peace and quiet. That’s what my dad always said he needed, For crying out loud, will ya just give me a little peace and quiet! I figured God, being God, probably needed more peace and quiet than most.