A beautiful invitation arrived in the mail. Caligraphied and glossy. Join me for a feast, it said. So I showed up to the place at the time.
There was God. Sitting at an empty table.
“I thought this was a feast. Where’s the food? The people? The music” I said, standing.
“Coming. I wanted to talk first.”
“Talk about what?” I said, still standing.
“About whether or not you will sit down.”
“Sit down to what? There is no feast here. I see nothing. No food, no dishes, no silverware. Nothing. I’m tired God. I’m tired of your games.”
“And which games would those be?”
“This paradox crap. If you invite people to a feast, lay out a feast for them. Come on. You know how to do this. You turned water into wine for Mary’s sake. Where’s the damn feast? You promised one. You invited me to one.”
“Sit down. Tell me what you see.”
“No, I won’t. I don’t see anything. This is all stupid!” I yell and then throw down a chair. “This is crap. It’s all crap. You don’t do what you say. You don’t protect when you said you would. You don’t stay with us when you say you will. Where were you? Where were you when she went through that? Where were you when I felt alone? Where were you when there was no food on the table and no money in my pocket? This is stupid. I’m done with these games.”
“I don’t play games.”
“Bull. Yes you do. It’s all games. You say something in your Word, like I’ll prepare a table for you. And then you do this crap. You sit at an empty table.”
“Gena, sit down,” he says calmly, my anger not affecting him at all.
“No. I don’t want to. You promised a feast. This isn’t what you promised. The invitation was a lie.”
“Gena, sit down. Pick up the chair you threw and sit down.”
“Fine! Ugh,” I say, sitting down with the attitude I thought I left behind in my teen years.
“Tell me what you see.”
“I see nothing,” I say. Perturbed.
“I see a table, I see a lying God. I see an angry me.”
“Good? Ugh. Our definitions of good are very different, God.”
“Gena, take a deep breath.” Reluctantly I breathe. “Close your eyes,” he says.
“Why? That’s stupid,” I shout back. “Fine whatever,” I say, feeling like giving in might end this annoying conversation.
“What do you see?”
“I hate your definition of good.”
Lovingly and slowly he says my name, “Gena,” then pauses. “What do you see? Use your other senses to see.”
I try to focus. I try to get over my annoyance. I flare my nostrils to engage my sense of smell. The sweet aroma of citrus and grapes fill my breathing. But then the sweetness is replaced with smokiness. With my eyes still closed I say, “I think I sense oranges. So I see bright oranges in my mind. I see a bowl of plump purple grapes. I see a long-stemmed glass of Lambrusco with the bottle standing next to the glass. And, overpowering all of it is the smell of a spicily smoked turkey.”
Somehow I sense God is smiling, even though my eyes are still closed.
“What do you hear?” he asks.
“Emptiness,” I say, but then I correct myself, “No, calmness.” As soon as that word came out of my mouth, I begin to hear a violin. Slow and low. “I hear some instruments,” I say. “A violin, and some other ones but my ear cannot differentiate them.”
“Good. What do you taste?” he asks. He must have gotten out of his chair and walked over to where I am while I was focusing on the instruments. Is that a piano? Or a keyboard playing different types of sounds?. His hand guides my own as he wraps my fingers around a fork and slices it into a dense piece of cheesecake. I hear the sound the fork makes in the cake. My eyes are still closed, but my lips ask before I can understand how am seeing what I see.
“This is gluten-free, right?” and then we laugh simultaneously.
“There are no sensitivities or allergies here,” he says.
I bite down into a succulent piece of New York style cheesecake garnished with a fresh raspberry—not a slimy canned strawberry.
“I taste lime,” I say, “I mean, I taste cheesecake and raspberry, which I expected to taste because I see those in my mind. But I also taste lime which I don’t see in my mind.”
He smiles even bigger. “Yes,” he says, “there is lime juice squeezed on top.”
I sense he moves away from me, back to his chair across the table from me, and I feel a slight bit of melancholy creep into my whole self from my toes to my ears, my body feels sad.
“Take another bite, Gena.” He says with directness in his voice.
I do, and I am glad.
“Now, slowly I want you to open your eyes,” he says.
“Will it all go away if I do?” I ask earnestly.
“Open your eyes,” he repeats.
Slowly, carefully, I lift my eyelids like a heavy velvet curtain being pulled up.
“I don’t see anything,” I say.
“You don’t. But you do,” he says. “You see and you don’t see simultaneously.”
I try to feel around with my hands. Can I still touch it and see with my appendages even if I can’t with my eyes, I wonder.
“I don’t feel anything,” I say.
“You don’t. But you do,” he says again.
“Gena, you asked where the food and the people are—where the feast is—when you first arrived. Do you remember what I told you?”
“Yes, you said they were coming.”
“Exactly. Good.”When he said “good” this time, my heart felt joy, not anger like before.
“What is coming is already here,” he said. “You can’t see it, but you can. Will you choose to sit down at what looks like an empty table to your world-veiled eyes? Will you choose to believe when you don’t want to believe? Will you sit when I invite you?”
“I mean, I did earlier. I had a pretty bad attitude about it, though.”
“Yes. Will you do it again, though? Will you sit down at the table I prepare for you? Even when it looks like it’s not prepared at all? Even when your friends, especially your Christian friends, tell you that it’s stupid for you to sit down. Even when your own family and … .” His voice got deep and serious before he continued, “and your own self thinks it’s the worst decision you could make.”
“I don’t know.”
I could sense him smirk a bit like Mona Lisa, but I didn’t see it with my eyes.
He paused. “Before you go, I want you to remember the turkey and the grapes and the cheesecake and the violins. I want you to remember that I have. I have. I AM and I HAVE and I DO. I am the God … “ his voiced trailed off and suddenly I saw him no more.
“Of abundance,” I thought or maybe I heard. I was back on a park bench overlooking a soccer field. My phone rang, and I shuddered.
He’s a God of abundance cloaked in a mask of scarcity. Meanwhile so many gods of scarcity cloak themselves in abundance.
“I believe, God, help my unbelief,” I whispered to the blue sky before I answered my phone.
12/9/2019 04:45:29 pm
Dear Gena, Thank you for putting smells and tastes to these shadowlands and for reminding me that we walk by faith, and not by sight. Amen. May that be true in my life. And may I be honest like you when I'm so disappointed by the emptiness.
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