TITLE: The Feeling of Life 4
By Mark Bell
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Tom walked quickly from the kitchen when he heard the knock on the door. A brief smile crossed his face. Dave never had used a doorbell. His footsteps on the wood floors made a hollow kind of echo in the house. For Tom, it was a grim reminder of what was coming.
There was a lot he needed to tell his son, affairs to be worked out. He had called his son first. His daughter would be next. This had not been an easy phone call for Tom to make. He knew the next one would not be any easier. Once he had made the call, Cheryl had arranged a day out with the girls. So here he was, alone with his son. And, he had no idea what to say.
Tom opened the door, hoping this would go well. Without a word, Dave walked right past him, into the living room, and flopped into the easy chair.
"So, I hear you found religion," Dave said bluntly. "Suddenly makes you perfect I guess, right?"
How did he know, Tom wondered silently.
Tom also winced at the anger in his son's voice. It was deserved. There was a lot of neglect over the years, all for the sake of money and prestige. They never really had a relationship. Tom wished he could take it back and make everything right.
"Christianity isn't about having a perfect life," Tom replied patiently, barely. "It's about being perfected in this life by the One who created life.”
David laughed. Tom sighed heavily. This was not starting well. This was not what he wanted to be talking about at the moment. Later, yes. But, not right then.
"Sure it is," Dave said snidely. "And that's why God let's innocent people die without doing anything to help them."
Tom grimaced, and slowly sat down on the couch. He hated that line of thinking. The reasoning behind it was so circular, and no one seemed to see it.
"Let me ask you something, Dave. If you chose to do something that hurts someone else, why is it God's responsibility to keep it from happening?" He looked at his son for some reaction. All he got was a blank stare. "In the end, son, that reasoning is just demanding to keep freedom of choice, but not have responsibility for your choices."
"That's a cop out!"
"And," Tom went on firmly, "who says God did nothing to stop it? How do you know? You can't really even tell me what caused you to make the myriad of choices you have made today. Are they driven environmentally? Emotionally? Socially? None of the above? All of the above? Or maybe, just maybe, God went ahead and influenced some of them for you. Can you honestly tell me you know for fact God did nothing to stop some heinous act in the world?"
"The action still happened," David replied smugly.
"Only because someone chose to ignore what God said was right," Tom shot back.
"That's another cop out!"
Tom shook his head dismally.
"Dave, did you chose to have a car accident last week?"
"Of course not."
"Is it God's fault the accident happened? Or is the guy who ran the light at fault?"
"The other driver, of course." He went on quickly, "I know where you're going with..."
Tom cut him off. "What about the victims of 9-11? Did the terrorists kill them...or God?"
"That's a trick question," Dave accused.
"Nope. Same question, it's just a matter of scale. So, what's the answer?"
"The answer is God didn't stop it so..."
"Everything is God's fault," Tom finished for him. "Even though people chose to do those things."
They both sat in silence for a few moments. Tom still needed to share his secret. But, this was more important. How could he help his son to understand. The tick of the big grandfather clock in the hallway seemed to echo louder in the room the longer the silence went on. It reminded Tom of how quickly time was slipping away. Tom almost laughed as the Jeopardy theme began running through his mind. Then, he had an idea.
"Let's try an experiment," he said suddenly.
"Um...what kind of experiment," Dave asked dubiously.
"Let's go to the store," Tom said cheerfully. "You do your regular grocery shopping. And, every time you choose something I believe is going to hurt you, or someone else, I get to take it away and put it back on the shelf. Is it a deal?"
"So you get to tell what I can and can't choose," his son asked smugly.
"Sort of, but not really. You still get to make your own choices. I just get veto power over them." Tom said, holding his arms open and shrugging. "Well, I have to keep you from making choices that will hurt yourself and others.'
"You sound like mom when I was a kid," Dave laughed. "I'm past that. Remember? I'm all grown up now?"
"Oh,yeah." Tom paused for effect. "OK. Then, how about I let you do whatever you want, and I step in to make everything all right if something goes wrong. Would that work?"
Dave snorted dirisively. "You don't have that much money. Besdies, how are you going to keep up with my schedule?"
"Don't you see that's how you demand God behave," Tom said quietly. "You can do what you want, He can't stop you, but he has to clean up any mess you make so no one gets hurt. Kind of unfair of you, don't you think?"
Dave sat there in silence.
"You cannot have freedom of choice without personal responsibility," Tom said patiently. "God will not let you off the hook for your choices. And that leaves you responsible for the things you do that He says are wrong."
"By whose religious standard," Dave said angrily.
"Pick one," Tom countered. "Every religion has something you have to do to be OK with whatever god is invoked. And, every one EXCEPT Christianity says you have to earn it, but you won't know till the end if you really did or not." Tom paused. "So, what is you are doing to earn your way into heaven, Dave?"
Tom regretted those words as soon as they came out of his mouth. But, he couldn't help himself. Dave had always been able to get under his skin and push Tom's hot buttons.
"I'm not going to make myself some weak willed Christian, if that's what you're asking," Dave snapped angrily, suddenly standing up from the table.
"It's all God's will," he mocked. "I'll just pray until something happens." Dave snorted dismissively. "Or whatever! Christians are gutless, and powerless, and never do anything. Why would I want to be like that!?!” After a moment's pause he spat out the words, "Like you."
He stomped towards the door. As he put his hand on the door knob, Dave paused. Then, he was gone. The click of the door latch felt like a knife in Tom's heart. And he cried. Tom needed more time. He still hadn't told his son.
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