God will test you
I told you once in your car that you ruined my life, and I meant it. But, like, not the whole thing. You just ruined the shitty life we were leading. For which I should honestly thank you.
Did it take me ten years, infinite drugs, losing everything, falling in love and coming to Jesus just to get me here? Yes.
Just yes. And that’s the short version. Truth is I’ve lived so much life since you ruined mine that I’m finally just getting perspective.
That thing you did to me, I thought it was my unique human pain. I thought it spoke something about me and not you. I thought you were the man just carrying out my sentence.
I just thought to myself: “If you don’t like the life you’re leading, God will test you!” Just as I once cautioned others not to complain about a lack of material, for life will always provide. God isn’t cruel, but we are small. Least that’s how I see it most days.
You were the one who got me back into God in the first place. I don’t remember quite what you said, but I remember I was staring out your kitchen window at the snow dancing in the street lights. Didn’t see stuff like that it in the country. Didn’t have street lights.
Didn’t have condemned squatter hotels neither. Didn’t have Herman Melville-themed gay pornography, or white Zinfandel or Woody Allen. And you wouldn’t think the same person would introduce me to all of the above with Nina Simone and organized religion to boot.
I acquiesced to you in an argument about religion at the age of 18. With all due respect for your ironic evangelical capacity and overall sophistry, I was probably just in love with you. In love with this new life, with wine, and wonder, and dinner companions I wasn’t any amount related to. With leaving the windows open even in the middle of winter because your apartment steam heat was controlled by the old biddies and their thermostat downstairs. With running out for more wine or just Chinese food, and the way the snow danced in the lights.
Were you trying to give me the heave-ho that one time your grandma got sick? About three weeks into us dating your grandma got real sick a few towns over, and we had this talk like you just didn’t think we would be able to see each other anymore, that you’d be gone too much or something. Which didn’t make sense to me and I said so. Maybe you just weren’t thinking clearly. Maybe I was persuasive and also 18.
When I said you ruined my life, I really did mean the whole entire thing, big picture, but I was 21. I thought you did, I thought you fucked my life up. Granted, it wasn’t my most intellectually mature argument, but you’re the one who picked me up on my 18th birthday. Know what else I did that day? Took myself to see the SpongeBob SquarePants movie. Our town was a real non-stop thrill ride.
I don’t know if you’ll ever see the wood for the trees, but you sure do love the trees. Couldn’t figure out how you meant to keep all the commandments and also keep me. Turns out you didn’t. Mean to, that is. I could observe if I wanted, which was mostly me observing you observing. Observing is a funny word for enacting faith. Pretty apt, though, I guess.
Wondered if I shoulda wrote capitulated back there instead of acquiesced. Acquiesced seems nicer. Less like war. You were just having fun and I was terribly lost. You ruined my life – our life – but in your defense, our life sucked.
It seemed like for a while to forgive you that we needed to be friends, but that was never going to work. Not with the guilt you were dragging around. Not with every conversation eventually turning to what had passed and how you felt like you could never make up for it.
Because the thing is you can’t. Or you don’t even need to? You inflicted an unimaginable hurt on me, but also through time it has become…finally what it is. A moment of betrayal in a chain of mutual attacks. A story among hundreds in a life half-remembered. It comforted me to know for a time that you felt guilty, that you thought about me at all, but… but that is not how forgiveness works.
When I went back to church I expected to be made to pay for what I had done. I don’t know how, or by whom, but I thought surely I would have to pay for living life without Jesus for so long. I think I wanted to be punished, like a child who finds order in the spanking. When I found out no one was going to call me dirty or lash me, I admit, it was something of a letdown. All I needed was the saving grace of Jesus, and only to believe.
I don’t have the strength to spend the rest of your assuring you that you are absolved, and you’d only need that assurance if I kept being around. I forgive you, but it doesn’t mean I have to be around. You have to believe for yourself that you are absolved, or at least that there’s nothing else your guilt can do for you.
It’s okay to ruin a shitty life. I hope we both know that by now.