It was dreary, overcast, and wet. The air was heavy. Somewhere between a thick fog and rain. The dampness was all encompassing and without rain gear, you were going to get very wet. Nate had dressed for the weather.
He walked the short distance from his home to the bluffs above the ocean and followed the well-worn trail to the beach below. Along with fresh driftwood, seaweed, and the detritus of man mixed in its midst, the remnants of a late fall storm had left rows of sea foam above the current tide mark.
He hated to see plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and other man made objects floating or stranded here. “Why can’t we be better stewards of the environment?” he wondered. Well, there was a phrase he never thought he’d be saying in his seventh decade of life. Of course, his generation was also the generation of Peace and Love in the 60’s so it wasn’t beyond reason to hear such an utterance.
Jake, his well-mannered German Shepherd, ran ahead of him and straight for a large piece of driftwood. He was pretty sure Jake couldn’t carry it but it didn’t stop him from trying. He dropped it a couple of times and then figured out if he only picked up one end, he could drag it and maybe his master would throw it for him. He found out soon enough there was no hope of that. Regardless, Nate had a ball which he happily threw for Jake to chase and play with.
He found a well weathered log. Another storm in another time, had placed it well above the high water mark. The constant movement of the waves and abrasiveness of the sand as the log moved to its final resting place, had worn the log smooth. It had a grey patina imprinted on it by the elements. There were perfect little dips where you could sit, think, and watch. Today was fairly quiet. Undoubtedly due to the weather, but there were still people out with their dogs, walking on the hard packed sand, looking for shells, or simply lost in their own thoughts.
Nate threw the ball again and marveled at how much this old friend of his loved the simple things of life. Jake was having a great time creating his own game of chase the ball. Training, play, exercise, food, water, a comfortable home but most importantly, affection. Nate loved Jake nearly as much as he loved his family. Jake loved the family. When the grand kids were younger, they’d pull his fur, ears, and tail. They’d try to ride him and when he got tired of the poking and prodding, he’d simply get up and walk away, shedding the little ones like water he shook off after getting wet. He’d roam around until the kids got tired of chasing him and then he’d go and lie on his bed or seek an affectionate pat from an adult.
There was one thing about Jake not many people knew. Jake was a highly trained protection dog and woe betide anyone who may try and harm one of the grand kids. They’d be leaving the area with more holes in their body than they arrived with.
Nate looked at Jake and wished his life could be that simple. Not that it was a bad life. He had all the necessities. Food, shelter, clothing, a loving family and good friends. Today, the weather was a reflection of his mood. He was having what some might call a crisis of faith. Crisis may be too strong a word but it was certainly close.
Nate was a “good” Christian, or at least he thought he was, but he was having second thoughts. Him and his Pastor had many discussions about God, the Bible, and religion in general. However, lately, the more Nate thought about the Bible’s teachings, the “all merciful God”, and organized religion, he became distressed.
In Nate’s religious upbringing, preacher after preacher said the Bible was the word of God. Yet, the Bible was written by man, apparently passages were left out as they were determined not to be the “word of God”, re-interpreted by some religious leaders to meet their own needs, unable to be read by the majority for most of the first two millennia, and translated from ancient Greek into multiple languages.
To Nate, this was like playing a game of telephone when you were a kid. Line up 10 people, give the first a short message, ask that person to pass the message along and so on until the message reached the end of the line. Then ask the last person what was said. The message seldom, if ever, was the same as it started. So, with the majority of the populace illiterate at the time of Jesus, how did these verbal stories get accurately conveyed? How could the messages and conflicting messages in the Bible be believed?
This omnipotent entity said he was to love his neighbour. That is, unless the neighbour is gay, not of your colour, or religion.
Where was God when man was wreaking carnage on other human beings? They can’t all be sinners? If God is all seeing and all powerful, why didn’t he/she prevent the tragedy in the first place?
Something good happens and they said “my prayers have been answered”. What about the people who didn’t pray and good things happened to them? Was that pure luck? Oh, he forgot, that was God looking after them anyway, he thought sarcastically.
Why was a man who beat his wife and children but went to church every Sunday, paid his tithes, and worshiped God, but it was kept quiet, considered to be a “good Christian”? While the single mother who worked two jobs, loved her children and family, prayed at home alone, but didn’t go to church, deemed to be unfit in the eyes of God and the Church?
What about the abused woman who kept her abuse a secret but is told at the death of her husband they will be reunited in Heaven? Will she go to her death fearing dying because of what may happen in the afterlife.
Nate had always prayed but he was questioning the validity of it. How could God hear and answer all those prayers? It was obvious not all prayers got answered. If not, then how did God chose. If his prayers didn’t get answered, did it mean he was unworthy?
He recently had a friend thank and praise God for answering his prayers and curing his cancer. He saw no other reason for his survival. Yet, he had a very competent medical team which was undoubtedly made up of people of different faiths, no faith, and agnostics. Did they not play a part in his survival? Oh wait, once again they were guided by the hand of the Almighty!
He’d heard his pastor say when a particularly “devout and worthy” person died, they would sit at the right hand of God. In Nate’s mind, with all the good people who had gone before and were also sitting at the right hand of God, the line should stretch to infinite.
If a child died, it was said God had called him or her home. What merciful God would allow a child to go through such pain just to call them home. Would it not have been more merciful not to allow them to be born in the first place?
If plague and pestilence were not created by man, then they must have been created by God if you accept the proposition that God created Heaven and Earth. If that’s the case, why did God need to create them just to kill his “children”. Not only sinners are taken.
If there is only ONE God and ONE true religion, which one is that, he wondered
Nate was working himself into a state. Suddenly, he felt a cold nose on his face and a warm tongue lick his cheek, followed by a shake big enough to send water droplets all over him. Jake had returned!
Nate grabbed the big beast around the neck and give him a hug. This caused Jake to start vigorously wagging his tail which in turned caused his whole body to move and spread even more water. Nate let go and looked at his four legged friend. Things looked a little better in his world. Also, the clouds had started to dissipate, the sun was peeking through, and smell of the air was changing. It may turn out to be a beautiful day.
Nate got up from the log, picked up the ball and threw it one more time. He headed toward the trail back to top of the bluff, knowing Jake would follow
Nate knew he couldn’t solve his dilemma today but he was moving closer to an answer. He walked home in the emerging sunlight and knew no matter what decision he made, it would be the right one for him.