He leaned forward, engaged, pressing his elbows into his knees for balance. “Alright, here we are, father and son. What is it you want to say to me, as my son?”
A beat passed as I considered. Nerves suddenly bustled through every inch of my body. During a moment of which I had dreamed for millenia, I was dumbstruck.
“I don’t know,” I finally managed. “I guess, despite everything I’ve done, I want you to know that I always wanted to do right by you.”
“I know,” he retorted promptly.
“I know you know. You always know. You know everything, but I feel like it needs to be said,” I clapped back in cheeky frustration. Inhaling an anxious breath to steady the tempest within, I mustered the courage to confide, “This is all I ever wanted, Dad. I just wanted to be your son. I became another one of your soldiers lost on the battlefield, but I wanted to be so much more than that.”
“Is that really what you think? That you were only a soldier to me?” he prodded.
As he considered this, his aura of majesty shrank until only a lowly human sat before me. Rather than godly wrath or unprecedented composure, he appeared devastated and despondent.
His tone choked strangely around his insistent words. “You are my son. I created the entire universe, but none of my creations can compare to you. And I had to sit back and watch as you took your own life.”
He lunged forward and gripped beneath my maimed forearms, longingly caressing the cuts that no longer brought me pain. Yet, based on his mournful eyes that threatened to overrun with mortal tears, the lacerations still sliced him deeply.
He surrendered to the grief as he lamented, “I lost my son. I have felt the heartbreak of every war and disaster that has taken place on Earth, but this is, by far, the hardest thing that I have ever had to go through.”
Unable to cope with his new acceptance of emotion, he rose from his seat and strode away. He kept his back to me, trying to conceal his anguish, as he went on to say, “Don’t ever think that you were just another soldier. Because you were the only one that really mattered.”
I remained seated, petrified. I had disarmed God of his own, infallible stolidity. I had wished for this genuine display from him for eternity, yet the fruition of it disconcerted me. He was the commander of the universe. He could not allow himself to show this sort of weakness. He needed to be perfect. What hope could anyone have if the Creator himself had flaws?
After a long silence, I managed to reply, “Why would you feel this way about me?”
With his strength mostly returned, he faced me once more, cocking his head in confounded curiosity. “What do you mean?”
My own disheartenment grabbed hold as I interrogated in doubt, “As much as I want this to be true, why would you value me over anyone else? Is this real? Are you trying to manipulate me for some reason?”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“Then why do you care so much?” I demanded in woe. “The only remarkable thing about me is that you are my father and I obviously failed to live up to your expectations. I’m not perfect and never have been.”
He addressed me with tenderness, “I never meant for you to be.”
I objected, nearly interrupting the end of his sentence with heated vehemence, “That’s a lie. I am supposed to be an extension of you, or at least that’s what we preached. But you made a mistake. You decided to make me mortal and to send me down as your representative. You chose a human to represent an omnipotent being. I was destined to fail from the moment I was conceived.”
“You didn’t fail,” he rejoined in his calm manner. He reseated himself across from me. “You did exactly what you were supposed to do. You showed humanity that they can be good, despite their inclinations toward temptation and sin. No, you weren’t perfect, but that was the point. You were as close to perfection as a human could ever hope to be.”
Now that I had his praise, I supplied my own disapproval. Guilt twisted my insides.
I stretched my arms toward him, accentuating the damage I had done. With self disdain and hopelessness, I asked, “How about now? Can you still sit there and say that I’m perfect?”
He reached forward and placed his hands overtop of the wounds and blood stains. With a sincere, benevolent mien, he stated, “You are still my son. Nothing you do will ever sully that fact.”
As I gazed at him, assessing his sincerity and finding that his declaration rang true, a warmth spread from his touch. I first believed it to be a manifestation of my own emotion, having received acceptance from my father as I had always dreamed, but the heat intensified to the point of emanating a dim radiance from his grip. I flinched away in alarm, but he held me fast, insistent. Only moments passed this way before the light faded and the temperature of his clutch returned to normal.
He withdrew his hands with a spectral grace. When my skin was visible once more, all signs of self destruction had been obliterated. In awe, I ran my fingertips across my forearm where the injuries had previously been present. The surface was soft, smooth, and unscarred. The cells seemed brand new.
As he pulled away, I noticed the slightest flinch from him as he gripped the armrests of his chair. He reverted to his usual, unbothered air within the blink of an eye and I attributed his minor lapse to the usage of his power. He rarely utilized his omnipotence to intervene in petty affairs. Perhaps the exertion tired him.
I bit my lip to suppress the overwhelming relief of my untainted hide. My unblemished form could almost convince me that my sins were expunged as well. But I knew this fantasy was far from true.
“Thank you,” I mumbled in shame. “But this doesn’t change anything. I can’t come back to heaven with you.”
He nodded in agreement. “And I won’t make you.”
“Then that leaves only one option, doesn’t it?” I realized, a shiver vibrating through my voice.
Resigned, he said, “Yes, it does.”
I peeked over my shoulder at the side door, already drowning in the thought of succumbing to the beastly darkness behind it. My extremities ran cold. My stomach lurched. I attempted to breathe, yet my lungs refused to function.
I turned back to God in order to put the torment behind me for a few more blissful seconds. I offered an amiable hand to him, forcing a hard, brave face. “Then this is goodbye.”
Stoic, he accepted and shook with his mighty grip.“Yes. Take care of yourself, my son.”
Once this handshake came to an end, my time would be up. I lingered with our hands intertwined. Every second ticked by too quickly, drawing me closer to my fate. The suspense and inevitably bore down on me with a fury. My nails dug into my father’s grasp inadvertently, but he seemed to hardly notice.
The uneasiness proved too much and I uttered, “Father?”
“Yes?” he replied, collected.
Quaking so violently that I threatened to fall from my perch on the chair, I confessed in a meek tone, “I am afraid.”
“I know,” he responded with compassion. “But you don’t have to be.”
Without letting go of me, he used his free hand to unbutton the cuff of his dress shirt protruding from his jacket sleeve, then proceeded to roll both up to his elbow, presenting his bare forearm. An array of gashes colored his skin in red, the outlay identical to my previous harm. I extended a finger from our persisting handshake to alight on the nearest laceration. The texture was an exact replica to mine.
To be concluded in Faith IV...
© 2020 by Kelsey Garber