The problem is they don’t have a clue.
They say He’s awesome and they don’t know. They say He answers prayers and like, what does that mean? They say He doesn’t exist or that there’s no empirical proof or that all He cares about is that you don’t have sex before marriage.
“It says in the Bible that one third are unbelievers,” He tells me. “Who am I to you?”
“I don’t know,” I admit. “I mean every time I think we get somewhere you leave me, like a bad boyfriend. You are supposed to be my constant, my North Star kind of thing. I can hardly ever find you and without you I am completely lost. And there are thieves hiding in the dark!”
“What was that again?” He asks.
“Oh. My. God. You are not even listening to me, are you?” I am exasperated.
“I am. I’m just trying to understand. Just repeat that last part to me again.”
“There are thieves hiding in the dark ready to attack me,” I say.
“So you want me to protect you from getting hurt?”
“I thought you wanted autonomy,” he says.
I open my mouth to say something and then close it again. Dammit, he’s right.
“Yes,” I reply finally. “I want to be autonomous, but I don’t want to be attacked from all sides. I want you to give me the strength to be autonomous and not leave me stranded in the woods in the dark without a GPS.” I took the metaphor too far, but I was making a point.
“But you know where to find me when you need me. Am I not always in the tabernacle?”
I sigh loudly.
He continues, “Tell me. You say you want to be with me, but sometimes you’re reluctant to go to church. Even today. Do you not want the Blessed Sacrament?”
“Yes,” I say. “But I want You alone. I don’t want to go and share you with 1200 other people in a church where since they’ve changed the mass I can’t even have a quiet word alone with you after communion. I have to stand there and wait for us to all pray together like one big, happy family and I am lonely. I want to spend time with You…just You…and not share you.”
“I understand,” He says.
“Yes, I do.”
Jesus then sits down and motions for me to sit beside Him. “Raquel, I don’t have any expectations for you. If you want to pour yourself into your work or your school and take part in every community event you can, I want you to do that. If you want to ignore your “zen”, I’m not judging you. There is nothing spiritually wrong with clenching your teeth, or being busy, or feeling run down. There is nothing that you have to live up to. If you want to rush off to mass (or from mass) or just shut yourself off in your room – you know it’s okay to do that sometimes – you can know that I am happy. I am never disappointed with you. Are you disappointed with me?”
“Sometimes,” I say. “I often feel like I should be something that I’m often not being. Or that I should be happier, cheerier – and that I should feel so much closer to You than I do.”
“I get it,” He says. “I’ve felt that way too.”
I look at Him a little closer. “What was it like for You?”
“It was lonely. It’s not fun being a lone crusader. I was angry sometimes, frustrated as well.”
“Were you ever disappointed?”
“Often. I was also anxious, sometimes depressed. Know that everything you are feeling, I have also felt.”
“Have you ever kissed anyone?” I ask.
He looks a little surprised by my sudden change of subject and I feel embarrassed for asking.
“You mean, like a woman?” He raises an eyebrow.
“Maybe you don’t kiss and tell,” I say sheepishly.
He laughs. “No, I’ll tell you. I was 14 when I had my first kiss. She was a close friend – then and ever since.”
“Have you ever hurt anyone?”
“Not like you’ve hurt people, no, but you should know that it’s not a sin to take comfort in the embrace and touch of someone else. The human body was designed to do that. There’s a reason we are made of flesh and not scales.”
He smiles. “I’m waiting for your prayer.”
“What?” I ask.
“Your prayer. You told me a while ago you had a prayer.”
“Right,” I say. “Sorry, I’m still thinking about the last thing you said. What does it mean to love without expectations?”
“I can’t really explain that to you right now.”
“You still wonder where I go when I’m not with you. You haven’t grasped what it is to love me, how can I explain what it means to love someone else?”
He continues, “To really love is to love how I love you, not how you love me. Now your prayer.”
I hesitate. I’m scared to tell Him. He waits patiently. Finally I start:
“I want You to help me love Dustin. Like, to love him without expectations.”
Jesus is quiet a moment, then: “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
He still looks skeptical. “Do you know what you are actually asking me?”
He clears His throat. “You do know he has a choice in the matter too. He can choose not to reciprocate. I don’t do love spells. You might be learning to love someone who chooses to love someone else.”
“Yes, I know. I’ve thought about that.”
“You should also think about the fact you might discover things about him you don’t like.”
“There are things I don’t like about You and I still love You,” I say mischievously.
Jesus remains serious. “There is also the possibility you may never get to know him at all. And you may end up loving a figment of your imagination.”
Ugh, I think, that is the worst scenario.
“I know,” I say.
“Are you sure that you’re not really asking me to be loved?”
“Well, I want that too,” I admit. “If you could just put that on the back burner for now. Being able to love is more important at the moment.”
“Why is that?”
“Because…sometimes I don’t feel human; I go to work and I go about my day and I do things that I would be passionate about, but I – do you know what I’m trying to say?”
“No,” He says patiently. “Please try to explain.”
I take a moment to gather my thoughts. “I feel like sometimes I can’t get enough air – I’m holding my breath or I’m scared to breathe, I don’t know, but what is a human without breathing? She’s not human – she’s a corpse. And who could ever love a corpse?”
He takes my hands and looks in my eyes. “I love your corpse.”
We start laughing and I roll my eyes.
“I want your air,” I say. “I wish so often I could just breathe out your name, just say it out loud and heal with it, but I can’t because I’m just holding it in, hoping I don’t suffocate.” I’m getting emotional and I don’t know if what I’m saying makes any sense. Loving is like breathing – you have to do it to stay alive and I just feel like I’m struggling.
Jesus touches my cheek. “You don’t have to say my name out loud. Raquel, remember how I said I don’t want anything from you? I mean that. Hold your breath; you can keep my air in your lungs. You can keep me to yourself. You can love me selfishly. I am a gift – and a gift you don’t have to share with your siblings. There is nothing that you have to do with that air. If you don’t want to breathe, don’t breathe. If you can’t breathe, I’ll breathe for you.”
Then he kisses my lips. It isn’t exactly romantic. It’s a bit how Dustin kisses me sometimes. Gentle, comforting.
“Did I throw you off?” He grins.
“A little,” I say. “Do you remember that time we spent together?”
He knows the time I’m referring to. He nods.
“I sometimes miss that.”
“Is that what you expect from men?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Why Dustin?” He asks after a moment.
“Why do you want to love Dustin?”
I think for a moment. “Because he’s me. It’s as if you gave him to me like a mirror to see myself. He’s beautiful.”
“Does he breathe?” God asks playfully.
“Yes,” I say. “But even if he didn’t, his corpse is beautiful.”
“Hmmm, so maybe he’s me.”
“You’re right,” I say.
Then, “Don’t leave.”
“Not going anywhere, Babe,” He says.