Alternate Second Reading: “God Again” by Brian Doyle

Had a brief chat with God the other day. This was at the United States Post Office. God was manning the counter from one to five, as he does every blessed day. He actually says every blessed day and he means it. You never saw a more patient being. He never loses his cool and believe me he could. I would. I have been in line behind crazies at his window and heard vituperative abuse and vulgar character assassination and scurrilous insinuation and never once did I witness any flash of temper in response to this on his part. I have asked him how he could maintain his cool and he says things like I try to put myself in their position and Witnessing vented emotion is part of the job and All storms blow over and It’s only frustration and There are so many much more serious things and We are all neighbors in the end. I am impressed by these sentiments, in large part because I share them consistently in theory but inconsistently in practice. God, however, does not waver nor does he fluctuate in his equanimity. He stands there quietly as people bang their fists on his counter and offer rude remarks and stomp away muttering darkly. He does not smile when someone gets upset. He says he has learned that some people get more upset if you smile when they are upset. He listens to what they say and often, I notice, he makes a note on a pad as they leave. I make a note if I think they have a good point we should discuss with management, he says. Often what is couched as a complaint is actually a good point about how we could be of better service. He remembers pretty much every regular who comes to his window and he greets them politely by name. Sometimes he will inquire after children and animals. Dogs adore God and will sometimes rear up on his counter to see him better. He greets them politely by name surprisingly often. I would guess I know a hundred dogs by name, he says. Hardly any cats. People don’t take their cats with them when they go to the Post Office. I make a joke about how cats are the children of Lucifer and he does not smile and I realize later that probably Lucifer is still a deeply sad and touchy subject for him. How would you feel if one of your best friends, one of your most trusted companions, tried to steal everything you had and were and did, and for this breathtaking betrayal he was cast shrieking into the darkness, no longer the Shining One, the Morning Star, but the very essence of squirming withered despair, until the end of time? Wouldn’t you be haunted and sad about that ever after? I would. I felt bad and told God I was sorry about making a stupid joke. I said I made stupid jokes all the time even though I was now an older citizen and ought to have learned by now to not be so flippant. And God said, No worries, and Better a poor joke than something worse, and Do you want to use the book rate for your package, which will save you about five bucks? And I said yes, sir, and thank you, and walked out of the Post Office thinking that if we cannot see God in the vessels into which the electricity of astonishing life is poured by a profligate creation, vessels like this wonderfully and eternally gracious gentleman at the Post Office, then we are very bad at the religion we claim to practice, which says forthrightly that God is everywhere available, if only we remove the beam from our eyes, and bow in humility and gratitude for the miraculous, which falleth even as the light from the sun, which touches all beings, and is withheld from none. So it is that I have seen God at the United States Post Office, and spoken to him, and been edified and elevated by his grace, which slakes all those who thirst; which is each of us, which is all of us.

The words of Brian Doyle

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