Our conversation began with, “Are you a pastor?”
I don’t know where that came from. I never did anything that would have given away my identity. Plus, on the bike path I was always wearing a dirty ball cap and blue jeans. Incognito. Or so I thought.
“I have a question for you,” he said. I’ve heard and dreaded that question before. Loaded, angry, already-settled. There was nothing I could say that would have contributed positively to the discussion. “Why did God create the devil?” That was the question.
We crossed paths two more times on the bike path. Not unusual since we walked about the same time each day. Each time the conversation became more open and transparent. But it always came around to God and the devil. What do you say to someone who is obviously hurting?
He mentioned multiple times that he had studied to be a pastor. I don’t know what that means. Read a book or two? Took a few classes? Served as an acolyte? He didn’t seem to be a person that had studied theophany or knew the implications of Calvinism.
I told him that I’d like to talk to him more about punching God in the face. Only if he hadn’t made up his mind. “Oh, I’ve made up my mind,” he said with great certainty – almost vehemence.
Which is why today’s conversation was surprising.
I stumbled on him at the horseshoe pitch. We exchanged hellos and then talked about horseshoe pitching technique. The conversation was warm, not edgy like the previous punch-God-in-the-face chats. We talked about poetry. I recommended Billy Collins to him. He invited me to use his guest house on a lake in another state.
Then this. His daughter died less than two months ago. Of course he was angry. And God was a convenient target. Sometimes I get mad at God. Now I understand.
And that piece of information totally changed the side of him that I now see and feel compassionate toward.