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[personal profile] violetcheetah
[Disclaimer: I am an atheist; any similarities between the God in this story and your own God are purely coincidental.]


Okay, first off, let's set the record straight: he was not my son. He was not my planned Messiah. He was just another crazy guy whose delusions happened to be religious. I mean, how many people in the last two millennia have claimed — have believed with their whole being — that they were Jesus? He just happened to be the first.

Wait; I'm sorry. That sounds flippant and dismissive, and I don't mean to be. He wasn't a bad man; I want to make that clear. He wasn't a megalomaniac, wasn't after power or fame. He believed he was my son, but… he didn't want to be. That prayer of his begging me to take this cup from him? That wasn't a one-time prayer; it was weekly, sometimes daily. And it wasn't because he knew he was about to die; it wasn't death he wanted to be delivered from. It was… well, it was empathy. It was the constant pain of feeling the pain of everyone he met, everyone he heard about, everyone he imagined living anywhere.

And he could imagine a lot; he was smart, astonishingly smart. Even as a kid; that thing in the Bible when he was 13, schooling the scholars: oh yeah, that happened. Most everything the Bible says he said, he said. And it was all unrehearsed; he didn't plan out parables or admonitions or rebukes and then dole each one out when the right event came along. I don't think he planned anything, ever, in his life — not where his next meal was coming from, not which town he was going to next, nothing. He couldn't: he was too overwhelmingly hyper-aware of what was happening in the present moment, with the people currently with him, that, even smart as he was, he didn't have any mental energy left for what might happen five minutes down the road. That was probably why he was so good at improv: he could read the moment so well, see so clearly what was happening, what was needed, that the words that were needed just came to him. Frankly, he could read people better than I could; that day with the woman caught in adultery, when he said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." — I thought she was dead, and probably him, too. When everyone just sulked off with their heads down, it just blew me away. But he knew.

I'm sure that's part of why he thought he was a prophet: words and actions just popped into his head without him being able to see his own train of thought, so it didn't even feel like the ideas were his. And if they weren't his, they must have been God's. It's an entirely reasonable delusion.

But no, I think it was empathy that was really behind his insanity. You can't feel what everyone around you feels all day every day — with so much of what they feel being pain and suffering — without breaking. At least, not when you have no ability to help them, to fix them. I mean, to see the unfairness, the abuse of power by the Romans, by some of the religious leaders, by nature itself, and be able to do nothing? No one could survive that intact. Most people, though, they get angry: at the government, at the priests, at… well, at me, since I'm letting this shit happen, not just letting the leaders get away with what they do, but letting disease happen, allowing famine, allowing all the pain you feel everyone around you feel. And yeah, he had his flashes of anger, but he couldn't sustain them. At least, not as far as his anger at me. Maybe if he could have just seen me as I truly was and hated me for it, he would have been okay. But in the end, his biggest delusion was that… well, that I was good and kind and loving. So he created a story in his head, with a god created in his image, and that loving god must have a plan to end pain and suffering, or at the very least must have a reward waiting for all those who suffer. And as with the parables, he wasn't even aware that it was a story he'd made up; the narrative just revealed itself to him without effort, without conscious thought, and it made such perfect sense that he never doubted it was true.

At first, he only thought he was a prophet. All that beating around the bush in the Bible where he doesn't quite come out and say he's my son: he wasn't being coy, he honestly didn't see himself as the Messiah. Not then. He just had a story, a story he thought was delivered from me, and this story was so beautiful, so perfect and just and loving, that it had to be shared with everyone. He was very convincing — at least to those who were suffering — because he himself was convinced, and as he convinced people, and gave them hope, it eased their pain, which eased his pain, which was more proof that it was true.

He never intended to start insurrections, never intended to overthrow the Romans, or the religious order of the day; like I said, he never planned anything he did or said. He didn't think he was sent to do anything but tell the story. Not until others told him he was more than a prophet, more than just a man. They took his story, and made it theirs, and then they embellished, or expanded, in a way that made sense to them, and they were very convincing, because they themselves were convinced, and it made such perfect sense that he came to believe it was true. He wasn't just here to tell a story — no, he could fix things, put things right, ease pain, even perform miraculous healing. It was so pathetic. The truth is that, when he implored me to heal that first guy, I did it because I felt sorry for him.

You'd think that I, out of all beings in the universe, would know better than to give in to temptation, but I couldn't bear his disappointment, and in that moment of weakness, I took the easy way out and gave him what he wanted. And after that first one, there was just never a good time to put my foot down and end it. Even though I knew where it would lead, knew I was leading him to his death, I kept doing it, because… well, if I didn't, he'd have been so miserable he would have been better off dead, anyway.

And he would be dead soon enough, and things could go back to normal. It played out just like I knew it would; toward the end, even he knew, he who couldn't fathom ambition and desire for power. And he went willingly, because he thought he knew what came next: the new world of peace and love and cooperation and all those things normal people stop believing in when they grow up. He was certain it was all part of my plan; as they lashed the skin off his back, as they spit, as — the spikes, the slow suffocation of hanging suspended, struggling to pull in enough breath to comfort the man dying beside him. His faith didn't waver, not for hours, not while his blood turned sticky in the heat and the flies came, not while the thief next to him died — died in pain but in peace, thinking he was going to a beautiful eternity because Jesus told him he was. Even when he pulled in enough breath to ask, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" it was not a rebuke of me — or of that other merciful god he believed in — it was self-rebuke: he thought he must have done something wrong, because there was no other reason that his god would not have stepped in and put things right; even as he asked, he believed. But then the words echoed in the emptiness, hung loud and heavy with the buzzing flies, with no answer, and that — that was when he knew. His god didn't exist. Had never existed. He was alone. Had always been alone. He saw the truth. And finally he died.

I had never understood why people in the throes of grief would rip their clothes; I still don't understand why, but I ripped my own temple curtain without thought. I ripped it, and I felt everyone seeing me, naked and broken and beyond redemption. He was never my son. He was the son of someone better, someone greater, someone who never existed. But who should have existed. And I would have given anything to have been that father.

Could I be that father?

Could I change?

Could I deserve to have him as a son?

Could it be not to late to try?

——

He woke sobbing. Anyone brought back from death does; it's like waking from a nightmare, in that moment when you don't yet realize it's a dream, don't realize you are awake and safe, and you think that you will be trapped in this one eternal moment of horror always and without end and all you want is to just not be, not exist. He woke to the echoes of the agony he'd died in, but even once his mind grasped that the physical pain was in the past, he was trapped in the aloneness of that last instant. He'd been so certain his father didn't exist that he could not hear me as I called his name, as I screamed over his screams, "My son, my son, I'm here, I'm with you." I bathed the tomb in light, but he shut his eyes, certain he was making up the glow as he'd made up everything that meant anything to him. I could not bring his mind back, I was helpless, helpless for the first time in my existence, it was unbearable, and I begged him, begged, "Please, child, please help me."

He had never been able to ignore a plea for help.

His screams subsided. He opened his eyes. He saw me kneeling at his feet. He asked, "What do you need of me?"

I bowed my head, and my tears fell on the blood crusted on his feet. "Teach me to be your father. Teach me to be like you."



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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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