I've been hanging laundry on a line in our large backyard. See?
Yesterday as I took laundry off the line, our neighbor, a woman close to seventy years old, hollered across the yard with an offer to let me use her dryer. I thanked her and explained that I had a dryer in good working condition, but I'm using the line to cut our energy usage and our electric bills. She persisted. I respectfully declined and changed the subject by asking her how she was.
Since I'm home all the time, she invited me to join her coffee in the mornings. That was nice of her. Then she told me how she switched doctors and had to lose twenty pounds so she could stop taking all the medication she's on. I could relate to the weight issue even though I'm not on any medications at the moment.
Then she hit me with it - why don't I start going to church with her on Sundays? Shit, people, this is why I don't leave the house. The dreaded god conversation. I hate smiling and nodding when people talk about god because I feel like a phony, but I'm not a confrontational sort so I do what I can to cut short conversations like this.
I had lunch with a new friend the other day and when I asked her how she ended up in our small town, she said a friend lived here and helped her find a place because god knew what he was doing. She belonged here. I smiled and nodded.
Why do believers feel compelled to say things like this? Believe what you want, but can't you keep it to yourself? I'm not interested in changing your mind or ridiculing you so I bite my tongue when bad things happen and people thank god for helping them through the adversity. I'd love to point out that the better god would be the one who keeps the adversity from happening in the first place. But I remain silent to be polite.
My new friend asked me how we ended up here in our tiny niche in the Appalachian foothills. My answer was simple, "My job." I could have added something about my epic bad judgment, but I kept that to myself. Either way, no god was getting credit or blame.
When we first moved here, I drove my car fast across the ridge and had the distinct feeling of riding a horse. I could feel the piston action of its strong legs, the wind in my hair even as I drove with the windows rolled up tight against the morning dampness. The feeling was so powerful that I considered whether I'd returned to a place I'd been before, in another life, or was it some genetic coding that drew me back? I had ancestors who'd come from Tennessee and Kentucky, so why not some north Georgia connection? How else to explain the random displacement of our family from Illinois to this tiny burg in rural Georgia?
But I never told anyone about that. Except MathMan and he's paid to listen to my crazy ramblings. I've seen the checks from my parents. There's not much daylight between my kooky ideas and your socially accepted beliefs so why don't we all just tick a lock on that kind of conversation? There's plenty to talk about without discussing the supernatural.
Plus, I do believe in completely random things. As much as I'd love to believe that everything happens for a reason - an incredibly romantic notion, my mental makeup won't allow it. I am incapable of absolutism, of pure faith. Things just happen. Some things can't be explained now or ever.
But here I was again, in the uncomfortable position of having to explain myself. I swatted at the mosquitoes buzzing me. "Oh, thanks, but we don't go to church."
"What do you mean you don't go to church? You can come with us."
Time to pull the Jew card, my first line of defense before tossing out the agnostic and then atheist cards.
"You can still come to church. We have a nice Jewish rabbi who comes and writes things backward, but he writes them in English, too, so we can read them. He even reads from the Bible."
Would it be worth it to explain the difference between Messianic Jews aka Jews for Jesus and Just Jews?
"Oh, thanks, but I don't really want to....he's what's called a Messianic Jew." I smacked my arm and flicked away the dead insect.
"So? He wears one of those little hats, a yarmulke."
"Well, he believes something different from us."
"But he's a Jew."
"There are different types of Jews. See, he's comfortable in your church because, like you, he believes that Jesus is the Messiah." That should do it.
"Yes. Right. So?"
No escaping it. This would cancel out all invitations - not a bad thing as it turned out. "We don't believe Jesus is the savior."
She was quiet for a moment. "Oh. Well, those mosquitoes are eating you up. You better get inside."
What kinds of conversations make you wish you could walk the world cloaked in invisibility?