His mother had kept her word. After her own one-on-one visit with Joy Brighterday, she came back, fetched Bane and him, and took them to see their favorite hero-protectress, their soul counsellor and shepherdess. The time they were allowed to spend was disappointingly short, but they were nevertheless thankful. It did both of them a world of good to see her siting up in the hospital bed, face bright and shining, to hear her easy laughter, and feel her warm, strong, affectionate embrace. Joy Brighterday was still in the world, still in their lives, still determined and ready for whatever might lie ahead. She was almost like a comic book superhero, except Joy Brighterday was a real flesh-and-blood human being … or maybe more? Little Bane wondered.
Rue was nestled up in his bed, thinking and just generally mulling things over in his mind. He was almost 12-years-old now – Bane was approaching ten – and he was without doubt an intelligent, precocious little boy. Pondering great and troubling questions came to him so naturally, he couldn’t help it really, which explained why he needed his alone time. Not that Rue was particularly anti-social, especially after the advent of Joy Emmanuella Brighterday in their lives, but he just needed some “down time” to reflect and collect his thoughts. Thankfully, everyone who surrounded him now understood perfectly. He had no reason to be embarrassed or to offer excuses. No one made him feel odd, different, or out of place; no, it was just the unique, normal him, and that was special.
Rue was especially thankful for this today. Following all of the gut-wrenching chaos and confusion, hurt and pain and fear, and everything else… Well, he definitely needed some down time with his own thoughts. Maybe he’d even write some of them down like he sometimes did when his thoughts felt so overwhelming. This was a trick his mom had taught him a few years ago: When your thoughts are racing around in your mind at 90-to-nothing, swirling around like a tsunami, then grab a couple of pieces of paper and pens or pencils, take a deep breath, and then as the thoughts come just jot them down. Don’t worry about putting them down in any order; just jot them down one by one, as you can, keeping yourself as calm as you can. When you’ve written down all you can write, or all you think you need to write down, then pull back; go find something else to do for a while – a long, hot bath is relaxing – and then go back to those thoughts later.
Rue decided he might very well have to do that this evening, so he went ahead and grab his diary book, one sharp no. 2 pencil, and one black-ink gel pen. He had his tools ready just in case, placed to his right within arm’s reach, the journal already opened to the next blank page. But Rue didn’t feel like writing at the moment, not right off the bat, anyway. It would come, but right now he just needed to calm down and focus. Focus upon what? What was bothering him the most? Surely not a difficult question to answer. Joy Brighterday was in the hospital because she had been shot. The shooter was still on the loose – Rue was no dummy by any means, and he’d picked up on that point – and he was on the loose because Joy Brighterday had forgiven him. And, yes, it was this Morris Graver; his very good ears had heard the name enough now, and with what he’d heard others saying about him, Morris was … troubled and needed help … or, forgiveness, love, and healing.
But how can I forgive the man who shot Joy Brighterday … even if she’s forgiven him? And how can I ever forgive the man who beat my mother over and over and over again? I hate him, and I want him dead. Huh! And I’m told to love because God first loved me and God is love… That’s just bull crap! Rue paused his thoughts as he felt anger rising hot in his chest. His mind started to burn again, and so he tried to calm down using the techniques Joy had taught him. Breath in slowly, hold, and breath out slowly … several times, while focusing on something good, bright, and beautiful … or, at least, something neutral. It helped, but not completely. God… Someone I cannot see, or hear, or touch, or taste, or smell even if I had any idea what God is supposed to taste and smell like! Rue couldn’t help laughing at the thought. How am I really, really supposed to believe there even is a God?
I mean, where is he anyway? People say God is everywhere, so he’s supposed to be right here, in my room… So, o.k. I don’t see him; I don’t hear him… Where is God in my room? Is this kind of like hide-and-seek? Does God like playing childish games? Ah hah! Maybe that’s it! Rue thought he might have landed on something rather important now. God is God, but he’s also a child! God is a very young god … divine toddler! Maybe there are other, older gods and goddesses somewhere way out in the universe, and they’ve just left their baby in his play pen to play with his toys, and we just happen to be in his play pen! Maybe we’re his toys and he’s just having fun without realizing or caring about what he’s doing to us, because babies and toddlers just don’t care… They can’t, right? Not really, and so that’s kind of like our God. Rue got excited.
So this God built everything in this part of the universe with his supernatural Legos, put his little people and animals in his supernatural Lego world and started playing. God started playing an amusing game, and we’re part of that game! Ha! Rue paused again to think. Wonder where his parents are? Either they need to take him out behind their heavenly woodshed, or someone – maybe the grandpa god – really needs to give them a good working over for allowing their baby to wreak so much havoc alone in his play pen. Rue couldn’t help but laugh again. It seemed silly, but funny, and he liked the idea!
Seems like it’d be easier just to leave God out of it all … not think about him or talk about him. Does that seem like a good idea to you? Rue started to kind of, sort of pray. “From what the monster has preached all his life, you’d probably be so angry you’d kill us… Maybe you’re gonna strike me dead because of what I’m thinking and saying.” Rue was speaking just above a whisper. “Well … I guess I do still believe you exist. It would be crazy to be angry at you if you’re not even there … and even crazier for me to lie here talking to you!” Rue laughed again, but this time a little nervously. “I don’t trust you, though, and if that means … if that means going to hell, I guess…” He couldn’t go through with the thought. “I don’t know … but what about Jesus? You sent ‘your only-begotten Son that whomever believes in him should not perish but have life everlasting.’ O.k. but what does this mean? And, really, what difference did it all make in the end?”
“I mean, what about now? When Jesus was here he healed the sick and the lame and the blind… He fed the hungry and even raised the dead. He did all these good things and taught all these good things and told his disciples to go out into the world and do the same … but what good did it really do? Nothing in the world really changed. The world is darker and more evil and more hopeless than before – at least monster-bastard got that right – so what was it all for, anyway? Just like, you know, you live and say the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ get saved and then just wait around to die or be raptured up to heaven? Is that it? I’m sorry, but … that just seems pretty lame to me… Go ahead, then, and strike me down with lightening ‘cause … I don’t really want to live in this world, your world, any more, and … I can’t imagine hell really being any worse. Something tells me there’s probably lots of really good people down there; there would have to be if the monster and beastly thugs and awful swine like him are going to heaven … so I’ll probably feel more comfortable being tortured in hell anyway!” Rue was being very emphatic now but still kept his voice low-key.
What would be worse? Tortured in hell with good people, or tortured in heaven with monsters, like that man, and all because I believed in the ‘Savior,’ ‘Good Shepherd,’ our ‘Redeemer’ and ‘Good Master.’ Rue shook his head. It just seems sick … just sick. Light is supposed to be more powerful than darkness; good is supposed to be more powerful than evil; God is supposed to be more powerful than the devil, and the people of God are supposed to be mightier than the ‘world.’ But it’s not true… The unbelievers the monster talks about so much may be right after all… Jesus may have been a really good teacher, and maybe he even somehow worked miracles. Maybe Jesus really was compassionate and cared about people and all that, but… if he came to save the world, he… failed. Jesus failed … maybe not totally, but he failed to save the world. Heck! He didn’t really even change the world … not much, anyway. But still, he may have been a really good person, who lived a really good life, and maybe we should try to follow his example and all, so … o.k. But if he wanted to save the world … he failed.
Of course, another side of Rue knew he would be content and thankful if this ‘God’ would just answer his prayers for his mother and family – his whole new family – and himself. If this ‘God’ were really like the one Joy Brighterday had been telling him about, then he would completely heal Joy and completely free his mother, Bane, and him from the monster-bastard. This ‘God,’ if he were real, would have the shooter, Morris Graver, arrested … o.k. and maybe get him the help he needs, but he would still have him arrested because he shot one of the most beautiful, strong, caring, compassionate, intelligent and gifted women in the whole world. And this ‘God’ would shut down Ebenezer Bible Church and he would torture the monster just like the monster tortured his momma. Would Joy’s God do that, though? Rue wondered. No, probably not … but why not? Why should the monster go unpunished? Why should he get away with everything he’s done?
Just then something Joy Brighterday shared with him came to mind totally uninvited … and unwanted at the moment: “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why should you die…?’” I think I could give, like, a million reasons why he should die! Rue answered. Yep! If you’re here and you just threw that little Bible chunk into my mind, then let me answer! “Stop hiding, and come out like a regular person – maybe like Jesus when he was here on earth – and let’s sit down and talk. I’m tired of asking other people anyway. I’m tired of other people having to make excuses for you… Why can’t you… Why don’t you just answer for yourself? Because you’re God? Does that let you off the hook? So you supposedly loved us so much that you died for us, and you supposedly give us your very own Spirit, but you’re not willing to answer a few, simple questions an almost 12-year-old boy is asking… Sounds kinda suspicious to me … like you’re purposely avoiding something.” Rue stopped for a moment as an idea developed in his mind. “If you’re God, then you’re God, and nobody can make you do anything, but I just wonder … Since everybody’s gonna be judged on Judgement Day, what about you? You know… Would you be willing to take the stand … to be the defendant, the accused?”
Rue thought for quite a few minutes about what he’d just asked (or prayed). His room was silent, but he could hear a flurry of activity down the hall, probably in the living room and kitchen. It was time for him to rejoin society, so to speak. He got up and headed for the door, put his hand on the knob and turned, but just before leaving he cast a glance over his shoulder as if he were looking at someone…
“You know … I just don’t understand.”