Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Morning You Ate Cinnamon Rolls in God’s Kitchen

It’s the middle of the night and you’ve been awake for hours, tossing in bed. There are layoffs at your company. Your daughter eloped and dropped out of college. Your wife’s mother broke her hip and is moving in with you. Your mind is on overdrive. You plump your pillow with a fist and sigh as loud as possible on the chance it will bring your wife to consciousness. But she’s deep asleep.

You slip out of bed, pull on your ratty bathrobe and slippers then pad downstairs to the kitchen and boil water for herbal tea. You rest your chin in your hand, elbow on the Formica table, close your eyes and wait for the kettle’s whistle.

The room seems brighter from behind your eyelids and you squint as the teakettle begins to steam. You fill your cup, glance out the window, and see the neighbor’s light on. The neighbor is looking out the window right at you. A hand beckons. You open the kitchen door and hear a voice saying, “Come on over.”

“Be right there,” you answer. Cinching your sash, you walk across the damp grass between your houses. You step into the neighbor’s kitchen, alive with the smell of baking bread.

“I’ve been waiting along time to meet you,” God says.

“You have?” you say, and take a good look at God. God is tall, taller than you, more wrinkled than a raisin, and thin.

“Make yourself at home,” God says.

“Thank you, this is lovely.” You sit in an overstuffed chair next to an antique table.

“I do have a knack.” God slides a tray of cinnamon rolls from the oven, smears on frosting and serves you one on a china plate. “Coffee?”

“No thanks,” you say. “Aggravates my stomach.”

“You're under a lot of stress right now, that can’t help. Anyway, I have Tums in the bathroom cabinet, help yourself.” God pours a large mug of coffee. “Decaf. Don’t know why I bother, I never sleep anyway. You must have some questions.”

You do, but sitting there in God’s kitchen, looking at the wrinkled figure in the dawn blue sweatsuit, with nut brown skin and silver braid that falls mid-back, all you can think to ask is, “Are you a man or a woman?”

“Neither and both,” God answers and laughs, a big belly laugh that puts you at ease.

You talk with God, drinking Tummy Mint tea and eating cinnamon rolls with God’s cat purring in your lap and God’s dog resting her furry head at your feet. You tell God about your worries. God doesn’t say you’ve got it easy compared to Job or Jesus. God doesn’t give advice or dispense phrases like, “I never give you more than you can handle,” or, “It’s all for the best.”

God listens, asks a few questions, looks right at you, and even more than the heart-to-hearts with your wife, you feel understood, and with that understanding, you think you just might manage to swim and not sink in the sea of your troubles.

The sky outside begins to turn orange. God rinses the dishes and says, “I have to be going. I’m serving breakfast at St. Mark’s shelter this morning.”

The cozy feeling begins to evaporate. You linger at the door, not wanting to leave the yeasty warmth of the kitchen. You look at the cheerful pattern in the linoleum. “I don’t want to go,” you say.

“You don’t have to, the house is always open. Come back any time. Make yourself at home in my love. That’s the key."

The next thing you know, you feel a hand on your shoulder.

“Honey, were you up all night again?” Your wife kisses the top of your head.

You are in your kitchen, cheek plastered to the tabletop. She puts the kettle on and sits across from you. Your neck is stiff, but the place that’s been wound tight inside you feels calm and peaceful.

“What’s this?” She picks up a leather bound book next to your teacup. “A Bible?”

“I guess so.” You take the book, open it. Abide in my love is written inside the cover in bold loopy script. You look out the window toward your neighbor’s house. Mrs. Reynolds is lifting the baby into his high chair. Mr. Reynolds kisses them both and sits down with his paper.

You close the book and trace the gold embossed letters with your finger.

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