"I have no choice," the man said.
"What an opportunity," God replied. She smiled.
Man: I mean no disrespect, God, but no choice means no opportunity. No free will. Shall I draw you a diagram?
God: The absence of free will is an illusion, an excuse to avoid accepting things you don't like. If you deny free will, you trap yourself. If you choose free will, then free will opens opportunities to acknowledge love. Do you see? We always have a choice. We just have to recognize it.
Man: Easy for you to say -- you're omniscient.
God: And omnipresent.
Man: Modest, too.
God: Think about it this way. I am always with you. With everyone and everything. I am the great connector. Even beyond space and time. Because I'm always there, you only have to look for me to find me. Religions are access points -- I am beyond doctrine and dogma. Like love. Like light. If you choose to find me, you will. And that is a choice you can make at any time, in any situation.
Man: Beautiful thought, God. But what about Job? Old Testament Job, remember him? You smote him with a whole lot of misfortune and illness and strife. You broke him. He felt forsaken. He had no choice but to suffer.
God: Job had faith. Please understand, all faith gets shaken. It depends on free will and requires each person continually to renew his or her choice to believe. Daily. Hourly. Sometimes moment by moment. Don't be too tough on Job.
Man: I'm not tough on Job. You were tough on Job.
God: One choice you can make is to be grateful for hardship as well as joy.
Man: That sounds fun.
God: You'd be surprised what peace it can bring. Suffering is part of life. Happiness is part. When we choose to accept suffering, to learn from it, to let it deepen us, then our capacity for happiness grows. Life is richer, deeper and more beautiful when we accept all aspects. When we deny the whole, even for the sake of saving ourselves from pain, conflict and difficulty, our experience atrophies, our balance erodes and we sink too far into ourselves. Trying to avoid suffering is a dead end. Denying your own wholeness can leave you feeling trapped. But that's not life trapping you, it's your expectation that life should be other than it is.
Man: Let me get this straight. My big act of free will is to accept the crappy situation my life is in.
God: You're learning.
Man: Doesn't sound hopeful. I thought you were supposed to bring hope.
God: People bring hope. Hope is a choice.
Man: Is that all you talk about -- free will?
God: No. There's also love. They go together.
Man: Not in a war zone.
God: Anywhere. Anytime. Even outside the space-time continuum. They're my secret sauce.
Man:Oh yeah. What's the recipe?
God: It's not really a secret. Actually, it's very simple: anyone can use free will to choose love. You can use choose love, too.
Man: Even when I don't think it will do any good.
God: Especially when you think it won't do any good.
God said no more. And in the ensuing silence, there was space for the man to reconsider, emptiness for him to rearrange his theory of what was possible.
He picked up a piece of paper and wrote down how he felt: stuck, broken, lost and alone. He wrote down how his life was a dead end situation, how it sucked. He signed the bottom of the note with his full, legal signature to show that he accepted this description as his present state of being.
Then he ripped up the note and recycled it.
He stepped outside. He looked up at the top of a tree. He listened to a bird sing. He inhaled and, for the first time in a long time, heard and felt the intake of breath through his nose and the stream of air as it left his mouth.
He assessed his situation from beginning to end. Nothing had changed. All the outside elements remained the same. Yet, something was different. He felt different. Lighter, more able, less constrained.
He made a mental note to thank God next time they talked.