Falling Away

It was early times and all around me the dead were taken to heaven, for they demonstrated how they pleased the Lord and they were heralded off by angels to the waiting arms of God.

Yet still I stayed, a prisoner of my passions, trapped by the knowledge that I failed these tests.

"See," said one, "how I submit to the Lord while you do not."

"See," said another, "how I please the Lord with my word while you do not."

"See," said a third, "how I please the Lord with my deeds while you do not."

"Watch," they said in a chorus, "how the Lord rewards us for our piety." And they were lifted into heaven above, ablaze with golden light.

And I knew that I did none of these, and there in this place I stayed. I know not for how long.

So by the thousands they came, and then the millions, plucked one by one away to heaven for their relative faith, love, deed, word, and sacrifice. They were taken to their earned reward, loved and worthy, by being better than me.

I spat with disgust at a God that would favor those who, through naught but the accident of their births, knew of him, while others, in other times and places knew not, and thus were not so favored.

Wary I sat and watched alone in the confusion of a dream, a fragmented state of mind that betrayed my sense of time.

Next to me a man began to sob. He cried and wailed, for he too saw these things, and he knew he and failed the Lord.

I held him in my arms but he would have no consolation until I wept with him. He fretted and tugged his hair in his frustration.

A blessed trio came to us and said, "Sing with us that ye may know the stroke of God's hand, for as ye sing your own praise, so sing you his."

"I will not," I said, "praise myself as higher than another."

But he sang with them, and with them he reviled me, and as they did they were lifted away into heaven.

And so my place became this; a threatening smile, a well placed word, a wicked flourish, and I lifted them upon my back and threw them into the heavens by making them my better. Only by contrast with me were they righteous, and only with the willful act of looking down upon me were they lifted above.

Is that how it was? Could man be worthy only by showing another less so?

Could I do the same? Could I find another wretch and bedevil him that I may fly to heaven and enjoy the gaze of God?

I would not. Only by degree did I realize that they needed me, that without my negative they could see no positive. That only by believing in someone to look down upon could they believe in a place from which to look.

And so I resolved to be that. For each poor, unworthy soul, I became something worse. I distanced myself from God that much more to help each poor wretch to heaven. And with each greater distance, I wept anew to myself.

As I did my reputation grew even among the living. They learned to revile me, to hate me, and I knew that in their own eyes they would therefore be saved.

In time my role became no less than the opposite of God's; as he was the creator, so I was the destroyer of souls. As he gave life eternal, so I took it away.

Named the source of their own petty injustices, I lifted them by letting them shun me. I became a lightning rod for their hate so they could show God only love.

Finally I understood. It wasn't God's rules they were following, but their own. It wasn't God's cruel selection, but man's selfish pride. I could, at any moment I chose, join my creator in heaven. The pain, the distance from God-- it was all in my own mind.

But if I did join him, mankind could not; it would not allow itself. I'll be here until the last of them has gone, or until a better breed of man can know light without dark.

I will be here forever.

Copyright © 2002 by Kevin Kelm. All rights reserved.