Liam lay face down on the carpet in his church, weeping best he could. After all, his miserable life merited a few tears, he figured, but producing them seemed harder than he’d expected. “God!” he cried out, “Oh, God! Hear my prayer! Give heed to my supplication!”
Even as his mouth formed the words, Liam felt a bit of a surge of pride — oh no, not “pride” since that was sin, but “satisfaction” — at his using the word “supplication”. A part of his conscious thought touched on how few people probably even knew the word — and certainly not the noun form that he was a “supplicant” for having made “supplication” to God…
Damn it! He tried to wrest control over his conscious mind from its sideways drift, and focus again on why he was laying face down on the carpet. He needed divine direction. He needed to know how to handle the life-situations multiplying around him right then. Being demoted at work and threatened with firing seemed bad; getting little slips in the mail from his bank denoting overages (with fines totaling, as of that day, almost $100 with no income in sight in the near future), having his girlfriend storm out of his apartment that morning screaming, “I’ll be back at noon to get the rest of my things — don’t you dare be here!”
Life had conspired against him, and he felt like crumbling beneath its weight. “God! Help me! Give me direction! Give me some leading! Give me a divine Word!”
St. Peter and God were standing — encompassed about by heavenly clouds near to a brilliant Throne encircled by an eternal, emerald rainbow — listening to Liam’s cries.
St. Peter, always cautious in the Presence of the One Who Could Not Only Destroy Peter’s Flesh, but Consign His Soul to Hell for Eternity, hesitantly offered an opinion: “Seems like a noisy little bugger, isn’t he?”
God (ever patient, especially after naptime) nodded. “Seems that, all right. But he’s doing the right thing, you know — asking Me for some direction.”
“And what would that ‘direction’ look like?” Pete asked.
‘’Like this,” and God signaled a tiny sprite loitering nearby with nothing much to do, to speed down to whisper into Liam’s ear — so quiet a whisper, Liam had trouble distinguishing it from his own thoughts. “Tell Liam,” God ordered the sprite, “exactly these words: ‘I am a rock; I am an island’.” The sprite started off but God called out, “Oh! And add that ‘We shall overcome!’”
Pete looked quizzically at God. “Don’t you think he’ll recognize that that’s just a line from a 60s hit tune? And that the point of the song is that no one is a ‘rock’ or an ‘island’?”
“No,” God replied. “Liam’s a Millennial, so he’s never heard the song.”
“Surely, though, he’s seen newsreels of people marching and Martin Luther King shouting out, ‘We shall overcome!’?”
“Liam never did pay much attention in history class either. It’ll all seem like the kind of ‘divine message’ he expects to hear from Me.”
Pete stood thinking a bit more about this, then shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand Your Ways…” [and God gently prodded, saying, “My ways are past understanding, you remember…” “Yes… Of course,” Pete agreed], “but aren’t you telling Liam exactly the opposite of what he needs to do? It sounds like, instead of wisely seeking the help and counsel of others, You’re telling him he can successfully go it alone… and even I know that that’s not going to work for him.”
“You’re right, Simon Peter. It’s not going to work. Not at first, anyway.”
“I’d think it’s not ever going to work, will it? Isolating himself from others?”
God turned slightly, his face beaming in a great smile. Pete turned partly away. He’d learned from prior experience that when God beamed brightly at you, you’d better turn aside from His direct gaze or get a whopping sunburn. Shading his face a bit, Pete asked, “It won’t work at first, but it will eventually — how’s that?”
God nodded toward Liam, far below, just then standing up from the carpet with excitement, murmuring fiercely, “I am a ROCK! I am an ISLAND! We WILL overcome!”, departing the sanctuary as he continuously repeated the words to his new litany.
“I told him those words, Peter, because they’re the words he really wanted to hear. And he’ll ride on those stirring words for awhile, and he’ll continue to find life’s realities still crushing him, and eventually he’ll decide that depending on himself is a life-philosophy that’s totally bankrupt from the start.” He paused. “But if I tried to tell him what he really needed to do, he wouldn’t have heard a Word I said. This route (you might say) is the shortest route I can take him to where he’ll be softened up enough to listen to what I really want him to do.”
(Under his breath, Pete agreed, “Softened up? Mashed up I’d say.”)
“After all,” God continued, “I love Liam with My Whole Being — couldn’t love him more if I tried — and so I always lead him in the shortest paths to discovering Me as Resident in his daily life — which actually will make him an Overcomer! Like Me!” God sauntered away after that, leaving Pete at the gate by himself, muttering, “OMG! With Friends like Him, who needs enemies?”
[And God whispered back, “I heard that…”]