The e-mail showed up out of the blue. I sensed it was legitimate.
A neighborhood magazine that I do some writing for was referenced.
The e-mail was simple: Bill, wonder if you might be interested in interviewing me? If you are, meet me at the corner of West Franklin and North Pine in the city. You are an early riser, see you at 6:45 on Friday. I’ll be in uniform. Thanks for your time and consideration, God
No way, this is a hoax of some type. I’m sure one of my pals is up to something.
But a few minutes later, another e-mail appeared. It stated— Nice try this isn’t a hoax. Confirm you are going to show up or the interview offer is withdrawn. Sincerely, God
I knew the location well. The corner of Franklin and Pine is where the former Pace United Methodist Church building is located. It sits across from Monroe Park.
Now, the building is home to a campus ministry, the Wesley Foundation, a part of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church.
I had some decisions to make.
The first one was do I tell anyone about this e-mail?
If I tell anyone that I’m going into Richmond to interview God, whoever I share my secret with will immediately confirm what he or she has suspected for a long time—Bill Pike you are without a doubt— crazy. Don’t move, let me call Henrico County Mental Health for you.
Next consideration, how can I overcome my fear?
I mean after all this is God. Knowing myself, I could ask the wrong question, and poof I could be like Uzzah in the Bible here one minute gone the next. Plus, I know my track record in criticizing God isn’t good. I would imagine those heavenly data collectors have a pretty thick file on me already.
Good points, but I must go. It is an opportunity. I don’t want to regret not showing up.
On Friday morning, with a legal pad and a couple of sharpened DIXON Ticonderoga #2 pencils. I left the house and drove to my destination.
My brain is swirling. I park in front of the Pace Center. I’m five minutes early. No one is standing at the corner of Franklin and Pine in a uniform.
Then, there is a light tap on my window. Now, I’m spooked. I turn and there is a guy who looks just like Clarence, the angel, from the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.
I open the door. He speaks, “Bill, good to see you. Thanks for driving in this morning.”
He continues, “ A couple of quick reminders for you, leave your cell phone and your camera in the car. Your legal pad and pencils are fine.”
I open the top to the middle console and drop my cell phone and camera in and close the lid.
By now, I’m out of the car. I attempt to ask my first question.
“Excuse me sir, but you look like Clarence from the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, any chance that’s who you are?”
“Mr. Pike, we are on a very tight schedule today, no chit chat,” the Clarence look alike responded.
He continued, “ Now walk to the alley behind the Pace Center. You will see a trash truck. Get in on the passenger’s side, and wait there. Go ahead, get moving, God will see you now.”
I quickly walk, make the left turn into the alley, the truck is sitting there, I get in as instructed.
No one is in the driver’s seat, I glance down at my legal pad for a second. I heard no door open, and then I look back to my left, and a driver is in the seat.
“Good morning, Mr. Pike, as my assistant, Clarence told you, I’m on a tight schedule. I’m doing a series of interviews today. Please ask your questions as I drive this route,” the driver states.
The driver puts the truck in gear and I ask my first question.
Over the last several years, there has been speculation that you are dead. Any truth to those rumors?
The driver slams on breaks, I figure I’m about to be ejected, but then I see a pedestrian in the blinding sunlight who somehow didn’t see this massive truck.
“Oh, that rumor has been around for years. I like Mark Twain’s quote—“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” No, I’m not dead, in fact I’m busier than ever.”
Word on the street is that you and your staff have been enrolled in anger management classes. Seems that was caused by how we are handling ourselves down here on earth. Are you and your staff enrolled in classes like this?
“Well, we do have our moments where we become quite exasperated with some of the decision making on earth,” God answered.
God continued, “In those moments of exasperation, we regroup, rethink, dig deeply into our heart personality data, and look for innovations that might have an impact, but we are not enrolled in any anger management classes.”
A young pastor in Tennessee, Jacob Armstrong, asks this question to his congregation: “What is breaking God’s heart?”
So tell me, God, anything out there in your daily encounters that is breaking your heart?
“First, for the record, my heart is in good shape. Plus, as you might guess, there is quite a team of heart specialists available to me if I need one in heaven. But, in all honesty, my heart worries a lot about the under current of tension in the world. That tension is dangerous. It moves us away from loving and caring for each other. Plus, the tension serves to divide us. We need to fix this. Living like this isn’t healthy,” God stated without any hesitation.
I’m assuming that you know church attendance in America is in decline. Do you have any insights as to why church attendance is in a downward spiral?
God was quiet for a few seconds, and then he responded, “You know I’m not a person who likes to hurt people with criticism, but I think churches have been too resistant to change. Church leadership has been overly reliant on what has worked in the past. Relying on your past without any new innovations is a formula for disaster.”
So tell me God, do you have a sense of humor? Do you and your staff enjoy a good laugh?
“Ha, finally a good question from you,” God stated.
“Yes, I have a sense of humor, and my staff and I have some good chuckles everyday. Last year during Lent, we laughed at you. We laughed so hard that we were in tears as we watched you trying to find your special hole marker to slide the cross into on your church’s front lawn. We could clearly see from our perch up in heaven the zinc covered handle. But, you kept walking all around it. We actually cheered when you finally found it.”
God informed me, “Mr. Pike, your time is almost up. I’m going to circle back into that alley behind the Pace Center. You have time for one more question.”
“Well, how about this, God, why don’t you ask me a question,” I made my request without any trembling at all.
God quickly responded, “Ok, I will. Did you recently attend an Elton John concert in Raleigh, North Carolina?”
I answered, “Yes, I did.”
God asked, “Did you learn anything during the performance about Mr. John?”
“Yes, I did learn something. Mr. John told the audience that in the early 1990s he realized that his life was spinning out of control. Because of health challenges and issues with alcohol Mr. John found some courage, and said these three words: “I need help.”
The truck was back in the alley, and positioned in front of a dumpster.
God looked over at me and said, “I need help too.”
I asked, “ How can I help?”
God replied, “It is pretty simple, let people see me through your work and action.”
For a split second, I looked away from him.
Then, I turned to give him my answer, and the driver’s seat was empty.