“It would be pointless!” Paul felt as if he’d finally gained the advantage in a conversation with Nobody.
“Unless the point is to teach that even the most righteous will suffer.” Nobody spoke as if the answer had just occurred to him. “What if the point of Job isn’t so much why, people suffer, but that people will suffer? Then the story of Job teaches us how one can suffer righteously. It shows us God is in control, even when we think he’s not watching.”
“But he let him suffer just to prove a point!” Paul wasn’t letting that perspective go.
“When did he promise no one would suffer?” Nobody asked.
“So he just lets people suffer?” Paul asked back.
“Suffering is a result of sin,” Nobody said. “Man chose to rebel, that’s what sin is. Man chose to pursue what he wants rather than obey God. The natural consequences of that choice are death and suffering. From that point of view, suffering is a result of sin, which was brought on by Adam’s disobedience. Then we see in Job that no one is promised of life without pain, but we also see that even our suffering is accounted for in a broader plan.”
Nobody leaned forward. “People suffer, and it’s always tragic, but there’s always a reason. We may not know it. That reason may even be, ‘It’s just something that has to happen.’ But our suffering shapes us. I’m here because my suffering shaped me, and it’s prepared me to help you.”
“You’re helping me because … because you suffered …” Paul couldn’t say the words.
“I suffered like you suffered,” Nobody said. “I was beaten. I’m not happy about the pain I endured, but I’m happy I found purpose through that pain, and I’m very happy that I can help you because I understand what you’ve been through. So sometimes, people suffer to help ease the suffering of others.”
Paul considered what he was hearing. “But there are others. You said you only visit me.”
“Honestly,” Nobody shrugged. “I can’t help everyone. But if I help you, you’ll be able to help someone. Then, they’ll be able to help others. I had to start somewhere, so I started at the best place I could.”
“What made me the best place to start?” Paul asked.
Nobody’s mask shifted position, making it obvious that he had smiled. “That is the secret you’ll have to uncover on your own, and you will. For now though, we have to talk about relationships.”
“Why? What does that have to do with suffering or my life?” Paul asked.
“If you never let anyone in, you’ll never find those who can help you in your time of need.” Nobody leaned back on the couch. “Also, if you only try to hold on to the people you’ve chosen, you’ll become even more possessive of them, and you’ll resent them for having others in their lives.”
Paul groaned and rolled his head back. “You’re talking about Bill!”
“Whose name you can’t speak without making it sound like a curse,” Nobody said.
“You traveled through space to sit on a couch and tell me to be nice to a guy who’s just trying to hook up with my mom?” Paul asked.
“He’s not trying to take her from you,” Nobody said, “and if you give him a chance, you’ll see he’s actually trying to become a part of your life.”
“I don’t want him in my life!” Paul said.
Nobody sat there as still as a statue as Paul thought about the conversation.
“My mom can date him if she wants!” Paul wasn’t sure why he felt the need to defend her relationship, but there it was.
Nobody just kept starting at him.
“I won’t get … I’ll get over it if she wants to spend more time with …. ” He couldn’t speak the lie.
“If you don’t give him a chance, you’re putting your mom in this position where she has to choose,” Nobody finally said.
“She should choose me,” Paul said.
“That may be the first truly selfish thing I’ve ever heard you say,” Nobody said.
Paul leapt up from the recliner. “It’s not selfish to think a mother should prioritize her kids!”
“Are the words “prioritize” and “serve” synonyms?” Nobody asked.
“Your mom works to provide for you,” Nobody said, holding up fingers as he counted off each point. “She spends time with you both to help you as well as she can with school and to just spend time with you having fun. She’s there when you need her, so I’d say she’s prioritized you perfectly well. Does prioritizing you mean she can never date or have a relationship apart from you?”
Paul slumped back down in his chair, mumbling. “You always make me feel like a jerk.”
… to be continued …