"So then. Since we're on the topic. Do you think I'm going to hell?"
There. I did it. I threw it out there.
I waited. He thought.
"I don't know."
"But what do you think?"
"Well...I mean, one day I hope that you'll experience God the way that I've gotten to. And, uh... I guess I used to worry about you more, but...I guess, not so much now. Because I trust you, and I have to trust that God's got you where you're supposed to be."
"Ok, and that's fine. But still: I no longer consider myself a Christian. Say I died today. What would you assume?"
"I...I don't know. And I'm not trying to dodge the question, I swear. I just...I really don't know, I don't even know what I think about that. I mean, there's the whole debate about whether...you know...'once saved, always saved'...and...well, I guess don't really give a whole lot of thought to either heaven or hell anymore."
I took his hand and felt him relax a bit. I know this isn't any easier for him than it is for me. Perhaps easier for me, now, since I've wrestled this out for myself already. It's one of the upsides to the way I deal with things. It isn't that I don't worry about the questions, he told me once before, it's just that...I don't think I have the same drive to deal with them all right away like you do. You get new information and you can't rest until you've assimilated it all. And he's right. I get that. There are downsides to my way, certainly. Like the two solid years I spent feeling like I was losing my mind. There's something to be said for the ability to set a matter aside for a while, let the dust settle. To be able to live in peace with a bit of inconsistency. To make a few allowances for being human.
What can I say? I'm fucking stubborn. I don't know when to quit. It's my greatest strength and my fatal flaw.
"Let me rephrase, then. Would you send me to hell?"
And I didn't know if this would be crossing a line, but, well...we were already here, so I went for it:
"Does that bother you at all? To know that you're more merciful than a God of supposed infinite mercy?"
He didn't answer. I didn't force it.
"Just a thought. It was one of my crumbling points, though. That realization."
I squeezed his hand. "Look, ok? I know the theology. I know what I would have thought about someone like me, years ago. It's okay. For the record, I don't think I'm going to hell, if that helps. I'm not looking for reassurances or answers, so...no pressure. The question's sort of irrelevant, really. I lost my faith in hell a long time before I lost my faith in God."
He smiled a bit. "I know."
"I was just curious, is all."
We lay there awhile.
"Anyway, thanks," I said.
"Listening. For being someone safe. And especially for...well, for taking me at my word, instead of re-framing everything I say to fit your theology and your terms. It's more courtesy than I would have afforded someone like me, years ago."
I thought a bit; laughed.
"Funny," I said.
"It took me leaving my faith to realize you were never the asshole Christian I was."
This time he squeezed my hand. We lay there for a while. When we spoke again, it was of easier things.
1 month ago