Invisible Friend Jesus sits next to me on my bed. He’s cleaning his toenails with a file, scraping the dirt from under them and flicking it onto my quilt. It’s gross, but part of me wants to save the dirt and put it on display in some cathedral.
“I feel like I should be cleaning your feet for you or something,” I say.
He glances up at me, smirking. “Do you want to?” He holds the file out toward me.
I lean away from it. “Not really.”
He goes back to his task, shrugging. “Cleaning other people’s feet isn’t really part of your culture. It’d be sort of awkward if you wanted to, to tell you the truth.”
“Another thing about my culture,” I say, “while we’re on the subject: cleaning your toenails on someone else’s bed: not really okay. But it’s cool, because we’re friends. The quilt washes.”
He pauses in digging out a particularly stubborn deposit in the corner of his big toe. “Sorry. I didn’t really think about it. My feet were just dirty.”
“Naw, it’s cool, it’s cool. Really.”
He hesitates a moment then, seeing I’m serious, goes back to digging.
I watch him with disgusted fascination. “I didn’t really think about Jesus’ feet getting dirty before. I thought you were perfect in every way.”
He raises an eyebrow. “The Bible talks about my dirty feet. It’s a little embarrassing, but it was necessary to the story, I think.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right.”
He wipes the file on the hem of his suit jacket and starts in on shaping His nails. “I’m a human being. The whole point of me—as a religious concept, anyway—is that I’m a human like any other, with dirty feet and everything. I’m God’s way of showing the world that it’s okay to be human.
“Dirty feet don’t make us ‘imperfect’, anyway,” he continues, “they just make us human.” He frowns in concentration, trying to shape his pinky toenail just so. “It’s the same with all the other stuff that goes along with being human. None of it is imperfection. All the trouble starts when people start blaming and judging others for what they see as their flaws. It’s what I spoke out against, because we would be a lot happier if we’d quit worrying about that stuff and just accepted ourselves and others.”
“I get you,” I say, “but that’s some complicated shit when you get into issues of people’s beliefs threatening others. I’d say that sort of behavior truly is a ‘flaw’.”
He nods. “I know what you mean. If you’d notice, the Bible talks about how I lost it on a few people for doing stupid and hateful stuff, too.”
I grin. “Yeah, I remember some of that stuff. Those are some of my favorite parts.”
“I can’t say it wasn’t satisfying.” He clips the edge off one of his nails and flicks it away; I wince as it lands on my pillow. “Living on Earth is a complicated thing,” He says. “God understands that. But God is bigger than all that, too. God wants you to forgive your enemies, even for threatening and hurting you. Notice I don’t say ‘embrace’, just ‘forgive’. And I don’t mean we should lie down and let them trample us, but we should forgive them for trying.
“This is not an easy thing to do, when you’re just trying to get by as a mortal person, and assholes keep messing with you and your family—messing with them, or worse,” He says. “God understands that it’s difficult. He knows we won’t always succeed—that we’ll flip our shit sometimes—and forgives us for it. But we’d be a lot happier if we stopped trying to get revenge. Because, in the process, sometimes we end up becoming the thing that we hate: we end up threatening and hurting other people in return. Then those people act out in self-defense and in greater hatred, and the cycle continues.”
“That’s why you forgave the people who crucified you,” I say. “As an example that it can be done by human beings, even in those circumstances.”
He nods, stretching out his legs and wiggling his toes. “Yep. That shit wasn’t easy, but I felt better after I’d done it. Better in my soul, anyway; I was in some pretty bad agony physically, to say the least. But forgiveness helps the forgiver as much as the forgiven.”
I draw my knees up to my chest and hug them. “I wish your followers would listen to you about all this stuff, because my country is really scary right now. It’s starting to look like Nazi Germany. I have a hard time turning the other cheek when people are threatening our health and lives, and when they’re supporting racism, bigotry, and the destruction of society and the environment. And most of the people doing that in the U.S. claim to be Christian.”
He gives me a long look. “Human beings have a long way to go before they find the Kingdom of God. I know it seems like this battle has already been fought, but what a lot of people don’t realize is, their lives are short and the battle is long. The fight is ongoing, and will continue until the Kingdom is achieved. All I can say is, we have made progress. And God is still with us, no matter what.”