The following is an excerpt from The Girl Who Played Chess With An Angel
God’s like an itch that won’t go away unless you confront it, scratch it really hard, or numb it with an ice cube. You have to do something, and that’s where I find myself. It’s mostly Max’s fault.
I have to know. Does god have a capital? Did he send the Angel? Why does my mother hate him so much? Because where there is hate, there is always a story, even if it makes no sense.
I have lots of questions that need answering. The first one is about the Bible. I figure you can’t give god a capital unless you read the Bible. And I am way too intelligent to do that.
Everyone knows it’s been warped and corrupted and can’t possibly be words fallen from the open mouth of god. I tell Max as much, and then I get a lecture. The kind of lecture that is hard to interrupt.
We are sitting so close our knees are touching. The best thing about being in the kitchen is the big window. Nothing beats sitting in the sun and listening to Max. His voice is the kind that never gets boring.
He speaks with his usual pauses and speed bumps. It’s hard to interrupt someone who talks in a gentle hush, with their hand occasionally reaching out for your own. It’s hard to interrupt someone when they are your new best friend and the sound of their voice fills your heart with hope, even if you don’t like the subject. It’s also really hard to interrupt someone when they are making a strange kind of sense.
“You might be right about the Bible being warped, but nothing can ever change its essence. It doesn’t matter if names and places have changed or that impossible things happen to everyday people. The essence has stayed the same.”
Max lowers his voice and moves his head closer to mine. “The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with man. It’s our history and His story. It’s full of promise and hope, of failure and consequence. Nothing can change its essence. It’s just like money.”
Now money, I understand.
“The essence of money has never changed either. Money equals power and opportunity. Money equals security and hope. Money equals freedom. It can be used for good or bad, but its essence has never ever changed. It’s been corrupted and controlled, it’s changed lives for better and for worse. So in plenty of ways, it’s no different from the Bible.”
Max has this way of waving his hands when he speaks, moving the air in small gusts against my face. His words have a rhythm that reminds me of the Angel. I think he knows I like listening to him. I think he knows when he has me held captive with softly-spoken words and gentle puffs of hand-blown air.
“The Bible can be corrupted and controlled. It can be used for better or for worse. It can change lives, it can end lives, and it can give life. Money can be used to wage war, and so can the Bible. Money can be used to destroy or bless, and so can the Bible,” he says.
His voice drops to the kind of whisper used for secrets, and his hand covers mine. “Can you see they are the same? Can you see the essence never changes even though the intent and use does?”
I nod without meaning to, and can’t help wondering how Max knows this stuff. I never knew that money and the Bible were the same. Or considered there was an essence to both that could remain unchanged.
“We don’t reject money because it’s been used to fund wars and drug habits,” he says.
The sun has dipped now, and I am grateful for Max’s warm hand on mine. Grateful for this new friendship. Grateful that he keeps talking.
“All that matters is how you see it and how you choose to use it. If you can understand its essence, the Bible can deliver exactly what God intends it to. Regardless of man’s misuse, because that is the power of its essence.”
I am interested in the essence of things. The part that cannot change no matter how hard we might try. Or how many lies are told. To me, the essence is the truth. Because if something is impossible to change, then it must be the truth.
There aren’t too many things with unchanging essence, and if something never changes, it becomes its own kind of proof. Proof that it is true.
“We need what money provides us with, regardless of its history. We’re prepared to overlook its horror to gain its blessing. And when we approach it like that, it meets our needs,” he says.
Max likes to pause mid thought. He takes a breath and keeps searching for the right words. It makes me wonder what’s coming next.
“The Bible is no different. Except that, we can choose to ignore it. But if we do that, we miss out on the blessing and the hope and the promise. We miss out on its essence. We miss out on something we need, whether we realise it or not.”
An intelligent person can understand money and use it to make their life better. An intelligent person focuses on the truth that cannot change, and chooses to see past the mistakes of people and history and culture.
It’s enough to convince me. And if I have to read the Bible, I will. Especially if it helps to find an answer to the question that just won’t quit. Because I don’t want to miss out on anything.
Especially if it’s something I need.