When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” —Erma Bombek
When asked to describe what God truly is, I am often left speechless. I think it is impossible for any of us to tell another human being what God is. All we can do is guess, take a stab in the dark and come up with the best-sounding answer we can in the moment.
“God is energy, the fabric of all that is,” I remember telling someone sometime ago.
When I think about God, it’s not an intellectual experience, but one that I feel.
The other day, while watching Star Trek, I wondered what if, in some strange Twilight Zone kind of an experience, the Enterprise suddenly landed on Earth and was intent upon learning more about this phenomenon we call God? The crew would learn that some of us insist on a notion that there is only one God, while others view God as having three parts, a father, son and holy spirit. Still others believe in many deities. And what happens when they come across the sacred connection between God and Dog?
What do you get when you cross an insomniac, a dyslexic, and an agnostic? Someone who lies awake all night wondering if there really is a Dog. — Anonymous
Religion is the smile on a dog. — Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
I happened one day to come across a beautiful website [www.reata.org] that revealed an Interview with God in slideshow format. Sounding eerily like something Neale Donald Walsch would have created, he of Conversations with God fame, I contacted the woman who created the website to learn more about this interview, most notably, whether she indeed had such an interview.
It turns out that Reata Strickland, a website designer and developer at the University of Alabama and a Sunday School Teacher, did not. And neither did Neale. This mother of two and wife of a Methodist minister living in Tuscaloosa, had read the unattributed words of Interview with God [see right] back in 1999, and then one day last year she got the idea to blend the words with beautiful stock photography images using the motion technology of Shockwave on the internet.
And as they say, the rest is history.
The small server that had hosted her website was suddenly inundated with hits, more than ever anticipated. Perhaps just by word of mouth — definitely with divine guidance — people were being led by droves to Tuskaloosa’s obscure United Methodist Church website address [www.dbtech.net/umc] and the Interview with God page.
“I was going to close down the site, because financially I could not keep it online, because of the number of hits that were coming in,” Reata said. “Then I received a call from a gentleman in Texas. He told me he had seen the site and that it changed him, the words penetrated him.
“And I said, ‘Well, I’m glad you got to see it, because I had to remove it.’ He asked me why and I told him — and he said he would send me a check, and he did.
“There are amazing little stories like that. This is what has kept this site online.”
The mysterious benefactor from Texas saw the site and learned that it “takes only a few seconds to open profound wounds in people we love, and it takes many years to heal them.” He told Reata that he suddenly became aware that he had hurt his wife tremendously and that he needed to ask her forgiveness, and that their marriage was almost over. He went to his wife and apologized and things started changing in the marriage.
“Because of that, he wanted to get in touch with me,” Reata said. He singlehandedly kept the site online for several months last summer.
Reata said she and her family are almost speechless as they continue to realize the effect the website has on people. Last summer, an e-mail entitled “A Mother’s Last e-mail” was sent to her.
“A young man sent his mother an e-mail before he went on a diving trip and said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to see this!’ During the trip, the young man died in an accident. His brother sent me an e-mail, sharing what the boy had sent to his mom, and he asked if they could get a copy of the site to play at his funeral.
“Since September 11, 2001, I received e-mail from people who say, ‘I had given up hope, I have been depressed’ and one lady wrote that her husband made her sit in front of the computer and watch this, and after she did, after half a dozen times, she said, ‘My faith is returning.’
“That to me, that’s what art should do,” Reata said. “It should touch some hidden areas in us and do something that just regular words or just everyday can’t do.”
Reata said she is humbled by the whole experience.
“I realize that we can just take something small and it can have a tremendous impact if it is given with a pure heart. I didn’t do this to receive fame or recognition. I just did it because it touched me and I thought the words were powerful. I just kind of added my little touch to it, and then sent it out! As far as my faith is concerned, I see that we do not live alone in this world, and that a kind word or a kind deed can truly make a difference.”
I asked Reata that if she indeed were blessed to have an actual one-on-one interview with God, what would she ask?
“I think if I had the opportunity to talk with God or just be with Him, I think I would just sit next to him,” she said. “I think I would just be still, because whatever questions I have, and I have had many, and over time, the answers have come. Even when this website started, I would say, ‘God, what do you want me to do? How am I to do this? In time, walking it out and living day-by-day, the answers came…. This whole process has changed me a great deal. I think I have a lot more peace.
On her website, Reata notes:
“The beauty of Interview with God is the reflection of the flaws of humanity against the powerful love of God. A love that is not ignorant of our nature, but stronger than any of our weaknesses. The interview shows that God is quite aware, even if we are not, of our discontent, ignorance, failures, unforgiveness and self-doubt, and I guess just about everyone can find comfort in that.
“Recently over lunch, I was telling a friend about the whole experience, about the phone calls, and the e-mails, about the record number of visits to the website, about such a small thing becoming so big. Interview with God did not begin as my most important work. I tell her it was by no means close to the biggest project I’ve worked on. It wasn’t the most difficult or the most challenging. My friend stops me.
” ‘But it was enough.’
“And so it was. I didn’t write the words to the Interview with God. I didn’t take the photos that accompany those words in the online presentation. I just put them together and made them available for anyone who needed them, anyone who could be touched by them. I hope that you too find the everlasting peace and eternal ‘enoughness’ of our Creator.”