Let’s face it, we all negotiate with God. When we’re stricken with an illness, or have a child in jeopardy, or find ourselves in the trenches—where, as we’re told, there are no atheists—we strike some bargain with God. Get me out of this mess, Lord, and I’ll...(fill in the blank).
Usually our promise is negative: we assure God we’ll no longer commit a certain transgression. But sometimes the bargaining chip is something positive: for example, we’ll promise to say the rosary every day. Recently, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted a professional football player who said, “I made a pact with God. I’ll sign every autograph. Just let me make this team.” And if he doesn’t make the team? Maybe the player didn’t put enough on the table. Signing autographs sounds pretty light to me.
In any case, God seldom participates in our bargaining; and regardless of the situation’s outcome, we seldom keep our end of the bargain. I’m not exempt from this kind of quid-pro-quo bartering, but then, I’ve got an ace in the hole. I’m moving toward the exit sign—a movement well described in the novels of Philip Roth, John Updike, and Richard Ford. Last December, I turned seventy-one, and I’m quickly gaining downhill momentum.
So I’m bargaining with God for an extension. It’s been a long time since I stepped to the bargaining table—more than forty years, when, before my last child...