It’s a Saturday night, and I have nothing to do, so I call everyone I know - my girlfriend, my roommates, my parents, my brother, a friend that I have not spoken with in two years, this person who’s name is in my phone but I cannot remember who he is - and no one answers the phone. Gradually, after the ringing and the waiting, my boredom becomes consternation, which quickly transmogrifies into a horrible combination of worry, self-pity, and irrational fear. Two possibilities loom in my head: 1) everyone in the world hates me and they are all screening their calls and 2) the rapture has occurred. I choose to dwell on the latter possibility since it seems less likely. I have been left behind. It’s a freaky feeling in a time when, between cell phones and the Internet, TV and the radio, you are the only human being in a suddenly very empty world. Even if you, like me, don’t believe there is or will ever be such a thing as “the rapture.” In the back of my head I’m wondering if maybe everyone is gone, sucked up into heaven by the gigantic heavenly vacuum cleaner. A kind of holy dirt devil in the sky, leaving only their tennis shoes and t-shirts and their cars careening off the sides of the highway, and me, a confused and struggling Christian.
It’s times like these that I turn on the TV. My friends are on TV. Friends is on TV. Or Law and Order. If one of those is not showing somewhere, then it probably is the end of the world. Watching people on TV reassures me that there are other people in the world, and it’s comforting in that way. And, honestly, distracting. Between the shallow self-centered banter of the Friends and the ads for face wash and pickup trucks, there isn’t much time to think about things that really matter. So I watch TV, or I pray and think. Until recently it’s been more TV than praying. But in the last few months I’ve begun to pray again. It gives me peace, and makes me feel as though I am not alone when all my stupid friends are too busy to answer my phone calls. So, I guess, praying is like TV. Only TV doesn’t give me peace. It just makes me feel lazy. They are both addictive, though. The more I pray, the more I want to pray. The more I watch TV, the more I want to watch TV. And buy that new face wash from that commercial with Scarlet Johansen.
I don’t quite understand any of this: my irrational fear of the rapture, my sudden urge to buy a truck after the 10th Dodge Ram commercial in a row, praying. There are reasons behind these things, I know. I’m sure there are social and psychological mechanisms at work, causes that can be traced back to my childhood, my neuropsychological makeup, and God Himself, but most of the time I don’t see them. I don’t know why I’m afraid of being left alone, or exactly how praying works, or why on earth I would need a truck with a Hemi. (I don’t know what a Hemi is, for crying out loud.) Someday these mysteries might be clear to me, but for now I just trust. Trust that I will make the right decision and remain one of the ten Texans who does not own a truck, trust that my friends will be there next time I call, and trust that God will answer my prayers.