The man was nervous. He'd been through many interviews in his life, but this one made him uncomfortable. First of all, he was unaccustomed to waiting for the interviewer. Rather than be met, he'd been shown instead into a stark white room with two well-worn but comfortable looking chairs. No desk. Just the chairs. He shifted in his seat as though itching for this interview to be over.
After some time, the interviewer strode into the room. He commands a presence, the man thought. I'll give him that.
The interviewer strode over to the man and shook his hand warmly, waving him back into his seat. In one hand the interviewer carried an obviously well-worn folder; probably, thought the man, all the salient facts about my life. Talking points for the interview. For some inexplicable reason, this made the man more nervous. What was in that file?
The interviewer gave the man a smile that was reminiscent of the handshake he had offered. The interviewer fixed the man with a searching gaze, making the man shift uncomfortably once again. The interviewer placed the file carefully in his lap and, without opening it, asked a simple question.
"Tell me about yourself," he began.
"Well, there's really not much to tell that you probably haven't already read," the man replied glibly, pointing to the file on the interviewer's lap. "I suspect you already know quite a lot about me."
"True enough," said the interviewer with a slight smile. "Still, I'd really like to hear you talk about yourself for a moment. If you don't mind, that is."
"Of course, of course," returned the man. "I've had this kind of interview before. Where shall I start?" he prompted.
Without even a glance down at the file on his lap, the interviewer gazed intently at the man and said, "Tell me about your family."
This caught the man off guard. "My family? Well, I love my wife, obviously. She's been a great support to me over the years. And I couldn't be more proud of my daughter. She's done well in her life. I value her love and support. Couldn't be what I am without these wonderful women in my life!"
"Yes, yes, they are wonderful," agreed the interviewer. "Very strong willed. Both very capable, as you've said before. What I should have asked was, what have you done for them?"
This interview was taking a turn the man instinctively disliked. Sitting up a little straighter - a trick he'd learned through many interviews - he returned the interviewer's gaze. "I've given them everything they've needed to become their own person. I've always supported their right to become whatever they wanted to become. To make their own decisions and not have to hide from those decisions. I've always respected their right to choose for themselves what they felt was best for them."
The man liked that answer. He'd used it before and was pleased that it came so naturally.
The interviewer nodded and smiled. "Freedom to choose. An admirable law, don't you think? And have they become everything you hoped they would?"
"I believe they have, yes," the man responded. "I'm very proud of them both."
The interviewer seemed to consider this for a moment. The man wondered why it was that the interviewer took no notes. Perhaps everything he'd just said was already in the file and the interviewer was merely confirming old material. Yes, that would be it. Nothing original here. Same old questions.
The interviewer smiled once again and continued. "You certainly have had your own ambitions in life, haven't you? Can you tell me whether you're satisfied with what you've accomplished?"
The man wondered briefly about the source of that smile, but shrugged it off and put on his sincerely modest face that had served him so well in the past. "I feel good to have served my fellow men in so many ways. I've been blessed, really, to have been given the opportunities I've had. I served my country honorably in a conflict I didn't support, then tried to make a difference by serving my state as a U. S. Senator. I believe my record speaks for itself."
Good answer, the man thought to himself. Not too pretentious, but let him know that I was worth something.
The interviewer leaned forward a little in his seat. "Oh I have no doubt you were a skilled politician," he said. "And believe me, your record speaks volumes about your service. And so, if you don't mind, I really have only one other question for you today."
The man was dumbfounded but nodded his head. Only one more question?
The interviewer leaned back in his chair, fixed the man with his piercing gaze and asked, "What did you do for me?"
Completely nonplussed, the man's jaw slackened a bit. "I'm not sure I understand the question," he muttered.
"It's quite simple, really. I placed you on earth to test you, you see. The bargain was that you would be given opportunities to help and serve your fellow man throughout your life. You would be taught eternal truths, and then be expected to live them. In return I would give you your inheritance in my Father's kingdom. So, the question then becomes, what did you do to uphold your end of the bargain?"
So that's it, thought the man. No credit given for service rendered; just accountability as to whether I played by his narrow rules.
"As a senator I always had the best interests of my constituents at heart. I must have done something right, since they saw fit to elect me time after time."
"I'm sure you did what you thought was best," rejoined the interviewer, but his face had taken on a more serious mien. "Still, you were raised with the gospel. What did you do to defend those truths?"
"I felt it best to keep my faith separate from my duty to the country," came the rote response. "I could not allow myself to violate the separation of church and state. That was my duty."
The man was visibly nervous now. This wasn't what he had expected. Then again, he never really had known what to expect in this interview, had he?
The interviewer pressed on. "You were taught everything you needed to know about the sanctity of human life, yet did nothing to preserve the lives of unborn children. Temples of the Spirit that I sent to earth to fulfill their promise. What did you do for them?"
The man sputtered, "I had no right to impose my beliefs on any other person living in my country!" he stammered. "How could I possibly have taken away the right for a woman to choose her own path in life? Or how could I have supported their continued subjugation to men? How could I tell loving partners that they could never experience the joy of marriage simply because of their orientation?"
A sad look appeared on the face of the interviewer. He placed one hand slowly on the file laying on his lap, and raised the other one in supplication to the man sitting across from him. "How? By teaching them the truth, John. By helping those women understand the eternal importance of their positions as wives and mothers. By helping those loving partners understand the true nature of man and his affections. By preaching abstinence and adoption, rather than vice and abortion."
The interviewer took the file in his hand and stood. The interview was clearly over. It had not gone at all well. Before leaving the stunned man, the interviewer turned and gave him one last look.
"I have always taught my people to love, obey and respect their Father in Heaven," he said. "I gave my life to seal that testimony. I had high hopes that you might understand that, John. I'm sorry that you didn't."
The interviewer left the room with a tear in his eye. The man sat for what seemed like an eternity, stunned and disbelieving. Then, after he had pondered everything he had heard in his interview, and everything he had ever learned about the man who had just interviewed him, he bowed his head and uttered one simple word.
© 2004, Gregory S. Wood