Do You Think the Dinosaurs Went to Heaven?


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Jury

Nina grew up in the Pacific Northwest and enjoys being outdoors, watching basketball, and occasionally writing.

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Yesterday it was sixty degrees outside, so I took my bike out for the first time all winter. I biked across the river to return a pair of jeans I'd bought online the week earlier; it turns out that online shopping isn't such a great idea when you're barely above five feet and eighty-five percent of pants in the world are too long for you. Anyway, it was a nice ride, and on my way back home I stopped to pump up my tires. Well, it's snowing again today. I guess I should've expected it, this horrible phenomenon known as winter on the East Coast. But honestly, I've never really liked the cold.

***

Last week I went to church for the first time in months. It was an Episcopal church downtown and it had an organ and pews and stained-glass windows and all that neat stuff. I sat in the pew farthest from everyone else and stared blankly at my pamphlet while the churchgoers around me sang hymns I'd heard all my life. Be Thou my vision, etc., etc. I tried to wrap my mind around the words but couldn't. The preacher was a woman, which was cool. I think the sermon was about Jesus and the fishing nets. Or something like that.

***

There's this Japanese grocery store that's a thirty-minute walk from my apartment and I think it's my favorite place in the whole city. When there's only one Asian supermarket around for miles, you start to go slightly insane. My childhood greeted me from the shelves when I walked in: frozen dumplings, green tea, shrimp chips, packs of strawberry Pocky. As a kid I refused to learn Chinese even as I ached to have somewhere to belong. But now, walking through the snack aisles feels almost like coming home.

***

Truthfully, I'd rather believe in a flawed God than a perfect one.

***

While I was eating my overpriced salad, a family asked if they could sit at the same table as me because there were no other tables available. I said yes and asked them if they wanted me to move. They said no, that's okay. For some reason I felt the weird urge to apologize. But then I paused. Apologize for what? Existing? Taking up space? Feeling self-conscious, I ate quickly so they could have the rest of the table. Something I'm still learning is that my existence is nothing to apologize for.

***

Every day I wake up and go to school waiting for the punchline. Surely someone's playing a trick on me because all I remember from undergrad is a series of mental breakdowns and the abject terror of failing my classes. I don't get it. This must be some kind of practical joke. Don't get me wrong, I'm eternally grateful. But I keep waiting for someone to take it all away. Job, is that you?

***

The first time I went surfing, I spent most of it getting pushed around while the ocean just laughed at me. I clung to my surfboard for dear life, wondering if I should just give up. I thought about telling my instructor to leave me there to drown. The next day, I woke up early to meditate on the empty beach. I stood on a shore at the edge of the world, before the Pacific Ocean in its entirety. Buried my feet in the sand and watched the tide wash away my footprints until there was nothing left of me on this island. I remember it clearly even now: each wave erasing all traces of the past, creating a blank slate for new stories to be told. The way time heals, erases, fills in the cracks. The immediacy of this present moment leaving no room for things like memories. And I thought, damn. The universe is so big.

***

I probably put too much detergent in my laundry but at least my clothes smell nice.

***

If God is good then why does evil exist? If God gave us free will then why did he punish us for its consequences? If God loves us then why did he put the fruit there in the first place? If God is good then why is death literally woven into our DNA? If we're always going to be sinners then why do we even try anymore? If eternity is real then why do we have to live in this world? If the church is the body of Christ then why is it so broken?

***

I bought a used PS4 for 200 bucks from a guy across the river. As I was biking back home I was briefly overwhelmed by the beauty of the world. It almost brought me to tears. All of it—the beautiful, the broken—hit me like a truck going one hundred miles per hour. 1 John says not to love the world. But how can we live in the world without loving it? I keep thinking of that one Chesterton quote. Can we hate the world enough to change it, and love it enough to think it worth changing?

***

Hey God, are you listening?

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