I was sitting on the deck in a chaise longue. God was floating on his back in the pool.
I pointed to the night sky, a white disk of moon rising magisterially into an infinity of black. "Nice work," I said. God didn't answer.
"And hey, thanks for the weather today," I said, "75 degrees, low humidity, a nice breeze. Well done." Still no answer. He gets in these quiet moods sometimes.
"Now I know how Mother Teresa felt," I groused, laughing to show him I was just kidding. Might as well have been laughing at the moon.
I picked up the copy of Time magazine from where it had fallen during my nap, held it up so he could see her portrait on the cover. "You should read this," I said. "It's fascinating."
The article was about a new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, based on 66 years of her correspondence. The letters reveal a startling fact: For the last 50 years of her life, this iconic, holy woman felt spiritually abandoned, cut off from God. She felt no Presence. She felt alone.
"The silence and emptiness is so great," she wrote in 1979, "that I look and do not see ... listen and do not hear."
"I am told God loves me," she wrote in an undated letter, "and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul."
"You know," I said, "you could have given her a sign. Would that have killed you?"
"Answer me when I'm talking to you!" I was mortified to hear myself yelling at him, but I couldn't make myself stop. "Do you have any idea how much easier you make it for atheists when you act like this? It makes their argument so much simpler. If a woman who had given her very life over to this 'God' couldn't get a word out of him for years, isn't the logical conclusion that he does not exist? Is that really what you want people to think?"
God drifted in the pool, silent.
"Is this a faith thing?" I asked. "Is that it? Even though she had doubt, she continued to minister to people in one of the poorest places on Earth. Is that your point? Have faith?"
The sound of a breeze playing among the trees drew me around sharply. "Was that you?" I said.
Silence. I said, "You know you're making me crazy here, right? I feel like the conflicted priest from that TV show, Nothing Sacred. There was this one episode where he gave a homily and asked, 'Which man is crazy, the one who hears thunder and thinks it's the voice of God, or the one who hears the voice of God and thinks it's only thunder?'"
I sighed my frustration. For a moment, the only sound was the water lapping in the pool. Then I said softly, "You know, sometimes I think atheists have a point. When you see nothing, when you feel nothing, isn't it logical to conclude it's because there is nothing?" I couldn't bear to look at him as I said this.
"I think the only reason I don't go with them," I whispered, "is because of all those other times when you do see ... something. When you feel connected to something so vast, it defies comprehension. It fills you. It settles you. It gives you peace. And you say to yourself, 'Lord, where did that come from? It couldn't be my imagination, because I couldn't imagine anything so ... perfect.'"
Still he was silent. I looked up.
"You know, this mysterious ways thing gets a little ..."
I froze. God wasn't there. God was gone. Sitting alone under the blind white cataract of the moon, I shivered. Then I saw him. He had climbed out of the pool and was drying himself with a towel. He had been there all along. "Thank God," I breathed.
"I used to like that show," he said thoughtfully.
"Huh? What show?"
"That Nothing Sacred. That was a good show. I hated when they canceled it."
God finished drying himself and went into the house. It started to rain.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His column appears in The Sun on Sundays. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.