reading time

this is a test

by | Jun 23, 2022 | Opinion


Sometimes, I wonder what my life would have looked like if I had stayed in Idaho after I finished my undergrad. I imagine that I would have eventually found a mormon man who was willing to overlook my general lack of faith and obsession with rules. I might have even found a mormon man that was nice enough that I’d have been willing to tolerate lurking patriarchy for him. In this scenario, I would have four kids, a too-small house, too much laundry, and a great deal of frustration. High-demand religions don’t tolerate a lack of faith well.

Instead, I’m sitting in NYC now while my wife naps in the other room. I’m waiting to hear back from auditions I’ve taken, the world is collapsing around me, and I’ve taken to playing programming games on my phone to distract myself from the looming specter of an eternally dying arts industry, a terrifying Supreme Court, chronic illness, burnout, disability and the effects of COVID19.

Stargon, Bard College. Photo by Elizabeth van Os

1999 (or so)

Everyone but my dad is sitting in the living room of our rural farm paradise, and everything is just a little too cluttered, but I’m not quite old enough to really care. We’re finishing up with “opening exercises,” which is homeschooler-speak for the religious service we start our day with. My younger brother grabs a ratty american flag from the corner by the piano, and we recite the pledge of allegiance. I’m grumbling my way through it, and one of my sisters is literally half-asleep, but everyone’s got one hand on their heart because we don’t want to hear the patriotism lecture one more time.

I don’t know it, but the F, C, A that I plunk out on our battered Yamaha is going to sear it’s first inversion self into the deepest part of my brain, and it’s going to absolutely save my life when I first learn harmonic dictation in college. Later, I won’t know whether I have perfect pitch, or if I just remember this specific sound too well.

We’ve been reading the Book of Mormon out loud, each person taking a few verses at a time. Babies who can’t talk repeat after a reader, line by line, and when my brother runs into the indecipherable Mahonri Moriancumer, my mom coaches him through it, syllable by painful syllable.

And now as I said concerning faith — faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

Alma 32:21

My mom starts to cry, and I’m not sure if it’s because of what we are reading. It could also be that she had a baby recently (hormones), or maybe she just got pregnant again (hormones), or maybe it’s just the scriptures or maybe she talked to my aunt or her mom, or maybe it’s just a Tuesday. She cries a lot.

We ask, because what else do you do when your mom is sobbing at 11am, and she says a lot of things that we try to make sense of.

  1. This is a test
  2. Life is a test
  3. God does this on purpose
  4. Faith
  5. The entire story of Job
job print on book
Photo by Pixabay on

I try to assign myself some math. We got a new second-hand textbook, and I figure I should probably learn something today. I don’t really understand what I decided to work on, so I struggle through five problems and take myself to the piano and sight-read until my eyes glaze over.


I haven’t really talked to my mom in years and I wonder if she thinks that that’s a test too. Job taught me that dead children can be replaced, so I imagine that God will replace a wayward child too, if she can just pass the test.

“And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning and he had 14,000 sheep, and 6,000 camels, and 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. And he had seven sons and three daughters … And after this Job lived 140 years, and he saw his sons, and his grandsons, four generations”

Job 42:12-13, 16

I sit at my computer and watch cancellation after cancellation hit my inbox and I wonder if this is what happens when you fail the tests that god gives you.

“Be ye therefore perfect,” my mom says in my mind, and I click on a video of lounge-wear clad celebrities singing Imagine in their beautifully manicured houses. This reminds me that I need to make a video for the only job I have left, and I set up my backdrop and my softbox, and turn my camera horizontally, and test my click track, and do fifteen takes of God So Loved The World.

It’s 11am on a Tuesday and I start to cry, and my soon-to-be wife asks me why and I can’t figure out how to tell her what’s wrong.

  1. This isn’t a test.
  2. I failed the test
  3. God pisses me off
  4. Is this a test?
  5. The entire story of Job


I’ve been fantasizing about rest lately. My mom sent me an email, but I didn’t respond to it, and last night I cleaned the kitchen at 4am because the thought of sleep was so terrifying that I would do anything to avoid it.

This is a test. But I’m not sure if I failed my test, or if I’m collateral damage in someone else’s test.

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