Sunday, March 29, 2009

In which I attempt to answer two different questions at once

If you're new here, we've been carrying on a conversation in which my friend Jess asks questions about our beliefs and we make attempts at answering.
If you would like to start at the beginning of this faith conversation, please click here.

Also, please keep in mind that I don't claim to be right (correct). I don't think anyone can claim that when discussing all aspects of theology. That's why we argue so much, all those different interpretations of things and such. This is just me, sharing my personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs based on my own experiences, and what bubbles around in my mind and heart.


"The groaning of creation is not a pretty sound."-

When I was a little girl my parents, my sister, and I would take camping trips Up North with friends and family. I don't remember much about these yearly adventures, it's been a really long time. But I do remember a big, black, scary dog that wandered into our camping space and sat at our fire like a mascot, and a horse on a country road that trampled a car.

They say the things that bring out the most emotion are the things you always remember.

I'm guessing at some time those memories will continue to fade, but there's one thing I'll never forget. And that's the day a little girl with blond hair was pulled from the lake to the shore, lifeless. She was gone. Her parents were left without her. What was left was a heaviness that hovered around that wide open space, the murmurs of grown-up speak, and my own confusion.

I didn't look to God, asking those difficult questions that I ask now. I simply wanted to know what her parents were supposed to do without her? Even at a young age I understood that parents need their children to be who they are, who they became when that new little person joined their family.

But it didn't surprise me that such a thing could happen. As a young girl, I think I more easily accepted that life holds both beauty and ugliness, disease and health, danger and safety, good and evil.

I was emotionally affected, but not doubting the goodness of God. I readily accepted that God is the beauty, the health, the safety and the good. I understood more easily that He was a shelter from this life, a loving Father who was very sad when something went terribly wrong.


Is it that I'm just more aware as I grow older? Is it the fact that I'm a part of the internet now, seeing so many sad stories, or is it really getting worse?

I guess it doesn't really matter. What matters is what we make of it. How do we go about loving each other? We have to, it's all that we can do.

There are times when I want to hide. I want to find a place in my own comfort zone and just ignore the groans. And then there are times when I just want to take it all in and see what I can do about it.

No matter what time it is, I want the groaning, the pain and sickness and dying to stop.

I can try to wax theological all I want, but I doubt that even twenty years in seminary would give me all the answers. I could approach it all psychologically, I'm good at that, I have a degree there. But no amount of therapy or understanding of the human brain could take away the pain. All I can do is pray, and even then I will not have all the answers in this life. There are some things that our mere human minds can't possibly ever know.

So many people ask me how I have any faith at all. What does it all mean? Why doesn't God stop this roller coaster ride and let us all off?

Do you want to know the truth?

I don't know.

I can only go so far with my answers before I hit a dead end. That end is usually at the question "Well sure, God works things together for good, He comforts, He loves, He cries...but if He's an all-powerful God why did He let us go our own way in this fallen place in the first place? Why doesn't He just make it all stop?"

I love the line from a Chris Rice song that responds to those questions with, "Maybe it's because He loves us that He's giving us more time here."

No, it's not always a fun place to be, but perhaps He's not snatching us out of it because there are so many that have chosen not to believe Him. He wants to give us all a chance to experience the joy and peace that comes with throwing caution to the wind and getting to know Him. He wants us to know Him, to realize He's more than worth knowing, so that when He takes us home to a perfect place we'll know Who it is we'll be joining.

Maybe we groan because there is something at the core of each one of us that just wants to go home.

I believe that we humans made a choice to separate ourselves from God, making our own road back to Him quite long. The result of our turning from Him in our free will is that He has to respect that. He has to let us go. Why would He want a forced love? So we go. Just as if our kids turned to us and said, "I don't want to follow your rules, you're not the boss of me, I'm leaving."

Oh how we would want them home. But we'd have to let them decide to get to know how much we truly love them, to trust us, and to return.

I think that the fact that there is so much good and beauty in the middle of all of this is the proof of the God we're looking for. I can't believe that He continues to lavish such gifts on us despite our propensity to rebel, to control, to fix things for ourselves. Despite our pride.

I'm humbled by that.

Jess, you asked me once how I can believe in God's plan when it includes children living in pain. "Why did Asher have to hurt for that greater good to be accomplished?" (and I paraphrase.) I've thought more about that recently...

I don't think God planned for Asher to be hurt, to have a brain surgery at age one. I don't think He likes it one bit. BUT, our life story here at the EO household is still in His hands, in His will. As we "free will" our way through and come up against the groans of humanity, He is turning all of it to good, somewhere, somehow, molding it to his will (if you will :).

I don't believe He strikes us down randomly. I think disease is a result of a fallen world, not something God plans. In short (ha!) He takes all the bad, that of our own doing and what's simply happening because this place is a mess, and he brings it back to good. Sometimes not in the timely way we expect, but in a perfect way that we would accept if only we were able to see the very biggest picture. The very end. The grand dream come true. Eternity. Infinity. Whoa.

The messes and the pain are something He redeems. He uses it all to bring beauty, grace, wisdom, and perspective. In our trials we learn what love really means, it grows deeper in us and then it's shared. So many times we're not even aware of what an impact our trials have on us and those who are changed in a positive way like a ripple effect.

He doesn't have to do that. But He does. He could say, "Well, most of you want nothing to do with me so good luck...see ya...I'm turning my face from you." But He doesn't.

And I'm humbled.

In the days I feared for Asher He drew me closer to Him because I so fully knew He was there...It's when your hurting, terrified and desparate that you start to see Him sometimes. I don't think He's playing games though. He's not making us hurt so we'll notice Him. I think it's that our pride finally is set aside in those moments and we can finally see Him.

He was there when the IV went in so easily for Asher's surgery. The nurses were stumped, shocked, and so happy. Not a peep out of the little Ash Man. Miraculous.

He was there when an unbelievable peace washed over me as I watched the clock and waited for the neurosurgeon to come and tell us Asher was OK.

He was there when Asher drifted off to sleep in his hospital bed despite hours of agitation, crying and pain. A peaceful sleep through the night. A miracle, in his condition.

And that's humbling. Because I ignore Him so much of the time. I don't believe He's going to carry me through sometimes. I even doubt His existence, and especially His never-ending grace, and yet He never fails to fit himself into the corners of my humanity...healing, loving, comforting, holding...Doing the very things He would do if we had lost Asher. I'm pretty sure I would have lost my mind if that were the outcome, but I would have somehow survived it.

And that too would be a miracle.

Healing that kind of pain? Miraculous. Humbling. I know for certain that is not something I could do on my own. Sometimes he heals the pain in the child, and when He cannot because of a much bigger picture than we can see, He's healing the parents through a million small miracles that all add up to love.
OK, I'm done.


In every explanation or attempt at understanding exactly how God works there are gaps. Things that we just don't like. We all want so badly to escape the horrors of this life. We want it all to make perfect sense. We want perfect answers that take away the pain. But we just don't. That's where the trust comes in. To come to a place of knowing that God really is good. All the time. And then believing that even in death, there is that biggest picture happy ending.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To know God and to be Humble

Dear Jess,

You obviously ask some really great questions because it requires some serious thinking to get back to you!

I think you hit on the answer to your own question when you said that God's existence is questionable and intangible to you. Of course you cannot feel humble toward something you're not even sure exists. And you cannot have that fall-on-your-knees, totally awed type of response when you haven't experienced God for yourself. How could you? It wouldn't make sense.

On the other hand, you stand in awe of nature, of birth, of the cycle of seasons. And those things wouldn't be here without God. I don't think there's anything that we know as humans that is more amazing than nature - waterfalls and oceans, mountains, and canyons. Yet, I believe that God created those things. What a fantastic imagination God must have, what a deep and complex mind, what amazing power to spin all those things into existence! If I am amazed by nature, I must, in turn, be amazed by the God who created it all. ...if that's what I believe - that God created it all.

And the place where I stand truly in awe and humbled by God, is in that the God who made this whole big earth *knows* me, hears me, sees me, LOVES me. God is everywhere, continually creating and calling all of us into existence, holding this whole apparatus together...and, yet, God also has concern for me as an, so small in comparison to the rest of the world, yet I am held close to God's heart. What an enormous know and love each of us that way.

In some way I believe your husband is right, it doesn't make sense to *try* to feel a certain way. I believe you when you say that you're already living a humble life, a life of goodness and compassion. And, certainly, these are qualities that are pleasing to God. You know why? Because you were created in the likeness of God, in God's image. These are the qualities of God in you. But I don't think this means you can stop seeking. You obviously have a drive to know the truth, to meet the truth, to encounter this God we're all talking about. The Bible tells us that those who seek will find. I can't tell you what that will look like for you because I think God has a knack for meeting us where we're at, in ways that make sense to us as individuals. That makes it different for everybody.

I guess I don't see your feelings of humility , or lack of those feelings, as the real issue. If you know God, humility will follow.

I'm curious about your response to this and where you want to go from here. You may be interested in something called Apologetics if you're truly interested in exploring the existence of God. Apologetics is the part of theology that addresses the existence of God and the historical Jesus. For me, Apologetics is fascinating and an encouragement to my faith, but I don't know if it would have fed my hunger to really know who God is or not. It's a very academic approach to God, providing proofs for the existence of God. If you're a reasoning/rational explanation kind of person, Apologetics may be for you. If you're more about feelings and emotions, maybe not. I know I need both.

I am inspired by your persistence!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


If you haven't been following along, our conversation with Jess begins here.

Below is my latest email from Jessica. Her thoughts have taken a turn from the topic of our last few posts, which is just fine. We're on to humility now. Does she know how to ask good questions, or what? I'll put my own thoughts into post form soon. For now, here's Jess:

I wanted to kind of go in a different direction. I finally had a sort of epiphany about HOW to ask what I was thinking about. It's been stewing for a long while, and it started from somewhere away from blogland but was reinforced when you pointed me to the conversion blog. It's about the term HUMBLE or having humility, and all its implicated meanings.

I feel that I am humble (or at least trying to be each day) in my everyday existence. I am constantly reinforced to NOT judge when I hear others dishing out how they think person X should have handled a situation or how person Y should have responded to another situation. I feel that I can never sit and tell another how they should behave because I am not them, I have not lived their life, and what they want for themselves may not be what I think they need. I try and remind myself of these things so that I will not judge and can be humbled by the fact that many people find the "RIGHT" ways for themselves, find better solutions, greater paths, and endure more than I could imagine. I am constantly reminded that I have not experienced nearly an IOTA of what others have, and this alone humbles my existence in my eyes.

What I cannot seem to FEEL is the concept of being humble towards God. That's not to say I feel braggerdly or greater than God, just that I can't seem to get to the "fall to my knees at the mere thought of you" humility. I think because the very existence is questionable for me, intangible, and therefore difficult to feel "small" in comparison. I am certainly amazed and in awe of things around me that live and thrive since the beginning of time. I am amazed that we can grow full human beings in our bellies, I am amazed that trees live and die and live and die in cycles, and keep coming back to green up our lives. I am amazed that people have been able to make amazing creations with things found on Earth. I just don't know how to get to HUMBLE with respect to God and religion. I am still so in the "moment" of being here on Earth that I cannot feel "at his mercy" or "weak with sin" as a humble human.

Does any of this make sense? When I asked my husband about this concept, he talked a LOT but then finished with how I need to stop looking to others to "get" God and religion, and stop looking to others to figure out how to live the life I obviously am seeking but already living. He said all I have to do is look in the mirror to find a humble human living like God would want. He said the fact that I come home a day after he and I have had an argument and continue going on about the night, keeping peace in the home, feeding him with the children, etc. shows acts of being humble and doing what is right versus what I might FEEL like doing. Do you think?

Thanks for being patient with me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Infinite Love

This is a cross-post from The Midnight Cafe. Thanks, Heather, for asking me to post it here.


I found a passage from Mister God, This is Anna that was so profound and so full of sense that I posted it in my sidebar, and I'm posting it again here.

"Mister God is different from us because He can finish things, and we can't. I can't finish loving you because I shall be dead millions of years before I can finish, but Mister God can finish loving you, and so it's not the same kind of love, is it?"

Sometimes I sit and listen to the sounds of my house, I look around at the beautiful faces that surround me, rest my head on Mango's shoulder, close my eyes, breathe the familiar smells of home, and I know I can never, ever finish loving these people. Nothing I can say or do or even think or write is enough. Not even music and pictures can say what I cannot say. Long hours of late night conversation, fresh enchiladas, head massages, notes hiding in Mango's suitcase, Valentine balloons...none of them will ever tell the whole love story.

But God. God can love us all the way, completely, fully and to the end. God is infinite while we are only finite. Human. Small. Fragile. Incomplete.

I have a thought, though. A very small thought because I'm finite.

Maybe, God's love is different because it's infinite, and if we abide in God, God will draw us into infinity, too. And, in that infinitely, we will be whole, strong, complete, and able to finish love God fully, to love each other fully. We will be there in the middle of God, engulfed by the God who is love. And then we can know what love is.
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