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.


Mylestones said...

I couldn't help but jump in. Heather, don't know if you've read The Shack yet, but your post echoed several thoughts within the book. (I"m reading it now--it is SO pertinent to the discussion here. It's as powerful as CS Lewis' Problem of Pain, but a lot easier to read/digest.)

Anyway, the topic of evil/pain and how a good God allows so much of it... I've wrestled with it more than any other issue as it pertains to my faith. A few months ago, I had a breakthrough in how I thought about it, and I wrote this post:

And now that I'm reading The Shack, it's added some dimension to that breakthrough--really helping me see some areas where I've had an inaccurate view of God. And I find myself with increased longing for the other world (and perfect relationship) I was created for, instead of clutching so tightly to the fallen world I'm in....

Anonymous said...

Lately, I've been feeling as if there's no end to the misery and sadness. I feel like 1 in 5 blogs at least, has been touched in some way by heartache. And that's just in the bloggy world. Outside of it, there's pain all around as well, even within my own family. If it weren't for my faith, I don't know how I would survive all that I've had to survive and that's not the half of what other people have had to go through.


BoufMom9 said...

This was such a fantastic post. WOW! Thank you so much for sharing what is in your heart and hopefully clarifying for those something in their hearts as well.


Motherboard said...

This was just beautiful! Thank you.

I think sometimes, God allows "the bad" to happen to see how we will respond. Its that whole Shadrach Meshack and Abendego from the Bible... The But if not... Will you remain faithful when the miracle doesn't happen? (they say in the scripture that they know God can deliver them, but if not, they will still remain faithful)

I know that God can cure my child... but if not. I know that God can stop the pain... but if not. I know that God can heal all things... but if not.

I think that the But if not is actually the hardest part of maintaining our faith.

Another beautiful post, Heather!

MidnightCafe said...

You would have enjoyed the discussion in Bible study this last week. I'm still muddling through my thoughts from then, but all of these issues came up. I think you've hit on some very valuable truths. Thanks for posting!

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