Tuesday, January 12

Stretcher, Please

Someone recently said the following to me:
"I just wish babies would stop dying. It feels like God is playing some sort of sick joke on humanity. Why do Christians go to all the trouble to prevent abortions when God lets loved and wanted babies die every day???????????"

I wish I had a simple answer: but I don’t.

I wish I had any answer: but I don’t.

But it did get me to thinking while I lay awake in the middle of the night. Please note: these are just my musings. I am not a theologian or philosopher or anyone special. But the following thoughts ran through my head….

The first thing I thought of was a quote by Mother Teresa, which I had read on the very day the above was posed to me (and yes—I know the questions were technically rhetorical, but, as I said, they got me thinking).

Mother Teresa said the following: The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.

Deeply simply; simply deep. So, for me, I guess that answers the abortion portion. I sure never could have thought of such a great answer on my own!

Mother Teresa also said: I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. Whoa!!! Wish I could say that. However, she also went on to say that, “We are all pencils in the hand of God.” Ok—so that is what I’ll try to be here, hoping against hope that that doesn’t sound superior or as though I have the answers or that I am “channeling” God.

So, back to the “…God lets loved and wanted babies die every day???????????” part.

No easy answers there either. And no great quotes to tie it all up neatly in a pretty package. But here's my thoughts....

I have to admit to being very angry at God when my nephew first died. Furious. I wanted to simply scream and scream and scream….but mostly I just moaned, “Why, why, why?????” and “No, no, no!” I felt as though God had actually kidnapped D from us, because my inner-most belief was and is that my nephew is with the Lord—it’s just that I really wanted (and still do) him to be here with us.

But here is my issue with blaming God or with thinking He took D from us: if God “did this” to us, then where would I go for comfort??? Who would I turn to when life’s sorrows are too big for me to handle on my own? How could I put my faith and trust in a God that could be a kidnapper?

I couldn’t. And so slowly it dawned on me that it all came down to semantics (I was an English major, after all). If I believed that God took D, then He could not be the God I know to be loving and caring. However, if I believed, instead, that God received D upon his death, then His core character held true to all I’ve believed.

And so I choose to believe that God received my nephew into His kingdom with gladness—because that’s what He says he does when one of His own is received into His kingdom. However, I also know that the Holy Spirit is not called “The Comforter” just because it sounds good. He is our comforter in times of need. In fact, Jesus even says in Matthew 5 (The Sermon on the Mount): “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And so I choose to seek comfort from the Comforter because if I do not, I know I would be swallowed up by the darkness of grief and I would drown in a sea of sorrow.

(In reading the following don't make the mistake of thinking I'm over my grief or that I'm done mourning, 'cause I'm not. In fact I think I'm mourning just as much, but in a different way. And I still get angry: but the anger has shifted--it's no longer pointed at God; it's just sometimes there but with no target to throw it at. Case in point: last week when I had to go to the doctor because I was so upset that I'd had a panic attack that lasted three hours and then I lost it in the reception area and started screaming insanely. I'm really quite lucky I wasn't locked away!)

I think, that when things like a child’s death (or any horrendous, earth-shattering loss or trauma happen) that, it is normal to question God; to have our faith shaken. The thing to pray against is to not have our faith shattered or destroyed.

But how can you pray when your faith is shaken? For me, it is a fairly simple prayer (often referred to as “The Jesus Prayer”): “Oh, Jesus, please, help.” Or simply, “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus.” Or any number of variations on this simple theme!!! And then there is the prayer I’ve muttered often over the past 7 weeks: “Please don’t let me lose my faith in you…remind me of Who you really are…”

I have also been thinking that perhaps there is a problem of Gods…..No, no: I don’t mean god other than Christ Jesus. I mean there’s the God of the Bible and then there’s the God we Western Civilizations have crafted. As I came out of my anger at God for taking D, and my anger at God for not sparing D, and my anger at God for not saving D, I came to the shocking realization that our modern or Western (or however you choose to term it) civilization has taken to treating God a bit like a magical performer: we ask/demand; He must, therefore, perform. We don’t want to be accustomed to sorrow or loss, so we have crafted our God to not be the sort to allow such things to touch us. And then we are so shocked when He doesn’t perform as commanded or such horrors do touch us.

Oddly enough, in all the names God gave Himself (Counselor, Comforter, Provider, Healer, etc), not once did He call Himself “Circus Act” or “Performer.”

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized (to my limited knowledge) that not once in the Bible does God say that we wouldn’t have sorrows here on earth; that we wouldn’t know death or grief; that there wouldn’t be natural disasters nor the evilness of man against man. In fact, I’m pretty sure somewhere in there Jesus even said we would experience these things (and more).

I think this is one of the reasons we, as Christians, so look forward to getting to heaven: it means getting out of here! It means being reunited with those we love who were also lovers of Christ. But best of all it means being with Him.

In fact, John, in Revelations 21, when he is shown the kingdom of heaven says: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Italics mine)

That’s what I’m talking about!! And that is what I am looking forward to! So for now, I continue to grieve, because no amount of “revelation” removes the loss of D from me—I remain in my dingy in the ocean: but at least I’m in the dingy and haven’t been swept overboard yet. But I’m also not alone in the boat: I know my Comforter is there with me, even when I feel Him not.

I know that I am not grieving alone: Christ is grieving with me, beside me. And He is good at it: Isaiah told us that Jesus would be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. I know that holds true for today.

In fact, since I’m quoting scripture, one of my favorite verses is John 11: 35: “Jesus wept.”…and not because it is short and easy to remember but because I learned a long time ago that the word we ineptly translated as “wept” actually meant that Jesus entered into mourning and wept with his friends over the loss of their brother: he broke down and cried and got snotty-nosed with them…knowing all along that he was going to raise their brother from the dead.

(Irreverent side note: I’ve always felt sorry for poor Lazarus: he had to die twice; I bet the 2nd time he hoped and prayed to just stay in heaven & not have to come back to earth…again!)

And so I will not be embarrassed to get snotty-nosed in front of my God. And I will not expect Him to magically make everything ok. But I know that He is still a healer and a comforter and a provider and I look to Him to take care of me and my family—‘cause I know I can’t.

(Newsflash to self: I am not God and cannot right all wrongs or take care of everyone else’s pain or sorrow!)

So there you have it. My thoughts over the past few days. Perhaps they are not the most theologically sound, but they ring pretty true to me.

And for those who say Christ doesn’t exist and/or I’m just using Him as a crutch, let me correct you: I know he exists and I am using Him as a stretcher: I’m not ready for crutches yet!

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