Friday, November 12, 2010

Trying to Find My Way

Wrestling. It’s what I’ve been doing a lot of lately. I’m working hard to try and reconcile two things that don’t seem to want to be reconciled. God is love, yes. But there’s this other thing that rises up in my mind that also says God is...not hate...not evil...but maybe pain? Suffering? Everywhere I look I see that the two are inextricably connected. There is no great suffering unless there is great love.

I suppose at its core, I’m asking the age old question - why is there suffering? More specifically, though, I want to know why I have to suffer. Not that I feel I should be an exception to pain, I just want to understand.

These things are ever and always in the forefront of my mind. Dwelling on them has caused me to ask questions I’ve never asked and doubt things I’ve always had faith in. Is God really real? If He is, is He really as good and loving as I’ve always believed Him to be ? What gives Him the right to do with me whatever He wants? How do I trust Him when all of my trust has been shattered?

Even if I can answer all of these questions there is one that is ever lingering - Do I even want to follow Him? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to pretend like He doesn’t exist? That all of my pain is the result of science gone wrong and freakish, random chance?

It seems like it would just be so much easier. So much less agonizing over things I cannot comprehend.

It is difficult because I feel, ultimately, that I know what my conclusion will be. If I want to follow, all the struggle and frustration and anger really boil down to one thing: If I want to follow Him I have to accept that He is who He is whether I get it or not, He’s going to do what He’s going to do whether I like it or not. I sounds harsh, but notwithstanding His love and patience with my struggle, I have to get in line behind Him or walk way. Knowing that I do still desperately need Him, I know what my choice will be in the end. But it is a long and difficult road to get to the end and I feel somewhat trapped inside an endless maze.

I talk myself in circles, but I hope and believe that one day, like Alice in Wonderland, I’ll open up a before unseen door that will lead me at last to the glorious and freeing end of my struggles. Meanwhile, to find that door, I must keep talking and continue questioning. So, here goes.

This is what I know. I love God. He loves me. The purpose of my life is to know Him and glorify Him. By whatever means necessary He will work towards achieving that goal in my life. That is what I know. Now the circles begin.

I love God - most of the time. More than I love Him now I recognize my need for Him. I dislike that I have this need and very often wish that it was simply a need of my own devising. There are times I would gladly say, “I don’t really need Him. I’m only using Him as an excuse or a crutch.” I would love to say that. The problem is that I will always know, deep down, that I’m wrong. There is an emptiness in me that can only ever be filled by Him. I could pretend but I will always know the truth. I could hide from it for a time, but it would be time wasted, for I would always return to Him.

So. OK. Fine. That’s settled. I do now and will always need Him. I don’t love this, but it cannot be ignored.

Now, as to “He loves me.” This is simple and yet more difficult. There is Scripture that cannot be ignored, places where I am told over and over of His love. There are songs that resonate as truth to my soul that tell me of His love. There is all of my past and His many answers to prayers and expressions of love that serve as a reminder of this truth. There is the unavoidable fact that He sent His son to die for me - the greatest expression of love I could ever imagine. But more than that is the knowledge in the utter depth and dark places of my soul that He loves me. Every new day, every hour, moment and breath speak to me, whisper of His love for me.

Despite all of this (yes, I see my arrogance in even hinting that I could argue with all of this), there is an ever unmoving complication: He let my daughter die. He took her away and left me, like an amputee, limping and hobbling my way through the rest of my life.

When I look to Him now, I see the cause and source of great joy and sweet healing, but I also see the cause of my suffering. How can it be that He is both? How am I supposed to look to Him for healing when, as far as I can see (notwithstanding the sinful world I am part of) much of the responsibility for my life’s greatest pain rests squarely on His shoulders?

If it is love, I do not understand it. But whether I understand it or not, the evidence of His love cannot be ignored. So then, the love and the suffering must be able to be reconciled somehow. This, it seems, brings me to my final knowledge and the only explanation, however unsatisfying I might find it, that makes enough sense to fit. The purpose of my life is to know and glorify Him. I would add, too, that He wants me to know as much as I can the depth of His love for me.

If, as I believe, everything that I am and everything that happens to me is part of God's plan for me to know Him better and to glorify Him, it means that Lydia’s death and my current suffering was meant to teach me to know and love Him better and to give me opportunity to glorify Him. This feels impossible, but I cannot ignore it.

To stare at it and reduce it to its simplest terms, the question becomes this: Which do I want more - to know and glorify Him or to have my baby here and whole with me. I’ve struggled with this from before Lydia’s conception and indeed long before that. Always the same question - is He enough? The difficulty is that for every other time I said He was enough, it was a “victimless crime” in the sense that no one but me had to be sacrificed. If I never get married, You are enough. If I never get pregnant, You are enough. But...if You take away my girl...I don’t know.

I don’t want to accept it. To say He’s enough is to say that it’s OK that she suffered while she was on the earth, that I had to watch as she died in my arms, that I had to bury her sweet body in the ground and live my life without her.

None of that is OK with me.

But then, the love. Stubborn and belligerent as I am, it starts to seep in. He will do anything so that I will know Him better. His love for me is so great that He would let my child die so that I could understand another facet of Him that I have never known before - that He would let His child die so that He could show His love for me. And then, finally, I turn my eyes back to His face, I see tears in His eyes because He knows my grief. He suffered this great grief so that I could know Him...and to know me was enough of a reason for Him to watch His son die.

What I long to say though it feels like it costs me everything - if my child is dead and I must suffer that loss, God, You are enough - He says it about me. His child died and He suffered that loss and I was enough of a reason for Him to do that.

It’s staggering, the knowledge of His love. And deep in my soul I know and I understand it now in a way I never would have unless my own child had died. I feel so much like this should be it - the door out of the maze. But it seems it’s merely the door into another, smaller maze with a door to another smaller maze and on and on until when? Heaven, I guess, when the veil will be lifted from my eyes and I will see in full what I see now only in part.

It makes now so clear to me the longing in the words of the hymn... "Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”