They Were Fighters
Sometimes I almost have a handle on the age-old "problem of pain," but like a wet bar of soap, the tighter you grip it, the more apt it is to squirt away, leaving you emptyhanded. There I sat facing a hurting couple, emptyhanded.
I recalled a lecture I once heard attempting to reconcile the concept of a loving God with the reality of pain. What stood out to me was the question and answer time following the lecture. Someone stood up and asked with a shaking voice, "Why do you suppose my wife and I are unable to have children, while just yesterday I heard on the news of a lady who strapped her three children into the car and purposely rolled it into a lake, drowning all three?"
With tears in his eyes, the lecturer simply responded, "I don't know."
It was a moment of connection between student and teacher. A sacred moment. There is a time for more. There is a time for logic, for solid biblically supported truth, for moving the question from "why?" to "what now?"
There is a time for connection. But God, I reasoned, it seems so empty. I should pass on some truth. I should solve some problem. I should...
More than words
I realized that moment in my office was a moment for connection, not for teaching. Not for logic.
With a new energy, in the best way I knew, I tried to simply connect, to enter their pain. Instead of reaching down to them with some lofty knowledge, I reached my arms around them. We cried.
We met the next time in the cemetery around a tiny wooden casket that held the two small bodies. Family and friends gathered to pay their last respects. I said a few words about the "fighters" and the place they would always have in the hearts of the family. I acknowledged that we do not always understand God's ways. As we walked away from the graveside, the nearly deaf great grandfather yelled so loud that all could hear, "I didn't hear a word you said, but I'm sure it was good." It lightened the mood. Moments like that are priceless: a blend of laughter and tears, painful closure and hope to move on.
Driving home the words of the old man echoed in my ears: "I didn't hear a word you said, but I'm sure it was good."
I want to know. I want to understand. I want things to make sense. How is it that this man, whose senses could not pick up much at all of what was being said around him, could be so sure it was "good"? He left me a little more willing to live without knowing, to walk by faith, not by sight, to offer myself, not just knowledge.
"God, they were fighters. With their great grandfather's blood flowing in their veins, I'm sure they would have made a positive impact on this ragged old world. But you chose a different path for them. I admit that often I don't understand a thing about what you are up to, but I'm sure, somewhere deep inside, I'm sure that it is good."
Scott Penner is pastor of Truro Alliance Church in Truro, Nova Scotia.
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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