I love my wife and daughters. I begin this post with one of my wife’s favorite quotes:
This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is the road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.
I decided a couple of weeks ago to stop posting for a while because life has been too busy and more important things needed to be done. Now I think it is time to post again.
On Monday last my wife was walking our youngest daughter along a sidewalk near our house when a large SUV jumped the curb and struck them. The story is an interesting one that involves a convicted felon fleeing the scene and hiding from police for 24 hours. The local news was all over that. My wife ended up with a fractured pelvis and multiple scrapes and bruises. But the crux of the story is the way death came by so close and did not stay.
It is hard for me to imagine my wife dying. She is in a lot of pain right now, but she is still alive. I praise God every minute for that. We are so fragile and so mortal, and yet life is so powerful and meaningful. When a couple gets married they are theoretically in it for the long haul. Marriage is not a game and it can sometimes bring a lot of heartache, not least when the other suffers. I do not like to see Maricel suffer. We got married just over 17 years ago. Sometimes it seems like a long time somethings its seems like only yesterday. We have lived much of our lives in shared communion and experience. If God were to take her away from me I could not describe the vastness of the hole that would be left in my life.
My daughter Wilder also nearly died. She was in her stroller when it was throw almost 40 feet down the sidewalk. The stroller tumbled but acted like a roll cage and my daughter came away with hardly a scratch. It is also hard for me to imagine her dying. In this case, though, I know what it is like to lose a child. My daughter Coco died in my arms nearly three years ago. I don’t know how I would go through that again. Children are amazing. They are truly gifts that should be loved and cherished at all times. My daughters are brilliant lights in my life. They gleam like stars. I do not want to ever lose one.
My eldest daughter Lily has been through a lot in her 8 years. Her uncle died of cancer, her grandmother was severely burned in a car accident, her baby sister died, her mother and other sister nearly died this week, and her mother is now in the hospital with a broken pelvis. She is a beautiful and tenderhearted girl who can sometimes be too stoic for her own good. I can’t blame her. She has been through a lot.
A friend of mine asked me a couple days ago if I was angry – angry at the driver of the car that struck my wife and child, angry at the situation. I was taken aback because being angry hadn’t even entered my mind, yet I felt at that moment that maybe I should be. Why wasn’t I angry? It’s strange to think about. I certainly don’t think it has anything to do with some kind of moral nobility. I am just like everyone else. I still want justice, I still want the driver to get what he deserves, but I don’t have those burning emotions of anger. And it’s not because I don’t think anger has its place. The only explanation I can come up with is that my experiences have put within me the idea that this is what we should expect from life, the bad with the good, and that people will do bad things because they are sinners like me. If I am mad at anyone else I need to reserve some of that anger for myself too. We are made of the same stuff.
For many the real issue on the table is what to do with all this in light of God. Why would God allow this to happen? Believing that God would actively bring suffering like this into one’s life is not an option for many people. God, they might say, does not create suffering, he only allows it. But God does create suffering, as he creates all things. The question I face is whether I will trust a God who would bring this upon my wife and family. If one does not believe in God then suffering is absurdity. It is when one believes in God that suffering takes on the difficult sheen of meaning and purpose. Suffering glares in one’s eyes. It doesn’t call out to you, it invades your life and, sometimes, it makes itself at home. Suffering forces your hand and makes you lay your cards face up on the table. Suffering tells you what you are made of. Knowing what you are made of is a great gift, and not an easy gift. If God is good, I would expect him to bring suffering into the lives of those he loves. I have struggled with this in my life and I will continue to struggle. But I have come to know that suffering is not the end of life, rather life is the end of suffering.
I am not one to quote pithy Bible verses about suffering or the goodness of God. And if someone tells me what stage in the grieving process I am in, or how God must be trying to tell me something, or how everything works for good, etc., I just smile and nod my head. I believe those verses and I know everything works for good, and I appreciate the reminders, but outside voices only go so far compared to the inside groanings. I know it’s not really a matter of the head at this point, it’s a matter of the heart – and I mean that place in the heart where all sentimentality and saccharine spirituality is stripped away. This really has everything to do with who we are and where we are going.
The best I can do is look at the Bible as a whole and wonder at all the suffering between its pages. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where God says this life will be free from suffering. I don’t see the health and wealth gospel or the prosperity gospel. But I do see that my savior suffered, and that many of the early Christians suffered, and that to be a Christ follower is to take up one’s cross daily. All this does not provide an easy answer to to why we suffer. At least I can say that to suffer is, in some way, to be like Jesus. I can also say that if one is worried if their friendly, easy faith truly has legs then suffering will let them know. But then that faith will no longer be so friendly or easy. Genuine faith lives in that world of both terrifying reality and unfathomable hope. No wonder we are called to love and encourage each other. The more I live the more I know this to be true. When we are told to work out our faith with fear and trembling I know a little more each day about what that means.
My wife and family have a long road ahead, but don’t we all. I know that God is good, but I also know that God is God and I must ask myself if I still trust God to be good when I, or my family goes through suffering. What I pray for is that God will heal my wife soon and completely. I also pray that God will continue to be faithful to love us and that we will continue to trust in him. What is so amazing is to see my wife go through her ordeal with courage and good spirits. She has had a lot of support from so many people. Her hospital room is filled with flowers and cards. She is an amazing woman. Seeing all the love extended toward her is a testament to that.
I said I am not one for pithy Bible verses, but I have to say that many passages in the Bible take on deeper meanings in light of suffering. I can’t help but be reminded of what Jesus did. And I rejoice in his example, though I fail at living up to it. So I quote a couple verses from Philippians:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
If Christ be my example, then how can I fear suffering or death? And yet, words cannot describe how grateful I am that death did not stay this week. God be praised.