Warning: Deep theological waters ahead. If that’s a bother, you won’t want to read further. But, it really dawns on me that the whole point of this grieving experience centers on my relationship with God, so I’m dwelling there today. And there will be some seeming stream of consciousness stuff. This is a raw concept to me yet. Warning complete. 🙂
I’ve been pondering this relationship with God heavily of late. I sense much more of some sort of peace (or sometimes resignation) with the fact that Doria died and that God is still good. Some of my skills and abilities aren’t fully back yet, and that’s fine. I suspect that they aren’t supposed to be back yet.
That said, I started a book last night, and almost finished today, that I can’t recommend any more highly. It’s called A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. This man, another guy with his M.Div. degree and a PhD in History, faced his own unspeakable loss, and wrestled deeply in his relationship with God. His book started down this road, but the thoughts here (and problems that result) are me running with an idea for the last few days, then seeing it crystallized a lot more from his book.
At the center of this thing is a view of God and His sovereignty over everything. Essentially, is He in charge or a big fraud? Sittser didn’t simplify that far, but I will to get started. That becomes the real crux of the issue, at least for me. It’s an inevitable question, and it’s an ugly struggle to work through.
In our experience, this past year had been one of the only times that Becky and I lived seemingly without important struggles. I had some drama around my master’s thesis, but that was going to be a win in the end. We had Doria, our miracle baby on the way. We watched mother and baby in perfect health. We watched God provide over and over and over in ways we had heard about but never seen in our lives. We were sailing. I was on top of the world. Then Doria died.
Early on, it’s easy. I didn’t have time to think about anything, and I was focused on those short goals. Comfort Becky, funeral, figure out work, start this, start that. The easy stuff. Then things slow down. Questions arise, and they should arise, or they never get any sort of answers. Prayers kind of lingered or died out without the answers that I wanted. Everything spiraled downhill, and God seemed to just let it happen. It raises a question, and I’ll sound horrible this way, but that’s where it starts, “God, are you actually in charge, are you some big fraud, or just some gigantic jerkwagon?” As a leader, I found (and find) it easy to say, “I’ve never needed the death card as a leadership tool,” and that led my to find God’s leadership very, very lacking. And He chose to let the questions linger. He’ll do that.
Through this book, and my repeated teaching trips through the Book of Hebrews, and then some other stuff, it’s occurring to me that there actually is something deep afoot here. I don’t know how it plays out in application yet, but it’s a truth worth more dwelling on: God has invited me (and Becky) to join Him in mourning and suffering. God didn’t just simply take Doria away. He invited us to join Him in doing something that He did voluntarily when He gave up His son to die (see John 3:16-it applies to so many things). This constant neverending pain and loss is something that He chose for Himself because He loves us. Think on that: He chose it. I never would have and never will. He did. More on that to come.
God is a God of joy, and a God of voluntary suffering. In fact, God chose suffering in order to be there to work with us in a sin-cursed world filled with suffering. Hebrews 2:18 reminds us that Jesus can help those who are tempted and suffering, because He has been right there and done that. In fact, He volunteered. Right after that, we get a reminder that Jesus was always faithful, and a commanding invitation to turn only to God for our rest. Then He promises to provide it. (There, 2 chapters and a little more in 2 sentences.) God seems to believe this is true, and actually took this road Himself, finding His own source of comfort in His own perfection and greatness. So, in a way I never wanted to try and comprehend, Doria’s death is an invitation to join God in one of His most intimate experiences, the death of His only child.
This is a road I wouldn’t have chosen. I wouldn’t choose it now, either. I don’t foresee any moment on this earth where I will want to choose it. But at this point, I’m on one road or another. Each road involves the fact that Doria is dead. That’s not changing. Her real home is amazing, but she’s not returning the way we looked forward to. I get to choose which road I take. I can either head towards the God who voluntarily chose this path Himself, or turn the other way.
To me, the choice is obvious. It’s even starting to be appealing. I’m sure there’s more pain ahead, because that’s the price of living. However this works, though, I want to join the author of the path. Nobody knows this road better than Him. Taking the right road in this case is actually going to lead to something bigger than I would have looked for, and certainly bigger than I wanted. But there’s a plan of some sort. Sittser played the dirty trick of invoking Joseph’s story from the last quarter of Genesis (go from chapter 37 to the end. It’s phenomenal) to remind me that God has plans we can’t see, and they are actually good ones. We just can’t see that in the middle.
So I’m grateful tonight. I didn’t get a choice in Doria’s death, but I get a choice now. I like this choice. I don’t know exactly where it goes from here, but this is gonna be good.