Today I had a doctor’s appointment. I knew it would be difficult. Difficult to sit in the room where we once got our first glimpse of Charlie’s tiny unformed frame. Difficult to be in the place where I got to hear Charlie’s strong little heartbeat countless times over the last few months. And especially difficult to see the doctor who delivered our precious baby boy on the worst night of our lives. And it was. The moment I saw my doctor the tears began to flow.
I knew that this happens sometimes. I knew that sometimes perfectly formed babies die in the womb. Sometimes parents have to bury children. Sometimes hearts are permanently broken. I knew that this happens sometimes…it just doesn’t happen to us. Not that I feel special, or that I should be exempt in any way from the sufferings of this world…its just that you never know which sufferings are going to be yours and you can never truly prepare yourself for things like this.
But sometimes it does happen. Sometimes it happens to you, and when it does you begin to question if you really do have a very accurate picture of who God is. I knew that God can only really be the “giver of life” if He is also the one who alone has the power to take that life away when He so choses.
Some people believe that God is the cosmic “good.” That everything “good” that happens to them is because of a loving, good, gracious GOD. They also believe that everything “bad” or hard that happens to them is because of Satan, or sin, or “living in a fallen world.” I don’t believe this for a minute. That doesn’t sound like God. That sounds like Santa Claus. And Satan is the grinch. I do not dispute that there is an enemy of our souls and that he comes “only to steal, kill, and destroy” but I do not want a shallow, simplistic view of God just because it makes me “feel better” about Him. What happens in our life and why suffering happens is far more complicated than that. The omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, Almighty-powerful-Yahweh of the Bible has made too many claims about Himself to be the “Santa Claus-God.”
“Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” Exodus 4:11
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13, 16
“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life. I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39
I am not saying it is easy to wrestle with these passages. I’m just saying that they need to be wrestled with. It’s not that I didn’t think about these passages before Charlie died. I did. I wrestled with these very things deeply and often. I spent four years of college studying Bible and Theology at an amazing Bible college, and in my spare time I took elective classes with fancy titles like, “The Holocaust and the Crisis of Evil.” And I have continued to wrestle with these things long after college. To wrestle with what it means that God is Sovereign over all things, and that He alone has the power to give and take away all things…including our very lives.
But it is one thing to wrestle with this and to try and construct a picture of who God is when you are sitting in a college classroom. It is another thing entirely to wrestle with your “picture of God” when you are sitting outside a doctors office weeping over a lost child.
Yesterday I sharing some of this with my friend Catherine and she said,
“You know what? I think you are “breaking-up” with your version of God. I think you are “done” with this less-than-perfectly-accurate version of God and “breaking up” feels like the right thing to do. Because it is. That version of God is actually flawed and useless in the fires of sanctification, so I agree. Break-up with that god. That one is useless anyway. Right? Isn’t that what you are doing? Finding that our dust-made minds can’t comprehend Him fully so we envision Him as we’d like and do our best to get it theologically correct? But because of who we are, whatever we come up with never quite fits Him? Just like a child’s coloring picture of mommy never quite looks like mommy? Then the suffering comes and ultimately getting frustrated because the coloring isn’t enough like Him to satisfy?”
Every time my kids come to me with their beaming faces and hand me a “picture of mommy” I think to myself, “Hmm…I don’t really look anything like that.” With limited drawing skills, pudgy hands, and broken crayons…they just can’t get me quite right. But I sure do love them for trying. And I proudly hang every lovingly drawn, poor representation of myself up on my fridge.
Deep down, I think that God does the same thing with each one of us. He looks at our small drawings, poorly done through the paradigm of our limited minds and human hearts, and He thinks, “Hmm…I don’t really look anything like that. But I love you my child. Let’s get out a new sheet of paper, and begin again.”
I can’t wait for heaven. I can’t wait to meet the little boy who is waiting for me there. And even more, I can’t wait to meet this wild and mysterious and “unsafe” God who loves me unconditionally even with the very broken, very flawed pictures I draw of Him. He is too big to fit on a page. Too beautiful to capture with our crayons. Too complex, too holy, too majestic to be fully understood by our finite minds…and yet, He loves us.
We are so very blessed. I feel broken, and confused, and weary, and small, and finite, and well, human. But so very blessed to be His.