If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have noticed that I talk about Jesus from time to time, and a lot about God. I am a great admirer of both.
But I don’t believe a lot of the things people around me seem to believe about God. For instance, when someone stands up and testifies as to how God saved their child’s life because everyone prayed so hard, I want to say (but never actually do): Hogwash!
If God steps in and saves people because other people are praying for them, then where the heck was God when everyone was praying for my friend J who died of breast cancer even though her five-year-old and three-year-old daughters needed her so badly? Were we just not praying hard enough? What about when the choir director at a local church and her daughter were blind-sided by a drug-high driver? When the father arrived at the scene, the mother was already dead. He couldn’t go with his daughter in the medical helicopter because he was throwing up so much from horror and fear. The daughter died too, on the helicopter, and he never saw her again. Did God not love them enough? Didn’t care? Were there not enough righteous people praying for these well-loved church leaders daily?
I don’t believe it.
I also don’t believe God has a plan for our lives. I don’t believe he has it all mapped out and moves things around like pawns on a board to make it all come out beautifully. When a young lady gets pregnant and becomes a single mom, and the baby is born with Down’s, I don’t believe it’s because she’s so special in God’s eyes that he’s given her a bigger task than most people have (or that he’s punishing her for having sex, for goodness sake). When a friend is diagnosed with Lyme Disease and her daughter is autistic and her husband loses his job and they end up having to file for bankruptcy because they can’t hold it all together any more, I don’t believe that’s part of some noble plan. That they are only being tried because they’re so amazing and can handle it.
In short, I don’t believe in a God who messes around in our affairs and takes people and things away from us and gives us other things and orchestrates it all to come out just so. And I don’t believe the adage that God won’t ever give us more than we can handle, because I don’t believe God is constantly giving us things at all.
Here is what I do believe: I believe in a God who gave everyone free will and now lets us muck around as much as we want.
And then. THEN. When we are all screwed up and messed up by our own and other peoples’s choices and all the other bad stuff that happens to us, and we finally (finally!) say, “please help me!” he (she–yeah I don’t believe God is a boy either) does, but not by changing the STUFF that is happening or making everything okay or fixing anything. He does it by transforming IN OUR HEARTS everything that happens, and making it beautiful. Making us beautiful.
I learned many lessons when J was dying of breast cancer. If I could go back and change only one thing about that time, it would be this: Her older daughter, L, wanted to play a pretend game in which her mother died. Over and over. I kept trying to make everything come out okay in the end of the game, I wanted her to believe that her mother was going to be okay, that she wasn’t going to die. It is what I believed at the time.
If I could change it, I would do this. I would help her pretend her mother was dead. I would let her explore it, in her mind and through our acting. I would let the death be as gruesome, traumatic, sad, scary, and desperately grievously awful as L wanted to pretend. I would play it with her over and over. I would cry with her and have pretend funerals as many times as she wanted to. I would hold her hand through the stages of that practice grief over and over again.
Because I believe the things we fear most, we fear only because we haven’t faced them yet. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.
And so, in fact, I do believe that God never gives us more than we can handle. Because I don’t believe there IS such a thing as more than we can handle. It turns out that J’s daughters are fine. They moved with their father to Colorado and have a beautiful, wonderful stepmother who loves them as her own. They will carry their mother in their hearts all their lives, and if they let God transform her death in their hearts, it will polish them into the amazing and unique people that only they can be.
The choir director’s husband? I don’t know. Last I heard he was sunk in a deep, deep depression, suicidal even. Maybe sometimes things ARE more than we can handle. It turns out, I don’t really know. Because another thing I believe: It is not my calling to judge other peoples’s journey. Only he knows whether it is more than he can handle. Only he knows whether he will be transformed and beautified by what has happened to him. But I do believe it, I believe that if he asks for it and waits for it, it will be transformed in his heart. When he’s ready.
And so I close with this blessing:
May you and yours always have the courage to face what you fear so that the fear may die. And may everything that happens to you be transformed in your heart into beauty.
P.S. The core of this post began with a comment I posted to one of Glennon’s beautiful posts at Momastery.