Feeble Knees

Monday, December 06, 2004

God, Be God

Joy is undergoing surgery this morning. I've been dreading it since I found out two weeks ago that the procedure is scheduled for today.

It is very risky, with a high chance of complications. Folks have died after having it. However it goes, it will affect her for the rest of her life.

I've known her for eighteen years or more, we lost count somewhere along the way. It was her fault idea that we first start attending my former church. I didn't want to go. I only went because she wanted to, and I was worried that my reluctance to go would prevent her from going, and this might get me in trouble with God. You see, at the time I didn't think there was anything wrong with my not going to church, but preventing someone else from going seemed like it was on the hairy edge. So I one Sunday in June I went with her, dragging my feet all the way.

It should have been a sign unto us that within two years of attending that particular church, we were fighting a lot and eventually stopped sitting with each other. We each went off into different little cliques and stopped speaking unless we had to, and then it would be phoney-baloney small talk through plastic smiles. It became clear we couldn't stand each other's super-spiritualized selves. She had her own terrible experiences at the church, and so did I. Unfortunately, we had been driven apart by our own quests for "holiness", so we couldn't even compare notes and support each other. It was a miracle of the biggest proportions that God eventually led us both out of there, and then healed our friendship.

So I'm a bit anxious about losing a friend I once thought I had lost for good. It's too hard and takes so long to make a friendship like ours. She knows all the stupid things about me, and has seen me at my most obnoxious. She reserves the right to still mock me about something I did at age sixteen, and she's the only one who can get away with it. We were friends long before we ever started trying to be good Christians™. Then we became Good Christians™ and despised each other, because we could both see how phony the other one was being. She was as relieved as I was when we both dropped the act and started acting like normal human beings again.

If she's not okay, I don't know what I'll do with myself.

I am asking God in a very small, pitiable, weak-kneed plea to please help her come through this OK. I cannot pretend to have Big Faith in this situation. I don't. I have very scared little girl faith today, the kind where you just want to curl up into a ball, close your eyes and hold your breath until the final outcome.

The thing is, I do believe God can heal. And I believe He is still in the miracle working business. But my experience tells me that He doesn't always do things the way I'd like Him to. Sometimes the sixteen year old girl with cancer who just wants to live to get her driver's license doesn't make it. Sometimes the faithful woman who's walked with the Lord for years finds her feet becoming painful and numb. Sometimes babies are born with incurable genetic diseases. Sometimes freak accidents happen, robbing a young bride of her beloved.

It is when things like this happen when we rail at God. We hate Him for allowing the Holocaust to happen. We wonder perhaps is He dead? Or worse, we presumptuously assume He is unconcerned about human affairs, a sick Machiavellian deity who in a perverse way delights in suffering. It is so easy, so tempting to believe this when our worst fears come to pass.

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.Job 3:25-26

Job doesn't mince words, and for that I'm glad, especially on days like today. Unlike those refuse to admit they have a headache for fear that would be a declaration of faithlessness, Job told it like it is. He rued the day he'd been born. He was unabashed in his expressions of despair, agony and grief. His worst fears had come true, and he didn't deny it. Nor did he try to dress up the situation with flimsy platitudes and cliches. He opened a vein and let it out, holding nothing back.

His friends tried to stop him, tried to shut him up. Reading their anxious admonitions, one can almost see them cringing in dread and looking for the lightning bolts poised to strike Job down for his insolence. This is often our reaction when folks in anger and great grief rail at God. We quickly pray "Lord forgive them, they know not what they do!", then we wait for the lightning strikes.

Christians often stumble all over themselves when bad things happen, when the sick child dies. The faith movement and its adherents look pretty useless when the leg doesn't get healed, the cancer comes back and the financial miracle never comes through. The most frequently misused scripture in the whole Bible is "all things work together for good." When you're an able-bodied person living a great life with a car and a house and a job, who the heck are you to tell a sixteen year old that her terminal cancer is something God will use for good? It would be kinder of you to slap her in the face. Ditto the person who goes to the wake and tells the grieving fiancee "you're young, God will find someone else for you"!

I don't know about the God of some Christians, but my God does not shield me from tragedy. He does not allow me to comfort myself with wishful thinking. He does not permit me to live in a glory cloud where everything is sweetness and light. Loved ones are sick, others suffering, others have passed on into eternity much, much too young. He does not promise me heaven on earth, freedom from pain, or grant all my wishes and desires gift-wrapped in cotton candy.

What He does provide, what is greater than anything I could ask or hope for is His presence and the knowledge of the Most High God. The God that has the guts to come into the midst of my suffering and rage and proclaim Himself sovereign. The great I AM who wrote the laws of physics and hung the universe into balance takes notice of me, and and deigns to visit me in my darkest moments of grief and unbelief.

Let's think about this a minute. If I have a bad day, I don't get a pep-talk call from the President of the United States. The Queen of England does not come for tea when I need a chum. But when my own family and friends cannot approach me for my sorrow and grief, the Almighty God stands beside me. He can take anything and everything I throw at Him. He is immovable. By the unfathomable awesomeness of His presence I am stilled and quieted. Nothing is greater; no scientific explanation, no psalm, no tragedy, no hurt, no loss is greater than the presence of the living God. I can wrestle all I want, but in the end there is nothing to do but cast myself upon Him in all His Steadfastness and Love. And then there is breathtaking stillness and peace.

The faith I had yesterday will not get me through today. Today I am as poor and beggarly as the children of Israel in the wilderness, relying on God alone for provision. In crisis I pray "God, Be God." Be Who You Are in the life of this one that I love. Be with her, in all your power and might, in all your gentleness. Attend to her, and let your Presence be felt and known. Overshadow this little life, this one whom your eyes beheld when she was still in her mother's womb. Sovereign, Loving, Almighty and Faithful God, your will be done.

It is enough. It is always enough.
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