Monday, January 7, 2013

Faith Without Answers?

A good friend of mine lost his six month old son last night.  A few weeks back, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  They did surgery but were unable to get the entire tumor as part of it was in the brain stem.  After a spinal tap on Friday, they determined that the cancer had spread throughout the brain and the spinal cord.  They lost him a little more than 24 hours later.

Back in July, I had the privilege to visit my friends and their newborn in the NICU up in Reston where they live.  Little Connor was struggling and I had the privilege of baptizing him while we were there in the NICU.  I won't soon forget that experience which seems that much more poignant now considering the circumstances.

When my friend called me with the news of the diagnosis on Saturday, I had just finished a morning together with the staff with whom I work.  It was an encouraging time of growth and sharing for us and I was feeling pretty good as I headed to my car.  Funny how life can change on a dime, in an instant.  I told my friend that while I might be pretty good with words in other circumstances, I couldn't find the right words nor did I feel that any would be appropriate.  I just told him that I loved him and his family and that I was here.

This friend made the trip to Williamsburg a year and a half ago when my mom died.  He is a true friend who has always been there and has such a gentle spirit.  Part of what hurts me the most about this is the fact that he and his family are hurting.

We live in a society of instant answers.  We can hop on the internet on our smartphones and have access to all kinds of information.  We are not a society that likes to wait for much of anything.  But at times like this, answers certainly don't flood in, and if they do, they feel too forced and trite, too robotic and insensitive.

When my mom died, I found great comfort in Romans 8.  Paul's words regarding the impact of sin on creation helped me to realize that all that my mom had experienced was not really part of God's original intention.  Sin and pain were not originally intended by God for His creation.  My mom was nearly 73 when she died, but theology falters when you move to the opposite side of the spectrum.

How many times I have heard someone say that a parent should never have to bury their child.  It's a phrase that rings in my head and yet all of us have seen it happen.  Just last month we saw 20 families who had to say good bye to their children.  And in the midst of it all, we ask ourselves, "Why?"  Why did it happen?  Where was God?  Couldn't He have intervened?

My struggles continue as I think back to those first few days and weeks in the NICU for Connor.  Why did the family have to go through all of that only to experience this 6 months later?

Like I said, answers escape me.  I don't have answers that seem adequate to me.  I know that Connor was loved so much by an incredible family in his 6 months on earth.  I know that his brothers adored him and that all of his aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives were enamored with him.  I know his mom and dad accepted him as an incredible gift, even if it was for 6 short months.  Tennyson's words for his friend ring in my ears when I think this through:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

It's been going on 2 years since I lost my mom, and while the situation is very different, there are days when it still feels so fresh.  But that's the impact of love, it lasts long after we think it does, if we truly give ourselves fully to another in love.  Even though it's been nearly 2 years since I lost my mom, I still put reminders of her all around.  In fact, my wife just gave me a framed collage for Christmas with pictures of her from all different moments in her life.

While some might label this prolonged grief, I call it remembering.  My mom made an incredible impact in my life and I want that to become a legacy.  Connor made an incredible impact in his life, albeit a short life, and I know that his family will want nothing more than to pass on that love and legacy to others.

Even through this, I still hold onto faith in God.  Many may criticize me for it, many may call it a crutch, but I have seen too much in my life, good and bad, to believe in coincidence.  I don't have answers, but I trust that God does and I believe that He's much bigger than me.  The words of Psalm 131 resonate:

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
    like a weaned child with its mother,
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

So, wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you are experiencing, I still believe that there is hope out there.  There might not be adequate answers, but I believe in hope and I believe in a God of hope and peace. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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