I met a friend for lunch yesterday. We sat outside on a glorious Texas spring afternoon, ate vegetables with chopsticks and talked about life. Usually that conversation involves career explorations (hers) and fashion faux pas (mine) and husbands (ours). We have the kind of friendship that is soulful but generally filled with laughter and fun.
Yesterday was different. My friend began our time together by showing me the photo of a strikingly handsome young man who she described as "the kind of guy who does nothing but good in the world - everybody's friend" ...
And of course he had been killed in an accident two days before while crossing a street in Vail, CO.
"This is a faith crisis for me," she said.
"I guess so," I said.
"Why do such good people get taken so young?" she asked. And I remembered that this was the second wonderful young person "taken" from her circle in the last few years.
"I don't believe they are taken, if you mean taken by God," I said. "I believe shit happens."
Then I told her this is one of the most frequently revisited topics of theological debate among my circle of churched friends - some of whom are giants of the faith. The question is usually expressed this way: Do you believe in a God who can intervene in our circumstances but doesn't, or do you believe in a God who can't intervene in our circumstances?
I choose the latter. I would live in a constant crisis of faith if I didn't. Who can believe in a Loving God who can but won't stop the tragic deaths of good people or wars or famines or tsunamis or murders or bullying or hate crimes or...well, fill in your own blanks.
I should say here that my own husband and I disagree on this piece of critical thinking about God. It is a complicated bit of pondering.
In an unrelated, but eventually related matter...I grabbed a Bible from the bookshelf this morning to look up a Psalm about being hard-headed (Psalm 32:9, if you need to read it too). Two pages of lined paper fell out of the front of the book. In my handwriting was a document titled Faith Statement. It was dated March 20, 2004...the 1st anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. I imagine I was having a faith crisis that day. And I am guessing I struggled to cover the rough terrain of my soul as it ached for Americans and Iraqis in the middle of that quagmire. Here's the result:
I believe in God - Father, Mother, Creator.
When I see a sunrise or a sunset or a new baby...when I feel someone's touch in a moment that I didn't even realize I needed to be touched...when I eat an amazing piece of fruit or arrange an armful of flowers...when something grows in my yard...
It is so obvious to me that God exists, creates, enjoys creation and delights in us.
I believe in that God. I cling to that God.
I believe in prayer.
Not so much in prayer that manipulates the Universe, but in a focused acknowledgment of the powerful lingering of all that is Divine and Holy. A significant part of prayer is remembering and refreshing this good and active place in my consciousness.
I believe shit happens.
Certain cells mutate in a body and specific diseases wage war and win. Certain distractions arise in human theater and specific deadly consequences result. Certain laws of physics prevail when hot air meets cold air and specific monumental disasters, called natural, occur. Certain people are elected/appointed/seize positions of power and specific political nightmares, called war, unfold.
I DO NOT believe God is in the business of dropping in and changing the course of Creation and its inevitable messiness.
But I do believe God cries. He/She is crying with me over our war and our dead young people.
...the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan...and the ones in Vail, Colorado.
Some days, belief in a God who cries is my strongest statement of faith.
Shit happens. God cries.
And we all grab beauty in this life when and where we can: On a patio with a friend and veggies and chopsticks...talking about things that matter.
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