Monday, January 19, 2009
Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Psalm 77: 7-9
Yvonne has been fighting cancer for 7 years, and until this year I really hadn’t struggled with the question of Why. I’ve observed enough misery in my life to have become resigned to the fact that we live in a broken world where life is not fair, life is a risk and bad things happen, sometimes through nobody’s fault and with no discernable purpose or reason. I have always been heartbroken watching my wife fight for her life, but I haven’t had any inclination to blame God or demand Why; that’s just the way the world is. But then it got personal.
Until last spring there wasn’t any visible evidence of the disease except for the wig she wore. She was strong and full of energy. Then in April Yvonne underwent radiation for the cancer in her brain and in the space of a few weeks in May and June her health crashed. It wasn’t a decline, it was a free-fall. We were in the Philippines for Megan’s graduation when she reached the point that it was obvious her condition was very serious. Seeing her slumped over in a wheelchair in the Manila airport, more than half certain she wouldn’t survive the flight back to Portland, was the worst day of my life. That’s when I got angry.
Her suffering in the months following seemed completely arbitrary and meaningless. The unfairness of it all was an offense of such enormity that there was no reconciling it with what I believed I knew about God. Everything I thought I understood about God and about prayer seemed to be thrown on its face. The sudden silence from God was completely inexplicable, as if my own father suddenly stopped answering my phone calls when I needed him most.
It helped to know I’m not the only person to experience this – C.S. Lewis describes it agonizingly well in A Grief Observed – but it’s a perplexity of cosmic proportion that this gracious and compassionate God who abounds in loving-kindness, whose power created the world and everything in it, would seemingly step back and silently refuse to help when we are desperately helpless. My anger settled into sullenness – or, more precisely – self pity.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, I guess, to discover that the antidote to feeling sorry for myself was to take inventory of all the good things in our lives. Not to trivialize Yvonne’s condition, but things could be much worse. We could be living in the middle of a war zone losing our homes and watching family members die, as in Gaza and Israel. We could be living in abject poverty in the slums of Manila or Calcutta, or somewhere where the only medical help is the local witch doctor.
I still don’t understand God’s silent distance, but that appears to be where things are right now; I can’t change that. So, in the meantime, like the Psalmist, I will remember the good that God has done in the past and continue to trust. And I will be grateful that I still have my wife - even in her diminished health - and so thankful for all the pleasure and joy that our family brings us.
Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Monday, January 12, 2009
This is both good and bad. There’s no getting around the fact that people who are in need are – well, in need, and that means that others have to step up and sacrifice time, effort, and money in order to meet those needs. Most people I know have a very difficult time asking for help. We all hate to be a burden on someone, but even more, having to ask for help is a forced acknowledgment of our own helplessness and inadequacy. The loss of self-sufficiency and control is a heavy blow.
As it happens, though, this can also be the good part. The most wonderful thing about love is that it cares, and it is fulfilled in serving and helping those we love who are hurting. It turns out that we are designed for serving. We are designed for giving. We are designed for sharing and supporting, even in the hard things. What a marvel, that we are built in such a way that we feel the most human when we are giving ourselves to someone in need.
I once had to have a stern talk with Yvonne to make her understand that she was not helping me by shielding me from bad news about her condition; she was in fact depriving me of the fulfillment I receive from sharing in her pain and serving her.
Fortunately I have wonderful friends who care enough to say the same to me, now, so I’ll be leaving my self-imposed quarantine.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
"The will of God: Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else."
There, I thought, was the answer to what made Dick Cadd the man he was: His single-minded focus on serving God.
Someone else reading those words might have found them terribly restrictive; after all, the usual image evoked by the "straight and narrow" is one of sober austerity, self-denial, seriousness. Not Dick. He had stepped into God's kingdom as a young man and had found there a world far bigger, more glorious and wonderful than anything his former life had offered. Dick's life was full of adventure, full of laughter and fun, overflowing with a joy that splashed over everyone around him. He was the best model I've ever seen of what a daily walk with Christ looks like because his rock-solid confidence and assurance in God's love & goodness was based on a lifetime of relationship with God.
"The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside." ~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I've had very little time to get out and play with my camera since I bought it two years ago, but a weekend at the coast with the family a few weeks ago gave me some good opportunities. Here are my favorites - and I will not suffer any grousing that they all feature Isaiah.
Here's why cameras have a "continuous" setting; if you keep the shutter firing you can eventually catch things like this, with all four feet off the ground.
These two tell a little mini-story:
Don't know about anyone else, but this is my favorite:
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Fatigue and crankiness tend to override my self-governor, so ordinarily I might not have posted that last entry. What prompted it, though, even more than Obama's victory speech, was sitting in a room full of missionary parents who had come from all over South East Asia to attend their childrens' graduation from Faith Academy. During the program at the Senior and Parents breakfast, each student's parents were introduced and we were told where they were serving and what their ministry was. By the time they reached Megan's name towards the end of the list I was rather hoping they would skip us. After all the church planters, teachers, pastors, nurses, doctors, tent-makers and translators, being introduced as a software engineer felt as relevant as a basket-weaver in a battlefront command post.I don't want to discount or minimize the importance of selecting the right candidate to lead our country, but the hyperbole that politicians indulge in during their campaign speeches rings hollow and empty to the point of being silly in comparison to the very real changes quietly being made in peoples' lives through the ministry of God's ambassadors on the front lines around the world. God is working through these people in powerful ways to advance His kingdom in the face of strong resistance and and often at the cost of very real casualties. I was quite humbled to be around them.
Friday, June 06, 2008
It is part of the normal political process for candidates to make wildly unbelievable and preposterous claims in order to get elected, but it's also part of the normal political process for everybody to understand that there's no way the candidates can actually deliver on those promises, and normally noone expects them to. Everyone understands, as someone else has said, that "Politics is show business for ugly people." What terrifies me the most in this current election is that a certain candidate and his supporters appear to actually believe that he can fulfill those wild campaign promises.
(Yes, living in the middle of Obamaland, I do know I've just offended 99% of my friends.)