“Andrew, I believe God ordains death” he said, “I don’t know what to say but the truth of the Bible, I did not want to hurt you more, so I did not say anything. I am sorry your son was stillborn.” His words still echo in my ears 5 months later.
These are words from one of my best friends. I had not heard from him in over 6 months after my son had died. Until I wrote him and asked where he had been and why he had been so silent. These sentences were part of our first painful conversation. I have not spoken with him since. My heart is still to brittle to be in relationship with someone so clumsy.
It was when his commitment to his own interpretation of scripture got in the way of actually “loving” me or accompanying me in the ditch of heartache, that Christ got lost. I am familiar to this posture where the broken hearted become second to the notion of being “right” rather than being transformed by death.
What happens when theological positions become disconnected to the very people they are meant to redeem? For example he could not weep with me because he was convinced God took my son. I was in need of fellow soft hearted friend but all I received was that I was “theologically wrong and needed to be fixed, my salvation in doubt, my love for Christ all questioned” all during my grieve.
When God’s image is no longer honored in the face of another human being? When doctrine triumphs no matter the cost? What if theology and the the human experience are not split? That if I truly know you, lose my assumptions, and genuinely experience you in your fullness of your shit and glory, that I may know God more fully. That you uniquely bear God’s image, so if I stay distance, if I stay more committed to my political, nationalistic, theological corner then I miss parts of God.
My friend had chosen to be coward, to be silent, instead of wrestling with a theology position that has no place for “mystery”, no place for heart ache without neat and redemptive conclusions. His laziness and selfishness to wrestle with complex realities and with the unknown portrayed a cruel God, a God who knew better than me, so he took my son. Sadly I do not want to serve a God like that.
I am reminded of Dr. Stanley Hauerwas’s writing, “We desperately want to “explain” what happened. Explanation domesticates terror, making it part of “our” world. I believe attempts to explain must be resisted. Rather, we should learn to wait before what we know not, hoping to gain time and space sufficient to learn how to speak without lying.”
Though Hauerwas was speaking of literal “terror acts” this quote fits with my experience, to learn to wait, to listen, to sit and hear, to be God to those who question and are surrounded by darkness and terror. As Nouwen so accurately writes “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of confusion or despair, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing… not curing… that is a friend indeed.” In that moment this friend is not only a friend but truly the representing Christ in trenches, in the darkness where few have the courage to enter.
Can we resist the easy answers? “God did it for a reason”, “All things work for good, to those who believe”, “Well God gave you another son”, these are not answers but simple dismissals of my suffering that make a mockery of my suffering.
Dr. Allender says “You don’t look at atrocities and ask, “What is God trying to teach the world through this horror? There are kinds of suffering that your effort to bring meaning, ineffability distorts and destroys the potential for any meaning whatsoever. If you think suffering can be quantified in some type of learning principle, you have made mockery of your own suffering, let alone the suffering of others. Don’t look for meaning, meaning will come to you, frankly meaning will come knock on your door in ways you do not need to be looking… You don’t have much to do with God, He has much to do with you.”
Much meaning has come in my constant war with the loss of my Brave son. It does not mean that even for a second I would not give it all back for one second to hold and kiss my boy again. Not one second.
I believe God weeps with me, she longs as I long, hopes as I hope, curses as I curse, and loves as I love.