Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Changing Conception of God

I have recently reflected upon how our grief following Micah’s death has begun to rid us of certain religious pretenses—certain misconceptions of God that, in light of all that has happened, need to be thrown out.  Our conception of how God works, and who He is, has changed by reason of Micah’s death. Before Micah died, we would have pat “Sunday school” answers whenever faced with a potential trauma.  Intellectually, I would (wrongly) take comfort in the (false) belief that God’s purpose in difficult personal situations would be to “rescue” me so as to avoid personal discomfort. 

In the intervening years since Micah’s death, I think our relationship with God was marked, in large part, by shock.  While we have depended wholly on God, we’ve also not really thought a whole lot about leaning on the same God whose kindness and mercy took our son away from us.

Now, as we emerge more and more from the “fog” of shock as part of the grieving process, we ask these questions once again.  This time, however, we can’t give the pat “Sunday school” answer any more; not only is this conception of God too superficial, but it just doesn’t work.  In speaking with other grieving parents, the result for many of us is a huge intellectual “void” in our lives. We don’t question the existence of God or even that He is involved in our lives.  It is that we cannot provide an answer to the deepest, most significant questions in our lives, a question that is at the forefront of the minds of most grieving parents I know.  The question, “why did God allow this to happen?” is often met with just silence. 

We answer it with a Job-like silence, a silence that (I pray) brings glory and honor to God.  We don’t know, and all we can do is keep trusting in Him, changing whatever previous conception we had of God that is demonstrably false.   Recently, I’ve tried to encourage myself that having a changing conception of God is a good thing.  After all, the Pharisees had a very wrong conception of God, and if the Pharisees had listened to Jesus and become His disciples, their conceptions of God would have been dramatically altered.  Job’s conceptions of God changed; certainly the friends of Job who gave him “counsel” had an altered conception of God through Job’s sufferings. 
The downside, of course, to a changing conception of God is that we can’t control God.  I can control a God (or, at least I thought I could) who works to provide me with good things when I want in the manner that I want.  For all of us humans who endure suffering, God uses this suffering in our lives to move us beyond the “pat” Sunday School answers to open up our minds to increase our understanding of our Great God, a God whose means are “beyond our tracing out.” 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Red Hair & Faulty Ultrasounds

Brett and Mandy Peterson are friends of ours and fellow grieving parents.  One of Brett and Mandy’s four children, Chase, died tragically a few years ago.  One of Chase’s striking physical characteristics was his red hair.  Just recently, Mandy gave birth to their fourth child, a son, Tanner.  Brett and Mandy were surprised and humbled to discover that Tanner, too, has red hair, just as like his big brother Chase.  It seems that through Tanner’s red hair, God has reminded Brett and Mandy of his continued presence and blessing even after unspeakable loss.

During Heather’s pregnancy with Micah, she had no less than three separate ultrasounds. Based upon at least two separate ultrasounds, we were told that our little Micah would be a girl.  As a result, Micah was known as “Haley” in those months immediately preceding “her” birth.  Heather had a number of “pink” baby showers, and as of the moment of “Haley’s” birth, our home was filled with a lot of pink clothes and baby items.  In God’s unsearchable humor and wisdom, the ultrasound machines (or technicians) were wrong, and “Haley” turned out to be a boy. Through Micah’s birth, death, and two more boys, we’ve held on to all those pink clothes.  Now, with the expected birth of our baby #4 just weeks away, Heather and I have remarked at God’s sense of humor.  How we’ve come full circle with those pink clothes.  In God’s plan, a plan that is certainly his, not ours, those pink clothes will be used. 

As we have endured the grieving process together, we have tried to look for some of God’s blessings to us in and through our grief.  Since we believe there are no such things as “chance” occurrences, we can attempt to discern meaning in the “small things” of life.  God is sovereign over all things, whether wars and famines, nations and calamities--even the gender of our children, their hair colors, and faulty ultrasound machines.  I think that God sometimes uses these seemingly “small” circumstances in life to provide us with a sense of irony (perhaps humor?) and to remind us of who really is in control.  For that, let’s praise Him all the more.