Saturday, September 6, 2014
The Loaded Question
Many times I’ve wiped these cheeks dry with the sleeve of a sweatshirt lo these few years since the BC/AD (before crash/after disaster) marker of my life on this bleeding planet. (And I don’t mean “bleeding” in the British curse sense, but in the more literal interpretation of the fallout of trauma).
This very day I sat in a vinyl lawn chair at another STOP DWI awareness venue, next to my friend Bill. In 1977 his wife, oldest son and daughter were killed by a drunk driver. His youngest son was in a coma for 30 days, but survived to grow up without his mother, brother or sister.
People stopped by to talk. A man with severe Parkinson’s disease, age 50, approached our table and spoke with grace and candor to me, describing the device implanted in his chest with probes to his brain to control his wild shaking and seizing. His slurred words could not disguise the clarity of his grateful heart.
My sweet friend with pancreatic cancer occupied my pondering over the course of the day. She weeps over the thought of blueberries she may never pick with her beloved 8- year old granddaughter.
And I wait for a text from my daughter, alone in an apartment 400 miles away, at war with a brain that works intermittently well and poorly since the BC/AD marker when a drunk driver nearly killed her.
Still, the sky is achingly blue. There’s the smile on the face of the man with Parkinson’s. And the joy of the pool player who does tricks and tells the gospel story with the different color cue balls. Not to mention how I laughed out loud listening to the lady who works for the county telling me about her 81 year old mother standing on the bed to change a light bulb. These are the grace gifts of a fallen world.
We always ask “WHY?” in tragedy. It’s an appropriate question - and an honest one.
But have you ever heard anyone ask “WHY” for the beauty and wonder of it all?
Why are there Hydrangea bushes, bursting with indigo and white, like giant puff balls for a fairy tale queen?
Why to that foamy, blue- green sea, bubbling up on shore like a 3 year old in gales of laughter?
Why to the cherry red cardinals at the bird feeder on that chilly morning in late September, or the crunch and sweetness of August corn, or that first sip of coffee in the morning?
Why is a fair question, but only when asked from both sides of the aisle.
In a way, it’s easier to answer the why of trouble and heartache. The unfairness and darkness of this world are ingrained deep into our bones. We’ve fought to survive and protect ourselves from pain since the fall. We see the darkness in ourselves. And though many blame The Most High, most folks understand there are forces at work, from within and without, that are ancient and sadly, predictable.
But loveliness is at once over-familiar and startling. I cross the Hudson every day and miss the sweep of sky and color over that mighty river. Then, at once I am overwhelmed by the mist lifting off the river’s wave peaks and twirling upward like some wispy dancer made of vapor. Why? Why such a superfluity of beauty on display all around me every day? Do I ever question the absolutely obscene abundance of goodness on a planet wracked with suffering?
C.S. Lewis said pain is God’s megaphone to the world. I think he might be right. I never lose track of the burden of bone weariness that news stories about racism create in me. I’m keenly aware of the heartache of a daughter swimming against a rogue current where she was tossed by someone else’s sin. And I certainly don’t miss the pain of the injury to my own soul by my own sin and folly. These stretch me out with both loud cries and desperate whispers to the Almighty. No, the mess doesn’t seem to pass by unnoticed. But sadly, the beauty does.
Why is evil rampant? Why is good astonishingly ubiquitous?
No short answers on this essay.
WHY is a loaded question, no matter how you ask it.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,