I thought I would add some reflections to my earlier thoughts on “the Problem with God.” Generally I noted there that “God is a problem,” because He is not me, He is free, and He is Lord. That’s more than having a bull loose in a china shop, that’s a God who is free in the universe.
I am convinced through the revelation of God in Christ, that this God loves me, but that doesn’t mean that I have a ready-made definition of love. Indeed, I would say that Jesus Himself is the definition of love. I also believe that when I give my life to God for my salvation, I have no idea what the consequences of that may mean on a daily basis, only that on a daily basis everything works for my salvation.
On a deeply personal level, my wife and I buried a child some 12 or more years back, a child we lost in about the 5th month of pregnancy. It was a hard time, bitterly hard for my wife and for me. But I remember at the time, through a lot of anger and tears, coming to a deep sense of the presence of God in the event. I’m not very good at cause and effect – I think it reduces things to much. Thus I did not look to God as the “cause” of my son’s death. But I did not look at my sons’s death as though it occurred outside the love of God.
I think I was crazy and more than a little angry for about a year. I know that I stopped preaching sermons “extemporaneously” for about a year. I could not get my emotions and thoughts sorted out enough to trust myself to stand in front of a congregation for that length of time without saying something that would be less than helpful. Thus I disciplined myself and wrote sermons for a while.
That has been some time ago. I have deeply appreciated my life as an Orthodox Christian. As an Anglican I felt free to pray for my son (that’s done by the Anglicans as well). But I have appreciated perhaps the “fullness” with which this is done in Orthodoxy. I like being able to light candles. I like to be able to remember his name at the Proskomedie (the service when I am preparing the bread and wine for the Eucharist). I like including his name when we pray for the departed at a Panikhida. Orthodoxy doesn’t just pray for the departed, we pray a lot for the departed.
I had an image that occurred during the funeral of my son. I had asked the funeral director to have the dirt placed next to the grave with shovels because we were going to fill in the grave ourselves. He said fine, but then he forgot. At the beginning of this fairly private event, he apologized to me and told me the dirt was up in the bulldozer about 50 yards away. I said, “Well, when we finish our prayers, have them bring the dirt down here in the bulldozer.” All of that seemed fine, though unusual to me. But I forgot to tell the dozen or so others gathered that day what I had just arranged.
So after the prayers, this bulldozer starts up and begins to head for the grave. Closer and closer it came. My other son, who was six at the time, watched in fascination, then in horror as the bulldozer was pulling right up to the grave. Just before it stopped, he screamed. He thought we were going to be run over.
We finished the funeral without further incident.
Later that week, the cemetery owner apologized to me. “What for?” I asked.
Apparently she had received a very nasty note from someone who attended the small service, whose business the funeral was not. I remember being frustrated that now I was going to comfort this funeral person, when I felt like I was the one who wanted comfort.
“The bulldozer made me think of God,” I told her to a look of utter bewilderment.
“Everything in that child’s short existence on earth was marked by events as unpredictable and seemingly out of control as that bulldozer, including his death. I thought at the funeral that the bulldozer was a clear a reminder of God as anything I could imagine.”
Now all of that his highly personal, and I apologize if I have offended anyone in sharing such a story. But it was the beginning of a revelation for me. We worship a God who is truly God and that’s not something (rather Someone) that we can control. God is free and that is a fearful thing.
But I remember what was said of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, “He’s not exactly a tame lion.” But it was added at least once in that fine story, “But He’s good.”
And this is what I know of God. God is a problem because of my sin, and in my sin I fear the freedom of God. But I also know that He is good (though that goodness may remain a mystery at times). I do not want a life that has no bulldozers nor do I want a life that has no fear (in the proper sense). I certainly do not want a life without God.
Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him (Job 13:15)