24 June 2010

of saints & mud puddles

I recently came across a story about Saint Teresa of Avila that made me giggle. Apparently, even saints have their days. You know: one of those days.

One day, Saint Teresa was riding a donkey en route from one convent to another. When they came to a big mud puddle, the donkey bucked her off, throwing her right into the mud and muck. Saint Teresa, who was in constant conversation with God, asked Him, "Why this?" He said to her, "This is the way I treat my friends." And in reply she said, "Then it is no wonder You have so few!"

Aside from knowing that even those regarded as saints had their moments of asking God "Why?", there is a truth in this tale of Saint Teresa, the donkey, and God, and it reminds me of what James and I are facing now with baby Ewan. Indeed, I think anyone who experiences a pain that drives them to ask God "Why?" can find an application here. Even when we know that no satisfactory answer will be provided in response to our question of "Why?", it is natural to ask it. Having the answer wouldn't make it hurt any less, nor would knowing help us endure what we suffer any better.
I have to ask myself honestly: could God really provide us with any answer that would cause us wholeheartedly and joyfully to embrace our pain?
For example, two of my cousins were killed in a violent car wreck when I was in my junior year of college. Bryan and Mike, 19 and 16 years old respectively, were both passengers. In one fell swoop, a mother and father lost both of their sons, their only children. While much good has come out of this in terms of the impact this personal testimony has had on others, while so much awareness has been raised, and while it is good to know in the wake of such devastating personal loss, beauty can rise from the ashes -- I know that not a day goes by that my aunt and uncle wouldn't jump at the chance to have their sons back. I know that.

And so even in my persistence of asking the question "Why?", I have to say honestly that there is not any answer I can conceive of that would make this any easier to bear or any more worth the enduring. I don't know that God could tell me anything about what will rise out of these circumstances that would make me say, "Oh. Okay. I get it now," and skip along barefoot and happily over the thorny and rocky path He's laid before us.

Knowing the why won't make those barefoot feet bleed or bruise any less.

So while this is not an answer to why the bad things happen and there's really not much satisfaction to be found in it, it is an answer of sorts. I'm asked to trust, which implies a not-knowing and not-seeing on my part. If I received the answers my questions drive at, there would be no room and no need for trust or for faith.

I don't know what, but I know Who, and that's where any surety I have must lie. I know He uses hardship to make us holy, to make us more like we were always meant to be -- in truth, to be like Him. So without trying to sound overly pious and pretty about any of this, in some divine up-is-down, you-must-lose-your-life-to-save-it kind of way, this could be one of the best, most loving, and most healing things God could ever do for us.

That's some crazy kind of love, isn't it?

* * * * *

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Hebrews 12:3-13 (ESV), emphasis mine


Sarah said...

Your insight here seems so important--whether or not we know WHY, we still have to trust. It's one step at a time, whether we know why or not.

Nadine said...

Beautiful post!

HennHouse said...

I agree... beautiful.