Posted On April 3, 2016
Matthew is going to be three this summer. As hard to believe as that is, it’s amazing to look back on the last several years and see how my life has changed along the way.
To be very honest, I wasn’t excited when I found out that Christina was pregnant. In fact, I was terrified. We’d only been married for about three months, and were still learning what it meant to be husband and wife. On top of that, we were barely making ends meet. So the thought of Christina being off work for a couple of months, plus all of the new expenses of diapers, clothes, etc. really concerned me, since we’d already cut out pretty much all of the extras from our budget to try to keep from dipping into our rapidly-depleting savings account every month.
Needless to say, things haven’t gone the way that I had feared, or ever could have anticipated. Shortly after finding out that Christina was pregnant, God blessed her with a full-time job that helped us pay off a fair amount of debt, which has since allowed her to be able to step away from that position so that she has been able to stay home with Matthew for about a year now. And so even though things are still tight, I know that by working together, and trusting God to provide for our needs, that we’ll be able to make it.
Even more than that though, I’ve learned so much more about my relationship with God through my relationship with Matthew than I ever could have believed. There are parallels that I see constantly that really make me stop and think. Probably the biggest and most consistent thread through our relationship so far is the realization that no matter how much I feel like I have a grasp on what’s happening in the world around me, that there’s so much more that I have no clue about.
This was struck home to me in a very real way about a month ago. Matthew woke up one morning with his eyes all goopy and with symptoms of a cold. We didn’t think much of it because they often go hand-in-hand with young kids like him, and a call to the doctor’s office reaffirmed our suspicion. After a couple of days when the goopiness didn’t go away, he started to get a little yellow bump on the white of his eyeball itself. This concerned us, so we took him to urgent care, and they told us that he had a cold, and gave us eye drops for the bump.
Matthew hated the eye drops, and fought against them with a strength that I never knew a 2 1/2 year old had in them.
This came to a head one evening when Christina and I were trying to give him his third dose for the day. We’d been trying everything we could to ease the discomfort he was experiencing with the drops, but still, as soon as he knew what was about to happen, he would revolt. We would have to team up, one person holding him down, and the other forcing his eyelids open in a desperate attempt to get a single drop to make its way past the defenses of a squirming, crying, fighting, flailing 30-month-old. It was heartwrenching, the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I would plead to him – please, just trust me. I know that this is hard, and feels awful, but you will feel so much better after this is over! But it didn’t seem to help. All he could see was the discomfort he knew was coming, and did everything in his power to avoid it. After it was all over, he’d curl up on our laps sobbing, and us doing the same. Even though we tried to explain to him what was happening, there is no way that he could grasp it.
I realized that evening that my relationship with God often echoes that. Stuff happens, and I cry out to God asking for Him to make it stop, to ease the pain. Sometimes I plead with him to let me know why this is happening. And yet, I realize that even if He did explain it to me, I wouldn’t be able to understand. Like Matthew, my understanding of the world around me is framed in by my ultimately very limited knowledge, experiences, and understanding. I feel like I can see the big picture, but in reality, I have only a small glimpse of what’s going on. In reality, it is very foolish to expect that we could ever fully understand the implications of what happens in our lives and in the world around us.
I’ve thought about this a lot since that evening, in the quiet parts of my commute, in the tumultuous times dealing with situations that awaken haunting memories of things gone by, in times of unrest, in peaceful times out in nature. I’ve realized how often we demand of God “Why do you let this happen?” And we expect Him to answer to us, to give an account for His decisions. And, when He does not answer in a way that satisfies our pain, we deem Him uncaring, indifferent, unjust, evil, or even nonexistent. It is a very childlike thing to do, even though we may feel justified in our heartbreak.
One thing that I’ve come to understand, and accept (most of the time anyhow :P) is that even though we simply cannot account, justify, or understand the senseless suffering in the world around us, that there is a place for it. It is through our compassion and ability to be actively involved in the world around us that we are able to extend God’s love to others, because many times God does answer our requests to know why something is happening – because the people He has called to address those situations have not done so for one reason or another. Ultimately, there do not have to be hungry people in this world. And yet many are, while we sit surrounded by more food than we could ever eat. There do not have to be people killed by monsters. And yet, we stand silent as they slaughter and rape and bring terror. There does not have to be poverty, or loneliness, or people with authority and power abusing their positions to take advantage of others. In countless situations, He answers our prayers for intervention by giving us the resources and opportunities to do what is necessary to see those answers come to fruition. And yet we vilify Him for our own inaction.
Even still, there are situations that are beyond our control. Sickness ravages those we love. Natural disasters destroy homes and take lives. Death, it seems, always comes too soon. And it makes no sense to us. We scream out in pain, asking why God would allow such things to happen. And yet, like Matthew’s reaction to the eye drops that brought ultimately brought him healing, we recoil from the One who simply says “I love you, please trust Me. Something bigger is going on than you can understand.”
In the end, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t understand why some things are allowed to happen. But at the same time, I also understand that there are forces acting in this world that are far beyond my comprehension, and One who has a very specific purpose for everything He allows to happen, good and bad. While I don’t like some of the things that happen, it would be foolish for me to think that I could ever fathom His motives, or predict His actions. Because an understandable, predictable god is no god at all.