I have a bruised theology. That is to say, I have learned how to get down on the ground right where the dust is in my teeth and wrestle with God till I come out of it all in bruises. No answers, no real relief, just the purple and black marks and the remembrance of the hot contention.
Life for me, and I suspect for some of you as well, has been a string of dark pearls composed of the hard pressed disappointments that only reality can perfect. A string of ugly truths and uglier lies, disappointments, regrets, surprises. Brilliant happiness. Putrid darkness. And whole vast valleys in between those times wherein lay the stuff of life. Doldrum, small pleasure, repetition.
What I often wonder about are the big mountains of my life. The summits of profound pleasure or the summits of my own devastation. The babies born, the vows and the love, the death sentence, the moves across the country. I wonder about the summits even as I sit in the dirt, stiff and soaked with the reckoning of another hearty wrestle with the Maker. I wonder because I genuinely thought we would have a break from the pounding of trials. I actually thought that, because we have spent the better part of the past decade in the business of keeping our son alive, we would have a respite. In the bowels of the battle for our boy’s life, I felt a fierce kinship toward the God who oversaw the whole business. But now we are approaching year two of battling a little known skin parasite that plagues us (in the most horribly Biblical meaning of ‘plague’), has caused us to throw away or store indefinitely nearly all of our earthly possessions, and spend thousands of dollars trying to find relief. Doctors are mystified and, just like with Jack’s rare heart disease, are ready to scratch their heads and quickly whisk us out the door. Now that we are knee deep in all of this refuse, I do not often feel a kinship or warmth toward God but instead I feel frequent volcanic bouts of fury.
This anger is new to me. Like a new suit I am not sure how to feel inside of. I deny it and press it down until is fizzles up to the surface anew and is in my face just as it had been. It is a curiosity to me. Like a visitor I am fascinated by even while I long for it to pack up and leave. But even as I am baffled and frazzled by the anger that visits, I am aware of a painful kind of growth. I have stepped away from the comforting triteness of the things I thought I believed and have come into a place full of sharp edges where I am forced to confront questions of God, the cosmos, the church; and come out of it all with hard won answers about where I am to stand in all of it. There is no comfort in all of this. As I sit at the plastic folding table in my house populated with only tubs of sanitized clothing and cots and air mattresses, as I feel the crawling of parasites on my skin, I am forced to face my fury at the prodigious unfairness of the constant battering our family has been through. It is absolutely relentless.
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination. “C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
To you, who are tempted to quote Job to me or to suggest that God does not give me more than that which I can handle, I would say that you might live a day in my shoes and see what kind of pretty compositions you’ll feel like making after that. To you, who know the vast desert of incomprehensible trials and who cannot fathom why it all seems so cosmically important that the deity of the universe continue to anoint your head with the blessings of pain, to you I am speaking. I am speaking to you because you are in the bad new club. You already know how irrationally disproportionate these horrors can be to the solid and steady lives of others around us. You already know what it feels like to shake your fist to the sky, begging for relief, only to be answered with rain on your face. We are clay vessels, destined to be burned, smothered, and dropped from high places with no relief of shattering. Just an endless surviving.
To you, dear heart, I write. God’s love is relentless, yes, and the things he allows to slip to his sifting box into our lives are profoundly unfair. To you, I write, contend. Wrestle. Fight. Wallow. Demand a blessing and expect one with a dislocation of the hip as a souvenir. That is the kind of untame love we are dealing with here. It hurts. And it’s bizarre. And it’s good.
“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion for I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Consider this little meandering bit of writing, me sitting in the ashes with you and doing no consoling. Consider yourself not alone in the fury or the palpable loneliness of grief.
One more quote.
God has not been trying an experiment on my. faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes. us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I pray for you in my broken way. You pray for me in yours.