Tag Archive | parenthood

Jesus in the lilies

Now that we’re on the verge of Pentecost, I think enough time has passed that I can share this story without cringing too much.  I’ve debated all these weeks whether or not I should share this with you, and I’m still on the fence.  But I’m coming down on the side of sharing, because as parents – and for those of us who are pastors – we are constantly being surprised and tripped up by the questions and actions of others (especially children) – and just in case this has happened, or does happen to anyone in the future, you can have a good laugh, knowing you’re not the only one.

It’s a story, not a theological reflection – but it certainly involves theology!  It also requires some set-up, and for that I apologize, but I think you’ll understand why in the end.  It also might stretch the bonds of taste for some, so if you’re offended by gross things kids do sometimes, and a parent’s/pastor’s need to think quick and go with the flow, then you might not want to read on.  You’ve been warned.

Ok, here goes…

image1)  Lutherans, for the most part, have a pretty “high” theology of Communion.  We don’t quite rise to the level of Roman Catholics, but we’re pretty close.  For us, when Jesus said, “This IS my body,” “This IS my blood,” we believe he meant it.  It is more than a symbol for us. Somehow, someway, in a mystery known only to God, Jesus is truly present, (to use the Lutheran phrase) “in, with and under” the bread and wine.

Therefore, we treat the elements of Communion with great respect. Once worship is over, the “leftover” elements are either consumed, stored with care, or returned to the earth from which they came.  Many sacristies (the room where worship supplies and vestments are stored) have special sinks, with drains that go directly into the ground, separate from other plumbing, so that while cleaning communion vessels, the elements are indeed returned to the earth.

artisan-challah-bread2)  Communion at the Easter Vigil is different in my husband’s congregation.  It is the one worship service in the whole year when they don’t use standard wafers for Holy Communion – regular bread is used instead.  The congregation uses Challah to celebrate the resurrection, since that is the Jewish bread used on the Sabbath and holy days.  Practice for the chalice, however, stays the same.  The congregation uses a chalice for wine and another for grape juice, and folks are able to either drink directly from the chalice or dip the bread into it (called intinction).

Okay – set up is done…

I am a mother AND a pastor but I try mostly to be “just mom” to my kids, injecting pastor stuff only when necessary. They need space from church, just like me.  Once in a while, however, the pastor takes over.  This happened the night before Easter, at my husband’s Easter Vigil worship service.  I had no formal role in this service, except that of mom, which was fine with me.  I sat with my son and was a proud mama for my two daughters who were helping with worship.  Everything was wonderful – the candlelight, chanting and readings, redressing the altar, the smell of the flowers – – – until Communion.

My son and I knelt next to one another at the communion rail and received Jesus’ body from my husband (remember Challah bread, not wafers).  I ate immediately as is my custom and received the chalice with wine.  My son, as is HIS custom, held the bread then dipped it in the grape juice. Thankfully my teenage daughter was a chalice-bearer, because lost in my own thoughts and prayers with my eyes closed I didn’t notice what was happening.  My daughter leaned over to me and whispered, “Mom! Help him, he looks like he’s going to throw up!”  I looked and my poor son was GAGGING. Gagging on Jesus!  He had a look of horror on his face as his hand covered his mouth.

lilies“I can’t!” he managed in a panicked whisper.  In twenty years of ordained ministry nothing like this had EVER happened to me before.  Think quick!  Think quick!  I took his free hand and quickly led him out of the worship space and through the narthex (fancy word for foyer) and he started to turn towards the stairs and bathrooms.  I said, “NO WAY.  You come with me,” and we walked straight outside into the dark cold night.  I told him, “Spit it out here.”  The poor kid bent over and out onto the ground came Jesus, in the middle of the blooming lilies by the church doors.  Once my son composed himself, before we went back inside, he and I sat and had a conversation about #1 above. The mom in me comforting him, the pastor in me wanting to make sure things were done properly and that he understood why I made him go outside and not to the bathroom.

Afterwards, when I was processing all of this I realized that it was my son’s first Easter Vigil as a communicant.  He had never had Challah and grape juice together before.  Obviously they’re a BAD combination for him!  So he and I also decided that next year should receive communion in “one kind.”  (Lutherans are pretty adamant to have the body AND blood for distribution, but people are free to abstain from one or the other.  Another pastoral/personal conversation – my poor son!)

My kids always keep me on my toes – as a mom AND as a pastor.  Just when I think I’ve seen it all…

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Communion

Holy Communion is one of the joys of my life – both as a presider and as a communicant.  The comfort and strength I receive from the sacrament are immeasurable.  The closeness I feel to Jesus when I receive him in the bread and wine is palpable.  I didn’t think it was possible that my comprehension and appreciation for this great gift could get any deeper, but it has in the most unexpected way.

In December my oldest child became an assisting minister at my husband’s congregation (my congregation of membership too, but not the congregation where I serve).  The assisting minister processes with the pastor, reads the scripture during worship, leads the congregation in many prayers, and assists with the distribution of Holy Communion as one of the chalice-bearers.  I was armed with my camera, poised to take unobtrusive pictures when appropriate.  I’m a proud mama!

I had decided that I would receive the chalice from my daughter to show her my support.  I knelt at the altar, hands outstretched to hold the chalice, but when the time came I was quite unprepared for what happened.  She came to me – this daughter who I carried, this child who I nursed, this girl who I held as she cried through the worst times of her life – and said, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”  And I almost broke down.  The weight of that moment, profound in its words, but most of all in the young woman before me who spoke them, was almost unbearable.  I was shaken, not in fear, but by hearing the gospel given to me by my daughter.  Suddenly our roles were completely reversed.  I was kneeling before her.  I was receiving the Lord from her.  I was the needy one, looking up, waiting to be nourished.

I would like to say it was awesome – but that word is too overused in our culture, and has come to mean something more akin to “great” or “fantastic!”  So I’ll say the experience filled me with awe:  awe for the life-journey of the young woman who fed me, and awe for our God who comes to us anew in the most unexpected times and places. It was a strong reminder to me of how God works through each one of us, using our strengths and our weaknesses. How the seemingly weakest/smallest/least significant among us can play a tremendous role.  How the young can teach the old,  the weak lift up the strong, the marginalized preach to the strong.  We are a motley group, we Christians.  Struggling with sin, kneeling equally before the altar as beggars, and receiving the body and blood of forgiveness.

Of course I knew all this before.  It’s not like I didn’t know that we’re equal before God, or that I could learn and receive from my children.  But once in a while, when our hearts and spirits are open, we can experience an old, well-worn thing, a beautiful gift, a wonderful treasure, with fresh perspective.  Like finding a new detail in a favorite painting.  And all we can do when we have this experience is let it flow over us – and thank God.

my daughter recessing at the end of worship with my husband

my daughter recessing at the end of worship with my husband

I’m sorry

It was a snowy Saturday afternoon and the streets had not yet been plowed.  At around 5pm my teenager asked me if I could drive her to her boyfriend’s house.  I looked at her incredulously.  “Don’t you know it’s snowing out?  The roads haven’t even been plowed.  Plus it’s getting dark and it’s only getting colder.  I’m sorry honey, but not tonight.”

My teenager is an awesome person.  She is so caring, so kind, always looking out for the marginalized, always rooting for the underdog.  She is often wise beyond her years.  But then she does something that reminds me she is still only a teenager, with normal wild teenage hormones and developmentally appropriate selfishness.  Problem is, I still haven’t figured out when I will welcome the one and have to brace myself for the other!

Suddenly I was being attacked.  I was unreasonable, unfair.  She hadn’t seen her boyfriend all week and couldn’t I understand?  Didn’t I care?  I kept my cool, repeated myself and told her I honestly felt bad about it but our minivan isn’t great in the snow and the driving would only get worse – I was sure the roads would be better tomorrow and I would happily drive her to visit him then.  But for some reason, my comments only exacerbated the situation and she became even more worked up.  Now, I was being told (loudly!) that I never did anything for her, and she stormed away from me, went to her bedroom and slammed the door.  I had been hit with the developmentally appropriate selfish monster.  wow.

My parenting style is quite different from the one I grew up with.  I wasn’t allowed to express anger towards my parents, what they said was law and that was the end of it.  I wanted my children to have something different.  I didn’t want them to be afraid to be angry – at anyone.  So, once in a while in our house things will get loud – and I’m ok with that.  We DO have certain rules of respect – ways we can talk (and NOT talk) to each other – but as long as we stay within those parameters my husband and I generally let things play out.  The other behavior we try to model for our children is confession and forgiveness.  Our children know we are not perfect.  I’ve been saying I’m sorry to my kids about stuff since they were babies.  In my sermon on Ash Wednesday last week I challenged the popular phrase, “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” with the truth, which is, “love means having to say you’re sorry A LOT.”  If we love someone, and we’ve hurt them in some way, even if we couldn’t avoid it, it’s important to acknowledge it, and ask for forgiveness if called for, or have compassion for their feelings if we stand by our actions.  Of course, since we’re religious folks, we’re also modelling a good faith practice – you know, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….

  • Sometimes I’m sorry is an offering of confession and request for forgiveness. “I know I did something wrong and I hope you forgive me.”
  • Sometimes I’m sorry is an offering of compassion and consolation.  “I know you’re hurt or angry about what I did/said, and although I stand by it, I do care for you and feel badly, and want to be here for you,” or simply “I’m sorry for your loss.”

In this case, there was nothing I could do for my daughter.  The I’m sorry I said to her at the beginning of this story fell into the second category.  I really did feel badly that I couldn’t take her, but I would not be changing my mind and driving on dangerous roads.  I made a decision that caused her hurt, and I couldn’t change the situation.   I offered her compassion but she got angry with me and lashed out.

About a half hour later my daughter came into my bedroom quietly, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry I got angry with you before.”  THIS was an example of the first I’m sorry – confession and forgiveness.  Internally I was cheering for her bravery and maturity, and at having a part in the raising of this amazing young woman – YES!  Externally I remained calm and replied, “Thank you.  I really do feel badly you can’t see him tonight, and I WILL take you tomorrow.”  I accepted her confession, she accepted my compassion, and we were reconciled.  (And she DID see her boyfriend the next day!)

sorry 3

For the record, the first kind of I’m sorry is MUCH harder to do!  It takes courage to admit when we’re wrong.  It takes trust to acknowledge to another person that we have done/said/acted in a way that hurt them.  It takes humility to place ourselves before another and ask for pardon.  It’s risky!  What if they say no?  What if they take our confession and toss it back in our face?  What if they don’t believe our sincerity?  What if they hurt me in return? In the second instance the one who causes the hurt still has control and power – but in the first instance, in confession, we relinquish power and control.

When we confess, we make ourselves vulnerable.

Certainly I’m sorry is a hope for reconciliation with the other, but it begins with our desire to take responsibility.  So, even if the other person isn’t ready to forgive, we have taken the first step (acknowledgment of wrong) and opened up the possibility of dialog and restoration.  In our walk of faith there may indeed be times when our confession is rejected by the other.  It’s not a good feeling, but in that instance we need to focus on our confession and willingness to repent instead of the person’s reaction.  We need to pray for them in their journey of healing, because forgiveness is important to both parties – the one who commits the offense and the one who is hurt.  If there is reparation to be done in order for reconciliation to happen, then we do it.

Above all, we need to remember that while forgiveness in human relationships may be risky and imperfect, divine forgiveness is NOT.  There may be earthly consequences for our actions.  This is part of making amends.  There may be times we’ve hurt people and the relationship cannot be saved.  But our relationship with God is one of eternal love.  God certainly isn’t happy with us when we sin, especially when that sin causes harm to our neighbor.  But God is always present to hear and accept our confession, and to grant us absolution.  The human party may not be ready to grant forgiveness, but God always is.  And unlike human relationships that may be permanently broken, our relationship with God is forever, through no doing of our own.

One of disciplines of Lent is repentance (remorse or contrition for past conduct or sin).  As we practice this discipline in our lives, I hope we take special notice of all the I’m sorrys we hear – the ones we speak, and the ones spoken to us.  It really is an amazing thing – I’m sorry – it holds so much power to reconcile and restore – both in our human relationships and in our relationship with God.

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent.  Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (prayer for Ash Wednesday)

Why did God made me autism?

I was sitting in bed, browsing the internet, minding my own business, when my 14 and 11 year old daughters entered the room.  My oldest had a look of “help!” on her face.  They walked over and sat on the bed and my oldest said to her sister, “Bekah, ask Mommy what you were just asking me.”  Bekah looked a little timid, which is unusual for her, then asked,

“Mommy, why did God made me autism?” 

(This is an exact quote.  One of her many issues is that she has problems with verb tenses and sentence structure.)  I’m glad I was in bed and not standing up because I think I might have fallen over.  We had the “autism talk” with her a few months ago, and while it’s come up here and there in passing, she has not approached near this depth of thought about it, at least verbally.  I have had years to work out my own beliefs about God causing things and have even written a bit about it here, but putting all my thoughts and beliefs in words that would make sense to her left me momentarily speechless.  Yet there she was, looking at me, waiting for an answer – one of those lovely terrifying parental moments.  I took a big breath then dived in.

Here’s how it went – paraphrased of course – – –

Me:  Honey, God didn’t give you autism.  Sometimes things just happen.     B:  How come?     Me:  Well, every one of us is different right?  Some of us have brown hair, some people have blue eyes, some people are tall and some are short.  Sometimes people have special challenges too.  Sometimes a person might need a wheelchair because their legs don’t work right, or remember that girl in your dance class that only had one hand?  I know that having autism can be hard sometimes, but God didn’t give it to you, God helps you so you can be strong and work hard and be the wonderful girl you are!

B:  Did I get it in your belly?     Me:  I don’t know.  Some very smart doctors think maybe autism starts in the mommy’s belly, other smart doctors think it happens after you’re born.     B:  Oh.  Did my friends get autism in their mommy’s bellies?     Me:  We don’t know about them either.  You know there are THOUSANDS of kids and grown-ups with autism all over the world and the doctors don’t know for sure if it starts in the mommy’s bellies or happens after they’re born.  It’s the same with all those people as it is with you.

B:  Do the kids at (the other program site where they have classes for more challenged “lower functioning” kids) have autism too?     Me:  Yep.  There are all different ways people have autism.  You know there’s lots of kids at (the other site) who don’t talk right?     B:  Yes.     Me:  Well, some people with autism have a really hard time talking, and some kids like you talk really well!  But you took a long time to talk and had to work really hard, and we’re so proud of you!     B:  Yeah!

She seemed satisfied at that point and bounced away happily to play while my oldest stared at me with a look of “I can’t believe what just happened.”  She got up slowly and left the room too – then I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief that it was over.

I asked my daughter later what made her think of that original question, “Why did God made me autism?”  And she casually replied, “I don’t know.”  She has been asking more questions about God lately, but putting the two together as a “cause and effect” was a big leap.  There’s definitely a lot going on in that beautiful brain of hers.

You may completely disagree with the answer I gave my daughter about her autism.  It may give you comfort to think that God is in control of the details of our everyday lives.  But that thought has never comforted me.  For me that would make God a dispenser of pain and suffering.  I believe that God is THE loving presence who gives us strength to persevere,  carries us through our pains, comforts us in the midst of our suffering and gives us hope that we are more than the things that challenge us.

God heals our ills, God doesn’t cause them.

We Go Together

My autistic daughter is in a self-contained special education classroom.  However, there are a few activities where she joins the “typical” kids, and that’s called “inclusion.”  With an aide she participates in library, art and music.  Music is undoubtedly her favorite.  She is in the fifth grade chorus and has gone from the little kid who had to be pulled off the stage screaming in fear to the eleven year old who sings with gusto and does whatever hand motions the chorus director asks.

She is now practicing for the spring concert.  She is singing in her room, in the family room, and even in the shower.  And the song she’s practicing that is getting to me the most is “We Go Together” from the Broadway musical and movie “Grease.”  I have my issues with the story of a girl who feels the need to change herself for a man, but as an old Olivia Newton-John fan I can’t help but like the movie.  At first I just thought it was cute that they were singing this song.  But then I kept hearing her sing over and over, “We go together… together forever…” and thought of the title the song, and the significance of my daughter singing it with her typical peers.

Alright, I know I’m reading too much into it – I know it’s a simple song about high school graduation – but I can’t help myself.  As the mother of an autistic child I have felt A LOT of pain over my daughter’s inability to belong (be together) with her typical peers and navigate academia and social situations.  Her, along with her typical peers, singing “We Go Together” speaks volumes about our common humanity, responsibility to each other, and belonging (something which almost every autistic parent hopes for for their child).  It also speaks to our Christian faith and that, to borrow from Genesis as well as from Jesus in Matt. 25, we ARE our brothers’ keepers.

My daughter “goes together” with the whole 5th grade chorus and they “go together” with her.  We’re ALL in this mess called life “together.”  They will stand before the audience and proclaim on a level they don’t even understand that this autistic girl goes with them, along with the other autistic children from her class in the chorus, along with the boy with the hearing aid, the girl who speaks little English, the girl in the wheelchair, and the boy who is struggling with his ADHD, the kids going through messy divorces, the child whose dad is fighting cancer, the children who are suffering abuse.  In our happiness and in our sadness; in our wholeness and our brokenness, WE GO TOGETHER.  We are in communion with one another, all loved equally by God who created us, each of us in our own pain and joy, most of which is known only to God.  TOGETHER FOREVER.

My daughter and the rest of the 5th grade chorus do not see the weight I have put on to what should be a simple, fun song.  But for me it’s there now and I can’t “unsee” it.  You and I, we go together.  We belong to each other.  It’s a profound and beautiful thing.  And when I see her singing it with that wonderful group of beautiful children, I’m going to need a few tissues…

Lenten struggle

When my husband and I were first married we used to “do” Lent together.  We would decide on something to sacrifice, where we would give our alms, explore a devotional together – and support one another in our journey.  This is what we call the discipline of Lent:  prayer, fasting, almsgiving (or works of love).  That was a long time ago.

After 19 years a lot has changed, and I struggle now with Lent.  I still find it deeply meaningful to reflect on my faith – its strengths and weaknesses, where I could improve in my practice of my relationship with the Lord and my neighbors.  Perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s parenthood.

When you’re 25 and giving up chocolate for 40 days it’s an adventure – a craving to conquer.  Now, I’m less concerned with what to give up and more concerned with giving more time to my children as they grow up before my eyes.  When you’re 29 and the only major expense you have is your student loan, it’s not so hard to set aside some extra dollars for World Hunger.  Now with doctor bills, jiu jitsu classes, baseball, groceries, clothes for always growing children, the hope that maybe even ONE of them will go to college, that we haven’t had a raise in years and that we already MORE than tithe, it’s downright hard to think of giving extra.  When you’re young and it’s just the two of you there’s lots of “time” on your hands to pray, listen to music, read, go hiking – any of the many things that can feed your soul.  Now I’m lucky if I manage to shower each day, let alone devote extra time to prayer.

Lent just isn’t what it used to be.  But maybe that’s the point.  As we grow in years, and hopefully in wisdom and faith as well, our practices will change as WE change.

Perhaps now instead of giving up something like chocolate, the fast should be more “cerebral” in nature.  Some people talk about fasting from bad attitudes, and I think that’s infinitely better for our faith and the sake of the world than 40 days without a Hershey bar.  For me, at this point in my life, I should probably fast from the computer.  Not that I could do without it completely in the world we live in now.  But this Lent I will try to spend less time looking at the screen, and more time looking into the faces of my children.

This Lent I may not give extra financial gifts – but I can make better use of the time I give to help neighbors in need and my church.  After all, giving alms isn’t just about giving money.  Alms are works of love that benefit our neighbors and our community.  If you find yourself financially strapped, then it is perfectly appropriate to give of your time or a talent.

Prayer is a tough one.  How can we say that we already pray enough?  Obviously we can NEVER pray enough.  And it’s not surprising that with three kids, all of whom have their special challenges, my time to enjoy the things that feed my soul, prayer included, suffer.  At least I’ve started playing guitar again, but that was really because the church needed a guitarist for its band.  I’ve enjoyed doing that, but honestly it IS work.  So extra prayer time?  Ha.  Except, instead of setting aside time in the chair, or time at the table with a devotional, just maybe I could spend that precious shower time in communion with God.  I mean, honestly, what better time could you have to reflect on your baptism and what that means than when water is pouring over you, making you feel clean and refreshed?  It’s perfect really.  It’s a re-orienting of how my time is spent, not trying to find “extra” time.

So, the struggle of Lent for me has been one of changing how I do it, as the person I am has changed.  It’s not as simple as it used to be, but neither is my life.  And while I used to see that as a bad thing, I now understand it’s all part of growing up – both in years, and in faith.

There are no “rules” for how each person can do Lent.  It’s a matter of exploring and strengthening where we are on our journey of faith.  However you find yourself doing that my prayers are with you, and I ask that yours be with me as well.  Blessed Lent…

Theodicy (a conversation with my teenage daughter)

*originally written Jan. 16, 2014

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but parenting is HARD.  Parenting a teenager is often painful.  My 14 year old daughter is sharper than a tack.  She is constantly challenging my husband and me, purposely pushing our buttons – trying to get a “rise” out of us.  She’s great at testing limits.  So I  guess she’s doing exactly what a teenager is supposed to do.

But the other night something unusual happened.  As we were finishing dinner she told my husband point blank that she wanted to talk to ME about God, not him, that she wasn’t looking for his opinion, she wanted mine.  I’m sure it pained my husband deeply not to get involved since he’s the talker of the two of us, and theological conversations are to him like chocolate is to me – can’t resist.  It might sound at first like she was being hurtful or rude to her father, but you need to understand that at this point in her life her father is also her pastor.  That’s tough.  And she is going through confirmation instruction so he is also her Sunday School teacher right now – so she hears him talk about God more than enough.  Her mom, the quiet one?  Not so much.  Because I serve another congregation, she has hardly ever heard me  preach, let alone teach a class at church.

So, I ended up having a Theodicy 101 class with my daughter after dinner.  FYI – definition – Theodicy: (from Greek theos, “god”; dikē, “justice”), explanation of why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil. The term literally means “justifying God.”

Her questions flew, fast and furious – so urgent, so important.  Why did God allow the Jews to die in the Holocaust?  If Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, then why doesn’t he raise people now?  Why do babies get sick and die?  Why didn’t God save our friends’ son who committed suicide?  Why are there people suffering and dying in Syria and I’m living in comfort and safety?

She was actually looking for answers, not a fight.  I was SO proud of her for her deep thoughtfulness, her desire to make sense out of what she is seeing in the world around her.  Yet also saddened because this is an example of how her intense thoughtfulness also contributes to her adolescent angst that keeps me up at night. Anyway, here’s the gist of what I told her, purely from my perspective, based on what I’ve learned about God and my experience of God.  And I thought I would share it with you as well.

God is not a puppeteer – we are not puppets that God manipulates.  In creation God gave us freedom – freedom to choose good or evil.  When a 12 year old boy walks into his school gym and shoots people (which happened a few days ago in New Mexico, USA), that boy is using his freedom to do evil.  God didn’t “make” him do it.  When a teacher stood in front of him, with the gun pointed at his face, and talked the boy into giving up, that teacher used his freedom to do good.

God does not cause suffering – ever.  God manifests God’s self in healing, not destroying.  God weeps over injustice.  God was there IN the gas chambers of the concentration camps, just as God is profoundly WHEREVER there is suffering – whether it be on the global scale of the Holocaust, or the small (but individually great) scale of a child growing up in an alcoholic home, a wife abused by her husband, a boy bullied at school, or the man lying in bed dying of cancer.

As Christians (as human beings really), God works through us to bring justice to the world.  We are God’s hands and feet.  It’s our calling as disciples to be advocates and workers to sow love and peace in a world of suffering and violence.  If my daughter sees suffering in Syria, it is her call to do whatever she can to end it.  It may be something as seemingly insignificant as praying, or giving part of her allowance to a relief organization, or writing  letters to our congressman or the president, but that is her part.

But, you know, we cannot understand all of God.  God is so much bigger than the human mind can comprehend.  We can know some things, but we cannot know all things.  I’m not afraid to admit my ignorance, even to my children and my parishioners.   I do not know why babies get sick and die.  I do not know why some people die in a car accident and some live.  I do not know why my other daughter has autism.  I do not know why, despite their best efforts, our friends’ son took his own life.  But I do know that God did NOT cause these things.

You may point to parts of scripture where it seems that God causes bad things to happen.  The FLOOD is probably the best example, and the whole book of Job.  My understanding of scripture is that, while it is certainly inspired by God, it was not written by God.  The writers saw events, and interpreted them through the eyes of their faith, just as we do today.  The idea that Job was tested by God, for me, is how the people around Job interpreted his situation.  Life was making no logical sense for them, so if Job’s life was spiraling out of control, God must be doing it.  I see things differently – shit happens, sometimes life just plain sucks.  Bad things DO happen to good people.  Does God cause it?  I think not.  The God I know in Jesus would rather die himself then cause us to suffer.

This doesn’t mean that good cannot come from “bad” things.  I firmly believe that God, as a source of healing, can help us to find some good lesson or purpose or mission as a result of our going through suffering.  My suffering has made me a much better person, a more compassionate pastor, and an infinitely more patient wife and mother.

Still, mystery is a hard thing to sit with, so many people would rather believe that God gives us cancer, or muscular dystrophy, or autism, or allow us to be raped or abused, or that certain people must somehow “deserve” to be oppressed and victimized.  But I’ll say it again, that is not the God I’ve come to know in Jesus.

By the end of this completely unanticipated conversation, I was emotionally and cognitively spent.  My daughter seemed comforted, which was my whole intention, but I was completely drained.  Parenting an adolescent is much less about physically managing the child and much more about reinforcing values and toughing it out through the periodic, unplanned and intense conversations.

HARD stuff.  Takes me out of my comfort zone of silence.  Makes my brain hurt.  But in the end, these are the conversations that will bind us, not only as mother and daughter, but as sisters in Christ.  And they are worth the effort.