Sunday, June 10, 2007

The weekend news

In one weekend the realities of the world we live in became remarkably clear. It's easy to push those truths aside, prevent them from entering our thoughts, until bad things happen to people we love.

One friend called to tell me a man she knows died suddenly. He left behind a wife and three children. This family had shared her joy of meeting their children in China. Now my friend would drive hours to share the grief. Then, a close friend much younger than me is having health problems. Spots were found on her lungs and she must undergo tests. Another young mom told me of her court date to find out if she has to send her one-year-old son to another state to stay with his vindictive father for a week each month. On Saturday night a friend called to tell me her little daughter had a raging fever from a tick bite.

I went to church Sunday morning and heard the news of another homeschooling mom, my hero with five adoptive children. She was taken to the hospital the day before with unusual symptoms. Before Sunday ended, an e-mail informed me she has invasive kidney cancer. I stared at the computer screen in disbelief, re-reading the news over and over. How can this be? Sorrow upon sorrow weighed heavily on me.

Somehow we think we might be spared horror and grief. If only we do all the right things, pray enough or have enough faith. We know that isn't true, really, but we play these games in our head. Just as God's gifts are given to all, we all suffer from living in this world. We know tragedy can strike anyone. But deep down we have this "it can't happen to me" mentality. I admit I was angry at God. How could he do this to people I love, to people who love him? Where is he in all this pain and fear?

It is a week later and my thoughts have turned around. I was talking to my friend who is partnering with us in hosting the Russian children this summer. I poured my outrage right on top of her head. She had no answers--who does? But she listened. My friend took me into her garden because she wanted to give me some roses. Several huge, old rose canes wound around beneath an arched trellis, trailing up and over it, the branches so laden with clusters of pale pink roses that they bowed over the top, ripe to be picked. Connie told me a bird had nested in the dense thicket and I searched for it. Finally I saw it, a nest so close I could reach out and touch, a small red tail peeping out. Connie handed me the roses as she cut them, the blossoms soft and delicate, the thorny stems ripping my hands. When she was finished she said simply, "God is good." My stinging cuts are a small price to pay to fill my kitchen with the heavenly scent of roses.

It seems such a contradiction. God is good? After I see the pain in all these hurt people? But I know it to be true. God did not create a world of sickness and evil. People have done that. We've polluted the air, the water, the food. Who knows where disease comes from? Self-centered people wanting only revenge don't care about a baby who needs his mother more than anything. Deer encroach on our yards, transferring disease, because we've taken their land away. We live in a world in turmoil and chaos.

My friend with cancer? Her adult daughter started a blog of prayers for her. A legion of faithful friends have stepped in with tangible help of childcare, transportation, house cleaning, and food for the family. An army of volunteers have signed on to cook for her family well into August. An avalanche of support has poured into her life. We can't fix her cancer, but we can be there for her. Jesus loves and cares for each of us through the hands of other people. She knows she is not forsaken by her friends nor by her God. Sometimes in our tragedies we see what others never will--the sacred presence of God.

If tomorrow I was diagnosed with an incurable disease would I rail against God and the unfairness of life? Maybe--for a short time. But then looking back I would see the gifts I've been given, the love I've had--my good mother, my precious children, my husband, siblings, dear friends, blessings upon blessings that have been showered upon me from the time I was a tiny child until now and I would be able to say with total honesty, "God is good."