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December 22, 2011

the question

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Who stands before a 20-year old man, looks him in the eye, fires off the question at point blank range? 

"Do you believe in God?"

With no warning. No caution. No pretense. My curious, mostly innocent 5-year old son can pull that off.

It was just two days ago that Owen and I talked about how not everybody goes to church. Or even believes in God. We talked about how they're not all bad people either, or at least no worse than us. Like some of our family and friends. Whom we love.

I obliged his wide eyed need for names, answering with a string of"yes, no, I don't know." Which apparently did not rest well with the boy. And now he waits. Just stands there. Expecting nothing more or less than an answer. The young man replies.

"I'm really not sure...."

Owen flashes his shy smile, pauses to take in. He sees that this question of his is something important, wants to say more. But he turns away, head stand flops into the couch.

I stand to the side, surprised by it all. Owen stating a sincere question. Cory answering him gently and honestly instead of brushing him off or saying what he thought was right. I tell you that I have greater respect for both of those boys.

It turns out that Cory and I both have a hard time reconciling a God of love, purpose, and design with cold brutality and random suffering. Design? What of suicide and whirlwinds, terrorists and earthquakes? What of the creepy things of the natural world that were apparently designed specifically to inflict pain and death?

The truth is that sometimes, I'm really not sure. I want to avoid the whole issue. But head stand flops onto the couch don't cut it when you're a big boy.

I try to remember that living faithfully and consistently is a more meaningful and difficult thing than making claims about faith. I wait out the skepticism. Cozy up to uncertainty. The truth of the matter simply cannot hinge upon transient feelings and emotions that often seem to appeal to whatever side of the fence we're not on.

And in the mean time I choose to live faithfully.

It may be a glimpse of beauty in a smile, a scenic view, or a song that dislodges the doubt. It may be an obligation or a cry. Sometimes a hunch is all it takes.

I may catch wind from the scientists. They say that our universe had a beginning, a fact which seems to beg for a cause. I just don't have enough faith in nothing to believe that all this something came from nothing. With new understanding of the quantum world, the scientists and philosophers agree that freedom reigns throughout nature, from our collective conscious down through the smallest units of matter. And with true freedom comes the potential for pain and consequences, along with meaning, joy, and love.

Love, serving and unconditional? Where on earth did that come from? What is the agnostics answer to the problem of all - this - beauty? Our ideas of courage, truth, justice, and mercy? Why do we have some transcendent appeal for the way things are supposed to be, and cry tears or "no fair" when they are not so?

This lack of reasonable explanation for so many things, it pushes me back to faith. And I know, without a doubt, how this faith pushes me away from my tendency of a fearful, vanilla, self concerned suckah.

I was nearly moved to tears before going to bed, when Owen asked me to pray for Cory, our not really sure, honest friend. I wasn't exactly certain..., but we did thank God for the chance to experience this life with Cory. We prayed that we would be good friends to Cory, that all of us would have our eyes open to see.

And I can't shake it. Can't contain the meaning of a child's simple faith and care with an appeal to science or reason. Can you see how God is with Owen on this? Jesus did say that his kingdom, the very place where God dwells, belongs to such as these.


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Anonymous said...

I have always believed in God. But when you have suffered over 20 years of depression & bipolar disorder--it makes it difficult to understand what your purpose on this earth is.

Cassandra Frear said...

Everyone has a history of suffering. Everyone has unanswered questions.

Although I have answered the general quandary of reconciling a loving God with suffering, for myself, with my particular history, it is an entirely different endeavor to help another find the answer.

Usually, the answer is a process with battles, valleys, and finally resting places. But it is a process, rather than a destination. Because we have not been given all the answers. Not yet.

Does that make sense?

Bob Gorinski said...

So well said, Cassandra. Having trustworthy friends and mentors with me through that process is what helped (helps) me the most.

Rebecca Trotter said...

Hmmmm . . . I just posted my own current ideas about suffering, faith, wisdom and fear of God on my blog not 5 minutes ago. I've been going through a really awful time - far beyond what is reasonable for a person to have to bear. I think that some suffering just is and other suffering is created because of both our own sins and the sins of others against us. But where ever it comes from, God is faithful to sustain us through our darkest trials. Trying to depend on anything else is just relying on an illusion which is vulnerable to change. Anyways, just seems like a bit of serendipity to find others thinking about the same questions I was just writing about. Good post!

denise said...

this touches my heart so much in that I personally know all of those involved in this exchange. The innocent question of a 5 year old boy opening all these posts, questions, thoughts and more is phenomenal. God is using little Owie already in his young life to touch the lives of many others. I am so very thankful.

Anonymous said...

Suffering is a process does make sense. I just hope so much to get back to a resting place & peace again. It is so frustrating that others can abuse their health & bring on their own health issues. Bipolar & mental diseases are often the "bad" luck of bad genes and a disease you deal with your whole life. And unfortunately it also turns family & friends against you.

Bob Gorinski said...

Checked out your link, Rebecca. That picture (with the eagle) sums it up pretty well. And on the positive side, this even more-so:

"His desire for us is that we be redeemed and living in unity with God and each other."

Bob Gorinski said...

Anon, It does seem that those who have not suffered chronic depression, anxiety, OCD have a serious barrier to understanding those who do.

And those who do live through these issues - they seem to have a depth of grace, gentleness, and understanding that's far beyond (and possibly unattainable) those who do not suffer in this manner.

I definitely don't mean to say that mental disease is a gift, not at all. But I do imagine that it allows an individual a certain place and purpose in the world.

Anonymous said...

The faith of a child has a way of sprouting, shooting up through rocks and brambles. It seems to show up where it doesn't belong. Like a child's question.

But even when faith appears out of place, when it doesn't seem to make sense or fit into the scene, it still somehow grows. It's rooted in the unseen and inexplicable. And yet it, in time, will bear fruit.

Such a mystery. We stand on our heads and fall over, again and again. Your post does a great job of capturing so much of the tension involved. I could hear the brambles shake and the rocks begin to shift about. A new year is coming. More growth is coming, too.

Thankful to David Rupert @ The High Calling for leading me over here. A great read.

Bob Gorinski said...

",...rooted in the unseen and inexplicable."

This comment gave me pause, Matthew. Thanks for stopping by!

Sam Van Eman said...

Humble reflections from an honest dad. Thanks, Bob.

I'm glad this got highlighted at It's something, well, actually a lot of things, that many of us wrestle with.

So much easier to head stand flop.