Heaven renders unanswerable “why” questions irrelevant and inspires us to live with them in hope. Gregory A. Boyd
Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many! Mother Teresa
Back at the beginning of the bleakness, over Chinese food my friend Joe asked me if my faith in God was in tact since life had become so incomprehensibly dark for me. He was concerned for me and wanted to know how to best support me in my dark night of the soul. I told him that though I didn’t question God’s character, I wondered if he had very “good judgment.” Joe and I had been friends for many years, and he wasn’t used to hearing me talk quite that way, but since he asked, I thought it best to answer honestly. With flushed face he promised to pray for me, which I obviously needed and gratefully welcomed.
Since I was giving God the silent treatment for a while it’s a good thing I had a boatload of praying friends. It’s the old passive-aggressive approach to letting him know I wasn’t happy with they way he was treating me at the time. I wasn’t willing to converse with him since he was apparently not on my side – for reasons I couldn’t figure – so sometimes I wrote him poison-pen letters in my journal. My prayers were more pissy than praisy, but it’s what I had at the time.
Here’s one of those journal entries from that season – edited for a PG rating:
I have to say that I don’t like you very much at the moment. How could you make these bad things happen to me or fail to protect me from them? Is that what you call having my back?
I’m sure that I don’t know enough about how things work to be able to accuse you, but it seems to me that in some of your planning you forgot about insignificant me. I don’t know if you caused my marriage to dissolve, my neck to fracture, or cancer to enter my blood; but at least you allowed these things. So, what’s up with that?
How do I reconcile this with all the promises in your Word about you protecting us? I know that I don’t really deserve anything except judgment, and I should probably watch my mouth, but I thought you’d have done a better job of taking care of me. It’s not like I haven’t had almost forty years worth of conversations with you. Maybe you could’ve given me a bit of a heads up!
When I first entered my dead-of-night-dark I had little hope that the light would ever reappear. I began to learn how to let myself and others off the hook, but there was still something stuck inside. I continued to be pretty jammed up with dejection. “I’m forgiving them. I’m forgiving me. Now what?”
It began to occur to me that unless I wanted to die there in the dark I was going to have to learn to forgive in a third direction. I have to forgive those who’ve done me dirty, forgive myself for doing dirty to others, and – stay with me – forgive God for allowing dirty to be done to me. This last part was new to me, and maybe to you.
What’s this about “forgiving God”? How could God need anyone’s forgiveness? He doesn’t make mistakes, and even if he did, who are we to forgive him?
OK, maybe expressing it that way isn’t precisely biblical, but it got my attention to think of it like that, as it probably got yours. When it comes to God, I admit that we’re the forgive-ees not the forgivers. He’s the only one in our world who never needs to repent of anything. But at the time it felt like he’d broken his vows to me. I was pretty p***ed at him for a while.
I remember the day when I realized that if I was going to get off the exasperating oval track on which I was looping and turn into the pit (pit stop) for repairs I was going to have to deal with how I felt about the Lord. Even if it wasn’t technically true that I needed to forgive him, something like it had to come down.
I took a deep breath and forced out the words, “Lord, I forgive you for letting me down.” I needed to let him off the hook for what I thought he could’ve/should’ve done differently. Though it didn’t take long for me to revise the wording into terminology that was more in keeping with the Bible, that’s where I began. When I said this out loud, something began to break loose in me. The logjam of bitterness commenced to break up one tree trunk at a time. This was the beginning of my disillusionment incrementally melting away and our friendship being rekindled. He gently blew on the smoldering embers of my fascination with him and my love for him reignited.
I wasn’t forgiving him as much as adjusting my way of thinking to match his way of acting. I admitted to him and to myself that I wasn’t smart enough to figure out the why’s and wherefore’s of what was happening to me. I was recovering the childlike trust that he installed in me at the beginning of our friendship.
Soon the tables turned and I found myself asking him to forgive me for blaming him for abandoning me in the interminable tunnel. “I’m sorry, Lord, for accusing you of failing me. Forgive me for doubting your goodness and your loving intentions toward me.” It’s my good fortune that he’s painfully patient and an expert forgiver. I wept as I felt his arms around me like the father of prodigious love with his prodigal son come home.
When I was especially aggravated by the arbitrariness of life, my truster had slowed to almost a complete stop. God does seem arbitrary at times in how he doles out his help, not because he is, but because the world we live in is so unfathomably complex. But then my “Why’s” started to dissipate and my truster began to heal.
As he held me close to his chest I started to realize that it was my truster that was broken, not his trustworthiness. Like a virus-infected hard drive unable to read certain downloads, my hacked heart couldn’t seem to trust the way in which it had been accustomed. Until then he’d always been good to me, and I loved him for it. But when his goodness became bad to me, I shut down. As I let him off the hook of needing to run his world my way, he was able to decant his love into the cracks of my broken heart.
I fell in love with him again, but in a new way.