Monday, August 2, 2010

I Am Baffled, but Grateful

"If we acknowledge god when a child gets better, then we are also obliged to acknowledge god when the child dies."

That quote is true only if we assume God saves all who live and does not save all who die. Reality baffles me - specifically because it's not so black and white. I have a child who has been spared quite dramatically, but I also have family who have died quite traumatically.

I have an aunt who choked at the dinner table - in front of four of her kids - while two others were serving missions - while my uncle was a very faithful bishop. While one of the kids called 911, he tried to bless her to live until she could receive proper medical care. He opened his mouth and nothing came out. He broke contact, tried again, and nothing happened. He relaxed, cleared his mind and blessed her to die quickly and peacefully. She was dead before the paramedics arrived.

I have an uncle who died from a bee sting to the neck. He was given a conscious choice to remain dead or return to his family. He chose to return - having felt incredible peace and joy in death, but also having seen what would happen particularly to one of his sons.

My wife has an aunt who had seven children at home when she was killed in a car accident as she was turning into her driveway. She had been distracted and swerved into the path of an oncoming car. Her death caused ripple effects among her kids. Some people said, "It was her time; God must have called her home." I can't buy that, since I can't believe God caused her to be distracted so she could die that day and leave behind children whose lives were impacted so negatively.

So, I am left baffled and puzzled. He saves some; he binds the mouths of some as others die; he sits back while drunks and crack addicts and abusive parents kill others. It would be very easy to eliminate him completely from the picture and chalk it ALL up to nothing more than chance - but I can't eliminate what I have come to understand through the blessings in which I have participated and the real "saving" I have witnessed. I know he saves some, so I am left to wonder why He does not save others.

I don't see the big, full picture, and, ironically, it is the small glimpses I do get here and there that keep me from abandoning the idea that there is one - even when I have no real clue what those glimpses mean. Even though they leave me baffled, I am grateful for them.


Anonymous said...

How can you be sure God saves any? An analysis would seem to require assessing the frequency of serendipitous recoveries among the unfaithful and comparing it to what can be observed among LDS. Do you not suppose that the wicked and unfaithful also have amazingly improbable rescues and recoveries? Where it is a matter of "faith," other faith traditions seem to achieve similar results to ours, which is all probably attributable to manipulating psychological principles. I personally believe that God prohibits himself from intervening to modify the mortal experience. Mortality is what it is, and for reasons unknown to us, He does not change it for some of his children, and leave others to suffer.

Papa D said...

"How can you be sure God saves any?"

I have had two experiences personally that have no basis in "manipulating psychological principles". I am not claiming all apparent savings are real savings, and I never will. I am saying, however, that I personally am aware of some that cannot be explained away in any way that makes sense to me - even knowing what I know of psychological principles.

"Do you not suppose that the wicked and unfaithful also have amazingly improbable rescues and recoveries? Where it is a matter of "faith," other faith traditions seem to achieve similar results to ours"

Absolutely - and nothing in my post denies that or limits the miraculous to "the faithful" or "believers" or "Christians" or LDS members. That's part of why I am baffled.

"I personally believe that God prohibits himself from intervening to modify the mortal experience."

This is where we disagree, at least in the exclusive wording of your statement - although I'm not sure "modifying" fits what I'm discussing in this post. Apparent intervention might not constitute modifying - and it might not be "intervention" as we normally define it.

In the end, the central issue for me that is unresolved is why God does "save" some people from death at times and not others - but, in the spirit of what you've written, I do believe that God "intervenes" FAR more rarely than many people think when it comes to death vs. life. I also believe, however, that He is FAR more involved in our lives that many people think when it comes to things that seem much more mundane and unimportant than life and death.

Maybe in the long run, those things actually are much more important than we tend to imagine - much more important than the particular timing of death. That, however, is for another post.

Anonymous said...

The problem is everyone thinks that when their loved is 'saved'. that it was directly by the hand of God as proof that He exists and loves them. Being one who didn't get that 'miracle', I have no problem believing that God does not interfere with life and death. I believe He is aware of us, loves us, and put us in a wonderful, terrible world of mortality, disease and death and that is ruled by physics, laws, and probabilities. Everyone wants to believe that their 'miracle' is the 'real' one, something tangible they can hang their testimony on, to prove God is aware of them and loves them. But it doesn't work that way. Its too easy to point out other's tragedies and dismiss them (and no, an aunt or cousin doesn't count).

SilverRain said...

Anonymous, you have a point in that we certainly should not judge others' faithfulness on their receipt or not of miracles.

Yet, that does not mean that miracles do not exist.

I think the best tack to take is to pray for understanding, and "Be still and know that [He is] God."

Paul said...

Maybe God saves and takes life. Maybe God is swayed by prayers or pleadings or a solid decade of 10% tithes. Maybe God punishes sinful parents by sending them handicapped children. Maybe God punishes sinners by cursing them with dark skin. Maybe God demanded a firstborn sacrifice and sent last-minute reprieve. Maybe God was a mason. Maybe God kept you from getting that promotion for your own good. Maybe God tormented one of his favored sons to win a bet with Satan. Maybe God wanted to give a man's wife to another man and was content with giving a young daughter as a consolation prize. Maybe God made the earth in 168 hours, including breaks. Maybe God exists.

We humans seem to do a pretty poor job interpreting God's (in)actions, but it's sure easy to see why we're confused when we try.

Papa D said...

Anonymous, I understand that those who have lost someone even while "faithful" can end up believing what you believe - and I have no problem admitting that you might be correct. All I am saying is that I don't know in the end, but I've seen just enough to make me wonder and not believe totally in Voltaire's clockmaker God.

Paul, I agree with your last paragraph completely - and it really is the heart of this post. Anyone who says faith is easy (in anything, much less something as overwhelming and emotional as life and death) just doesn't understand life and other people all that well, imho.

Anonymous said...

Stuff happens to us because we are human,and mortal.Then we respond.God requires that we get better.We choose how we will act.Life may be spared,or not.God's aim is to refine,not to please.

Wow,that sounds harsh,but it's where I am at the moment.I think my job as a human being is to strive to respond with faith-or trust in God's love for all His children,in all of these circumstances.

Papa D said...

Amen, Anonymous. In that, we agree 100%. I couldn't have said it any better than that.

Anonymous said...

"Stuff happens to us because we are human,and mortal.Then we respond.God requires that we get better. We choose how we will act."

I believe that, too. But not this:

"Life may be spared,or not. God's aim is to refine, not to please."

It is harsh, and quite obviously spoken from one who hasn't been through a faith shaking experience of life and death.

I cannot believe in a Heavenly Father who loves me, but also sets 'traps' and 'trials' to test me. Its absurd. If He is a type of our own relationship with our earthly parents, then its silly. Do we, as parents, set traps for our kids to help them 'learn'? Do we set bullies on them to teach them to turn the other cheek? Do we push them down the stairs to teach them long-suffering? Of course not!

Life is brutal enough as it is, that's the whole point. So when unhappy life events affect them, we fold them into our arms, love them, reassure them, and help them hold onto hope that life is still good and worth living. That's how my Heavenly Father treats His children. He didn't 'choose' to let my child die. When the disease could not be stopped, his body stopped functioning. And my Heavenly Father wept with me. Maybe 50 years down the road, children in his position won't die because there will be a cure, better medicine, more information. It doesn't mean God isn't there, it just means that this time, biology won over medical science.

I believe life 'lessons' and 'blessings' are more organic than what most people believe. It was His will to send us to Earth to experience mortality, and all that that entails. That doesn't mean He purposefully tortures us. Its reminiscent of Zeus and his thunderbolts. Its an archaic and immature way of thinking.

Papa D said...

"also sets 'traps' and 'trials' to test me."

Trials I can accept, since I really do believe it is necessary for there to be opposition in all things, but I didn't read traps into anything in any of the comments.

Maybe that's a good way to restate what I'm saying in the post - that I really do believe in opposition in ALL things, even the saving or not saving of lives. I don't understand the reason for the results at the individual level, but I do believe in paradoxes being central to our existence - so I can accept not understanding perfectly (wholly, completely, fully developed).

Papa D said...

"It is harsh, and quite obviously spoken from one who hasn't been through a faith shaking experience of life and death."

Frankly, anonymous, that's going too far. I know people who believe the basic foundation of the quote you are rejecting who have lost loved ones and had a true faith-shaking experience. Those types of experiences don't produce the same reaction in everyone - which is part of the reason we are such a fascinating species.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous,this is Anonymous here.I grieve for your loss,and I can see that it has made you more deeply human.That is what I would hope for myself.

I agree that God does not set traps,but I believe He aims to make us greater through the experience of grief,and prompt us to greater love and compassion for one another.I can't see how I would find that depth of soulfulness without grief,although I hold that loss against God to this day.I believe he forgives me.

Nora Ray said...

The main thing to remember is that it must be His will, not ours, that is done. I don't believe He saves one life and doesn't save another because of the righteousness of the people involved or the fervency of their prayers. Results of either outcome are not always as obvious as they appear to be.