Not the Why... But the Who
Katy, my older cat, loves to sleep next to me. I lie on my side and hold the blanket up and she curls up next to my tummy as I let the blankets gently cover her. Often, I can't hear her purr, but as I rub her belly I can feel the vibrations, the contentment. It's a soothing ritual the two of us have developed.
Often times I have difficulty finding that kind of contentment. I think it is because I am driven to know the why of things. I like to know why it works and why you don't do it this other way. I like to know why things need to be this way rather than that way. I don't know that I actually pestered my parents so much with the questions. (I would have gotten immediate consequences if I had not had immediate obedience.) But, to the extent I was able, there was a quest for "Why?"
Even today, "why" still comes into play. Please don't tell me to do something without explaining the reason behind it. In my mind, comprehension is everything.
I don't think I'm that far off from a lot of people. I may do it more than most in day to day interactions, but when the really big things happen, we all find ourselves asking "Why?"
November 2006 I started dating Bill. After the first date, we pretty much saw each other every day. We hit a rough patch the end of March, but I anticipated getting back together. I didn't think it was a forever break. I thought we both needed to get our bearings. After all, we had been moving pretty fast over the last several months -- to the point that we had spoken of marriage. Bill had vowed, "I'd marry you tomorrow if you'd let me."
The middle of April Bill suffered an aortic aneurysm. His gentle heart split open. They managed to do surgery and he lingered a few days, but he never truly came around. I got to talk to him and pray with him in a one-sided kind of way, but we never had the final conversation that I longed for.
When it first happened I went to a grief support group for a time. Eventually, I needed it less and less. Sometimes I go back to reorient myself. The two year anniversary just passed.
Anniversaries can be tricky to navigate.
One time when I went, lots of people in the room had much more recent losses than mine -- November, December, January. And several expressed "why" questions. "Why so quickly?" "Why with all the medical advances?" "Why wasn't I there at the very end? I only left for a moment."
A number of years ago, I coauthored a book called Faith on the Edge with five other InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff. One of the chapters that Robbie Castleman dealt with tragedy. She shared the following perspective:
God may not have intervened, may not have stepped in to undo what broke our hearts . . . . We may not understand why God intervened for Peter and not for James. Why some and not all? Why then and not now? All that disciples know is a point in history that gives us hope in tragedy, a point of divine intervention that spans all time: God raised Jesus from the dead.
"Why" questions have their merits, but the better question is "Who?"
- Who walked this earth and is intimately acquainted with our grief? (Isaiah 53:3)
- Who wept when His friend died? (John 11:35)
- Who comforts those who walk through the valley of the shadow of death? (Psalm 23)
- Who prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies? (Psalm 23)
- Who has compassion on the heavy laden? (Matthew 11:28)
- Who rejoices over us with singing? (Zephaniah 3:17)
Knowing the "why" pales in comparison of knowing the WHO in the midst of any tragedy. Jesus has welcomed our loved ones home and stands with arms open wide to comfort us in our grief. He cheers us on when we face circumstances that make us feel as if we cannot go on. He has run the race before us. As we wrestle with all the "why" in life, He invites us to do so in His intimate presence. Just as Katy snuggles in close to me, we can snuggle into Jesus.
What can you do today to focus on who rather than why? How will that change your perspective?
This year I'm focusing on hope. I'd love for you to visit my personal blog: