The other day I talked with a mother who had come very close to losing her small son. Death layered itself on her precious child, forcing this mother to stare into the depth of possibility – to pray with desperate abandon and open her arms wide in total lack of control… She tasted the shocking, ravaging reality that love is simply not enough… not in this world anyway.
But then… her son lived – and continues to live – big and healthy and beautiful.
As I talked with this grateful, shining mother, she echoed back truths and insights that her experience had unveiled. Rich perspective on life and love and God… Suddenly, I began spinning and my cheeks flushed, realizing that I recognized these truths – They were MINE!
The anger welled within me – how did she get what was mine without giving what I gave!?!
My perspective on this world – isn’t it some strange gift I got in exchange for the life and breath of my boy?? Didn’t my son have to DIE in order to be so tremendously enlightened – to understand God so deeply?? Apparently not. For here was a woman capable of the same insights, the same perspectives – and her child lives! So then, WHY??? Why the hell is Graham dead?
The answer of course, is that Graham didn’t die so I could learn to trust more fully in God. God didn’t take Graham to make me a better version of myself or to reveal a Glory that was otherwise unattainable. The truth is, there is no reason great enough to exchange for the life of my son, and even if there is – it’s certainly too big, too vast, too spiritual for me to even begin to catch a glimpse.
But the reality is, despite my resolve that Graham didn’t die for some ‘great reason’, I have been scouring this world for the reason. Answers, gifts, silver-linings amidst the suffering. What could God have been thinking? How big could his redemptive plan possibly be? Where is my story in God’s great wonder… where is Graham’s? Why?
And the thing is, I have seen shimmering slivers of explanation. Lives that were impacted, relationships forged, infantile hope nurtured and developed into meaningful, massive beauty. But whether I’ve realized I was doing it or not – I’ve been collecting these bits and pieces desperately… and much like a starved dog who was given a bone, I have guarded these treasures with pathetic pride… delirious commitment… They are MINE – earned and not gifted – and if I can only collect enough of the goodness, I could amass something so great, so valuable, so beautiful I might someday be able to offer them as ransom for the life of my son. Somehow, I will find a way to trade it all in for the only thing I really want.
I can’t, of course. Get him back. I know this, and I know how pathetic I sound, how broken I am, but the allure is powerful, and I forget… I forget my redemption won’t be found in this world. I forget.
Until I remember… until I catch a glimpse of myself hovering in the corner, salivating over a bone, numbly fixated. In this moment of clarity, crazed desperation bubbles up and I claw away at the scarred, scabbed remnants of myself – scream at the tissues to suffer and bleed! I look deep within and growl with ferociousness, “There is no salve for this – stop looking for it!”
However, as the moment of intensity inevitably passes, I admit that the numbing of pain is a natural desire, it allows me to survive, keep going… day in and day out… a lifetime stretched before me. Meaning is a balm that gently deadens the rage, and my belief in ‘purpose’ has softened the sting of loss. However, my dependence on this belief has organically developed into a demon all its own… And so, I can’t stay here… searching, salivating, contented…
It seems I may wander forever.