Thursday, April 30, 2015

When Life Happens without Our Permission

Sometimes we call events and situations we would rather not experience “life.” Life happens, we say. And what unwanted realities happen with our permission? Very few.

Take aging. Sure, everyone should be prepared for it, but who asked us if the effects of aging would be acceptable? In fact, when they pop up, denial can take a firm hold.
  • You think maybe you can pluck the gray eyebrow hairs without looking moth-eaten. (You can’t.)
  • You fail to realize people have stopped saying you don’t look your age. (You do.)
  • You chant the “age is just a number” mantra in your head even as some kind of dermatological Morse code of dots and dashes forms right on top of your wrinkles. (You are not getting the message.)
At some point you face reality and try to age gracefully. But still, if only you had been asked, maybe you could have made a few alternative suggestions.

A long time ago, someone included me in a promise to bake for an event. At the time I either worked full-time or already had two small children. I can’t remember which, but I know I didn’t have much “me time.” Second, I didn’t bake then just like I don’t bake now. I'd love to tell you I baked anyway. But what did I do? I bristled. I even declined. I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying, "You couldn't have asked me first?" (My reaction was embarrassingly self-centered and shameful. Why couldn't I have just gone with the flow?)

All kinds of life events are disruptive at best and devastating at worst. And no one asked us for permission to, well, intrude on our lives with any of them, especially not God. But we think we are mature enough to accept them and move on. We don't even ask God why.

Or do we?

Maybe when life happens without our permission we bristle a bit, albeit as respectfully as we can manage (like biting our tongues), letting God know He might have given what He allowed some more thought. 

"God, the warranty on this car just expired and now it breaks down? Maybe this problem could have happened a month ago?" 

“God, our friend has late-stage cancer, with no warning. We're not asking why You allowed this. We're just wondering why You didn't let her know earlier?"

“God, didn’t you think about how the world might not be able to handle another devastating earthquake? This is too much for us to manage right now, don't You think?”

“God, You didn’t ask people in communities experiencing escalating hurt and disruption if they were going to be able to deal with it. Maybe You didn't realize . . . well, we guess You know what You're doing.”

This might sound ridiculous for people of faith, but thoughts like these, just another form of asking why, might be lurking inside us more than we care to admit, along with a dose of, "Really, if You had asked us, we could have told You we are not up for this!" Especially when cars don't just break down but the whole world seems to be falling apart and crushed under the weight of tragedy and hate.

Here's something to think about when life happens without our permission.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Theology is not for me to spout. And I am not suggesting wickedness causes cancer, earthquakes, or even riots. I am not suggesting that a broken-down car and natural disasters and hurt in our communities are equally devastating. And I’m not saying c’est la vie, that’s life, and there isn’t anything much we can do. We need to support medical research, provide relief to those devastated by natural disasters, and do whatever each of us can to understand the causes of community tensions and what we can personally do to address them.
I am saying, though God does not ask our permission to allow hardships in our lives, nor does He need to, maybe what the world and each of us most needs to remember is the permission He gives us: To humble ourselves and seek His face. To seek His forgiveness when we are wrong. To seek His healing grace. 


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