Monday, September 28, 2009

No Wishing For More Wishes.

Remember the elementary school game of “Three wishes?” Someone asks you what you would do if you had three wishes. Well, I ALWAYS used my first one to very cleverly wish for “Infinity more wishes.” This unfortunately negated the purpose of the game however. With “infinity wishes” one never had to prioritize nor even be all that clever about how the wishes were spent.

As I have continued to think about my earlier post on prayer, I realized that the line between praying and wishing is sometimes blurred; which possibly means that the line between a God who answers prayers and a genie who grants wishes has become blurred as well.

I know for a fact that, depending on my situation and my perspective, my view get’s blurry. In fact, I get angry when God doesn’t behave like a genie who answers my prayers on command. If my own personal genie refused to grant my wishes, I’d tell him to get back in his darn bottle and stay there.

Come to think of it, I’ve done the same with God. “Well if you’re not going to change this situation then you can just get back in the bible and stay there. I’m not going to believe in you anymore. I don’t neeeed you anyway.” (childish sarcasm too often mine).

I thought of another crowd by the way (see “Three’s a Crowd" blog below). It’s the crowd my mother told me about a long, long time ago. The “God always answers prayers, He just answers them in three possible ways, ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Wait.’ crowd.” I don’t know if it’s because she told me about it or if it’s because I STILL don’t like to be told “No,” especially when I am as old and wise (smirk) as I am now; but I really resist that crowd.

I also resist it because, to me, it sounds like a cop-out. I don't want to think of it that way...but it sort of allows God to "win" all arguments. If I pray for my child to get well, and she does...God said "yes." If she gets well a month later, God said "wait." If she doesn't get well at all, then God said "no." Ummm...that seems to me to be kind of convenient. I'm uncomfortable with that. So much so that it makes God's response to Job sound more reasonable.

To Job, who lost EVERYTHING but his wife and his own life, God said (and I paraphrase): "Who are you to question Me? Are you God? Do you know everything? Did you create everything the way I did?" I've always read that as rather arrogant and dismissive of Job's suffering...but I have to admit it IS a God-like response. It's even a parental response: Child says "Why" parent says "Because I said so." "Because I said so" is a time saver and a recognition that my child CAN'T understand my reasons in the same way that I can. My child doesn't have the benefit of my experience, or goals, or wisdom. If I tried to share those with them, they would be more confused, possibly misinterpret, and still they would ask, "But why..."

Hmmmmm. Brings to mind: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." 1 Cor. 1:25.

I have worked really hard on this blog. It's important to me. I want it to represent my "wisdom" to date. But when I apply my "wisdom," I come up painfully trite. I tried putting myself in God's shoes to see if I could understand and explain why some suffering occurs. Unfortunately, I can't. If I was God...I feel like I would do it differently. But I don't know what God knows. I can't understand even basic chemical reactions in the body...much less imagine how I would have created them.

I went on some sites I usually don't frequent, which are wholly designed to tear away at the argument for God. A couple in particular make VERY powerful and damaging arguments that God is an illusion...even an organized delusion which is self-perpetuating. As I read, I took pleasure that I found some cracks in those arguments...but I felt the air escape from my puffed up balloon as I also found some chasms in my own apologetics. I am reminded that my belief in God COULD be wrong. I could be, as the more harsh attackers say, a weak, scared, little man who has bought into a comforting delusion to feel stronger, safer, and larger.

That doubt kicked me in the gut today when my wife told me from the Dr's. office that Dora has both strep throat AND the flu...and her lungs are VERY congested. I had 5 minutes so I prayed....and couldn't help but pray "...if You're there...." Then I apologized for my doubt, because I didn't want to hurt my child with my doubt. And then I paced, imagining a world where there is no God looking out for my child; no God who can keep her from getting sicker; no God who can comfort me and keep me from "freaking out," and no God to receive her if she succumbs to her illness and, on a fluke, dies.

That really stunk. I was lonely....profoundly lonely....and very, very frightened.

"Oh God. You might not be there! THIS might be all there is! 60 hours of work a week, a cheap vacation once a year, weekends, my family...and then I die. I've never even been scuba diving!"

When my faith is under attack and threads start to unravel out of the careful tapestry of belief I have woven, I go back to Jesus Christ. But wait, not in the prayer/savior way. But to the fact that this one man, 2000 years ago, changed world history in 33 years. He spoke authoritatively with an intricate wisdom which rivals and bests any Plato or Confucius. He turned expectations on their head and created a movement which, though adulterated often, continues to challenge mankind, and provide hope to those who seek to understand.

And then I think of his friends. Not priests, not great speakers, just fishermen, laborers, and tax-collectors. Stay with me. Think of your friends, average people who are not looking to become religious leaders. Think of what it would take for them, or for you to abandon your work, to go on the road and spread the word about a carpenter's message and life. They lived with Jesus, watched him and learned from him. Then he was tortured and revolution (which they expected him to lead). These ordinary men then make the most extraordinary claim...that he rose from the dead after 3 days.

The Old Testament is early, primitive history of man trying to find God. The New Testament is eyewitness testimony of God trying to help man find Him. These ordinary men, who could have made it all up went on to write about his life, agreed on his message, and died for the man. Some in horrific ways. One was hung on a cross upside down, one beheaded, it goes on. None recanted, some fell into the black hole of history, but some live on in their letters. Found in the New Testament. They wrote with authority, conviction, and confidence that they had been in the presence of God himself. They risked everything to tell this "good news." And they didn't get anything in return...except persecution and painful death.

Finally, I think of the greatest argument I have heard...where the "rubber meets the road" of just who this man was. Jesus Christ existed, he was a real person, historians do not argue this point. Jesus Christ said that he was the Son of God...and died for that claim. There are three possibilities which would account for his claim:

1) He was insane.

2) He was evil.

3) He was telling the truth.

The teachings of Christ, reported by his friends, were not the ravings of an insane man. Would they ALL fall for his insanity? Would they DIE for his teachings....could an ordinary group of very uneducated men even come up with those teachings? I tend to conclude that he was sane and revolutionary. I would cite Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.

If he were evil, would he really have died the way he did for his great hoax. About the time the cat-of-9-tails was ripping the flesh off of his body he probably would have broken down: "Guys, guys, it was a JOKE! Come on, you think I really believe I'm the son of, may I please have some band-aids?"

That only leaves one choice.

So. Tonight we knelt at Dora's bed and prayed fervently that He comfort her. We thanked Him for bodies and immune systems and doctors and medicine. (Though Dora does NOT agree that she should have gotten that "world's most painful shot!") And here I sit. Finishing this blog once and for all.

I figured out the end.

Those blogs could be correct. God could be a soothing delusion, my ancestor an amoeba, and my ultimate destination a hole in the ground.

But that must be taken on faith. Those are assumptions, not proven science. My faith is equally as valid.

Christian assertions could be correct as well. God could exist. The Bible could be the "instruction manual" and his invitation to us. He could have sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. And He could listen to, and answer, our prayers.

It is indisputable that He does not answer prayers, nor deal with the suffering of his creations in a way which satisfies me, or makes it easy to believe in Him. But, if I accept that He exists as God...then He is my Father. When I ask "WHY?", He can very well say, "Because I said so."

I'm still left with the “no” problem. After all that, I sound like a pretty good guy. I don’t pray to hurt people, only to help. When I pray for something which hurts no one, for an innocent for example...I should be reasonable assured that God will say, "Thanks for your attention to that matter, You bet." I don't understand why He has chosen to say "NO" to some of my most fervent prayers.

All I have is a model:

Once, there was another really good guy (actually he was perfect) who prayed a prayer and asked to be “given a pass.” God said "no" and the guy was beaten to a pulp and tortured to death. (Death by hanging on a cross from the nails in your hands makes water-boarding look like a soothing sponge bath.) God’s own Son said (and I paraphrase) “PLEASE Daddy, I don't want to die like this! Can't You fix it another way?” And God looked at His only Son, who had lived a perfect life, and He said, “No.”

How I hate them, how they infuriate me, how I suffer for them but every once in awhile, I have to thank God for His “no’s,” especially that one.


  1. I'm so glad Ken pointed me to your blog. Your writings reflect so much my own internal struggles and my own faith. Thank you for writing these! And I'm praying for your daughter as well.

  2. Dude, you are one amazing mofo. What a tremendous piece of writing.

    There are a couple of other options you forgot about that Jesus guy.

    D) The people who wrote the Bible gave Jesus those attributes and legends to sell the story.

    E) He was actually from a different planet and gained his supernatural powers from our own yellow Sun. other news…

    Just wanted to let you know that I forwarded The Lemonade Award to you in my blog today. It’s one of those ‘pay-it-forward’ type of things, pointing people in the direction of blogs I dig muchly.

  3. Philnjill: Thank you. It is good to know that others feel, think, and fear the same way I do.
    Dora is much better. We will pray for your little one as well!

    Ken: Thanks. It was a hard one to write...facing doubts that fun. And thank you for another nod in my direction! I miss talking to you...why do we do that (get out of touch so quickly?) Later

  4. Rich
    it is so good to read your blogs. you have become a wonderful father. i told you one time that i think Jesus sends angels to earth sometimes to touch the lives of others and that you were one of those. i don't actually believe that is true, but i do believe that you were meant to touch the lives of others in faith and love. i believe after many years of trying to find an answer that before we are born we sit down with God and plan our lives on earth to include situations that would promote the spiritual growth that our souls need. other souls are incorporated into our lives to help fulfill their spiritual growth. i believe that there are truly evil people on this earth and that their souls will never change. I believe that satan uses them to tempt us to go the way of evilness. this is a small amount of what i have come to believe as i cannot even imagine a God who would "let" bad things happen to us. I think that we actually choose these things for spiritual growth and that He is there to help us all the way. I think about heaven and hell often. i am currently reading the LEFT BEHIND series. i am trying to read all the things i have not had time to read until the last few years. it has given me much pause. I often wonder if hell is in fact right here and now. I said " I wonder". If you have not read the trilogy of THE MARK OF THE LION i truly recommend it. it is really a good read. it is religious fiction but based on facts. i have read the series more than once. I love you still, little brother and also Delma and Dora even from a distance. You are all in my prayers.

  5. Kay, I remember that conversation very well and wished that it were true. If this was planned, then I was very smart to include your soul in my life! I continue to work and struggle, and whine and moan while working and struggling, to be the man God has prepared me to be. I sure like your ideas. Makes me smile to imagine that Dora Diane chose me as a father. Gives me even more to live up too! I will check out the Mark of the Lion. I love you too.