It’s been two months since I last wrote anything here. I know it’s an over-used excuse to say that I have been busy, but the fact is — I have. What I’ve been busy with I may talk about some other time but for now I just need to write something. Let me explain.
In my 50 years I have had the privilege of knowing many of the souls that populate this world; some great, some not so great, some good, some bad. This week one of the gentlest souls I have ever known was taken to be with the God he loved so much. I have often heard the Lord described as “gentle Jesus meek and mild”, but I never had a clear picture in my mind of what that phrase meant until I met James. My first reaction to the news of his death was simply, “IT’S NOT FAIR!”
I know, I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to believe that God has a plan and since so many have been praying for James for so long and this is the result then this must be part of that plan. And let me say that I do believe that – truly, I do; but I still find I want to stand in the night, facing into the wind, and scream at the sky, “God, your plan is not fair!!”
It’s not fair because it doesn’t include James healed of his cancer and out of his wheelchair walking with the people he loves. It’s not fair because it doesn’t include James and his wife Loo Sar holding each other and looking towards the future. It’s not fair because it doesn’t include James watching his little girl Angie grow up and graduate and get married and make him a grandfather. And God forgive my selfishness, but the biggest reason it’s not fair is it doesn’t include my spending more time with him, getting to know him better than I do, and continuing to learn the art of gentleness from a man who had mastered it so well.
How do I justify such a childish attitude when I’m supposed to be a man of faith?
Simple. I may be a man of faith, but I am also still a child – a child of God. And like a child sometimes I just don’t understand why life has to be so unfair. When I was physically a child my father must have heard me whine, “It’s not fair!” a thousand times or more. Sometimes he would tell me that life wasn’t supposed to be fair. Sometimes he’d tell me I would understand when I was older. But the time that stands out most in my mind was when my dog ‘King’ died.
King was a white Siberian Husky and I loved him a lot. One day he got out of the yard and was run over by a truck. I remember crying for what seemed like hours and looking into my father’s eyes and saying, “It’s just not fair!” He looked back at me and said, “You’re right, it isn’t fair, but there’s nothing I can do. For whatever reason, this is the way things are and I can’t change it. I’m sorry!”
These days, whenever someone whom I’ve been praying for dies, I remember my Dad saying those words to me. I also remember how helpless he looked that day. It was then I realized that there were some things my Father couldn’t fix.
Now I can imagine what some of you are thinking. “Dennis, this isn’t much of a comfort. There’s nothing God can’t fix, after all – He’s God! He’s not limited like your Father was.”
You’re right of course, God is all powerful. But this isn’t about God, it’s not even really about James and unanswered prayer. It’s about me.
It’s about me learning to live with the fact that just like my Father there are some things that I just can’t fix. There are things in life that even with the power of prayer I cannot control. That, for whatever reason, this is the way things are and I can’t change it! It’s about me and every other Christian coming to grips with the fact that we don’t know everything. I don’t know why James wasn’t healed. I don’t know why James had to die. The only thing I do know is there has to be a reason. And since it is God’s reason it’s probably a good one, though I can’t for the life of me imagine what it might be.
So, there is nothing for me do but cry for my loss, reach out as best as I can to others who will miss James, and take comfort in the fact that his suffering is now over. He is, I believe, pain free, out of his wheelchair walking with Jesus in the garden, learning even more about being gentle from the gentlest man who ever lived.
Catch up with you later.
Say hello to Ignatius for me.