When God Takes What He Gave
Well, we were going right and God was going left. Despite the praise (which, looking back, seems like some sort of arm twisting way to gain divine assurance), Angie did take her life three months later in a different hotel room, which I could not find.
On a less tragic note
Last week, my mother-in-law's dog died. My girls loved this dog. They cried and cried and asked me why God would take Squirt away.
Let me back up. Earlier, my oldest daughter was praying that Squirt would be found. A pack of strays had approached my girls outside, and Squirt ran out to protect them. He does not weigh more than ten pounds so it was a brave thing to do. Squirt went missing. Last time this happened, three years ago with another dog, the dog was killed. We thought the worst.
However, my daughter called me at work in great joy, "Daddy! Daddy! They found Squirt. I prayed and prayed and they found him! I asked everyone to pray on Facebook and we found him!" She was so excited, and I was pleased that God had given her this experience. However, remembering God's M.O., my excitement was peppered with hesitation.
Three hours later my daughter called again, crying bitterly. "He's dead. He's dead. Squirt is dead!" The stray dogs had done too much damage and the vet had to put Squirt to sleep. My daughter was going right and God was going left.
The very next day, I received another phone call. Very excited this time. "Daddy, daddy! Guess what?! We found Nuke! We found Nuke!" Nuke was the aforementioned dog that had supposedly been killed three years earlier. "We were just driving down the road to Mimi's house and there he was, walking down the road!"
Where had this dog been for three years? Why did he show up the day after Squirt died? God? What was He saying? Though I was not sure, this seemed too unlikely to be a coincidence. I was more than tempted to lay this down as a potential "God sighting." In fact, I posted it on Facebook. Forget the fact that I did not know what this meant, it was a great gift to my children. They were so excited...yet God was going the other way.
The next day, my mother-in-law discovered something. Although the two dogs were otherwise identical, Nuke was spayed, and this one was not. It was not the dog we had thought it was. God was not present -- at least in the way we had thought. Devastated once again, this small anchor was pulled to the surface.
Many more stories could be told. Yet perhaps these will suffice as illustrations. We need to be very careful about letting our experiences be the anchors of our faith. I could also tell stories about how I went right and God was there but I don't want to right now. As beneficial as that would be, I want to talk about those times when we misunderstand what God is doing and purchase too much equity in that particular stock.
In the end, I have learned that the anchor to my faith is the resurrection of Christ. Christ is not Lord because he rescues people from cancer, saves the depressed, or brings dogs back to life. Christ is Lord because Christ is risen. It is that simple. I will have many other anchors and so will you. But none of them compares to the anchor that is the resurrection of Christ. Hold on to those other anchors loosely, knowing that God is involved and can be praised in all things, but not necessarily in our interpretation of all things.
The lyrics to The Fray's song "You Found Me" come to mind. In a Psalmist-like rendering of confusion, the words spoken to the Lord (with which we can all identify) ring loudly.
Where were you when everything was falling apart?
All my days were spent by the telephone that never rang.
And all I needed was a call that never came.
But the call had already come. Two thousand years ago on a cross on a hill and in an empty tomb. It was and is a call made to all of us.
How about you? Are there any times when you have gone right and God was going left? Please share.
C. Michael Patton blogs at Parchment and Pen. He earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and served as a pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His latest project is the Credo House of Theology, the headquarters for Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. Patheos has also featured his articles "Go Ye Therefore into the Worldwide Web" and "On the Certainty of Doubt."
Photo courtesy of J. Salmoral via C. C. License at Flickr: