My 20-something-year-old self was editor of my college paper. My days of managing the content of the newspaper at Mississippi State University seem very long ago -- well, not just seem they were very long ago. And yet, I remember a letter to the editor lambasting me word for word. Oh, I can not remember the entire letter, but I remember the meat of it. The writer called me a blue-nosed-do-gooder.
I remember looking up the term for clarity back then -- I understood the gist, but wondered what the blue-nose part actually meant. According to Mr. Webster it is a term for someone that advocates a rigorous moral code. Synonyms include goody-goody, nice nelly and prude. Letter writer probably was not far off the mark.
And this week, I have been pondering those words -- not in a beat-me-down sort of way but rather in a contemplative, is-that-how-my-writing-looks sort of way. Earlier in the week, I posted about the wealthy hiring special needs people to accompany them to Walt Disney World so that they do not have to wait in line. I was seething when I wrote. I ranted in my head for hours before I started typing. And yet, repeatedly after reading my post, people kept telling me that I was reserved, not harsh, held my tongue. And so I went back and read the post and they were right. What happened between my fingers typing and the wrath in my head: I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I didn't want anyone to read my writing and walk away feeling unloved. I wanted people to understand how wrong I think such a practice is, but I also feel strongly about never being a hater.
Sigh. I am a blue-nosed-do-gooder. Still.
I read blogs from some courageous women who speak boldly about their opinions and are heralded for their strong words regardless of offense. I admire them. Yesterday, I was reading one such post by Rachel Held Evans regarding how abusive the theology of "deserved" tragedy is. She was discussing the horrific tornadoes in Oklahoma and how some pastors will erroneously explain this devastation as God's judgement on sin. I applauded her points, nodded in agreement and was fairly shouting "amen".
When Benjamin was asked to share his story last summer in Argentina, he quoted from John 9 where the disciples ask Jesus why a man was born blind: "Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?"
Praise the Lord, that Jesus answered: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9: 3)
But even while I am praising God for the ability to show his works in our family, I understand those who try to explain tragedies away. I get it. See, if we can "blame" a tragedy on sin, or wrong-doing then we take away the randomness of the horror. Do you follow me? We embrace the "well, I follow the rules, and live a morally upright life (blue-nosed, if you will), therefore bad things will not happen to me."
And oh, my friends, that doctrine sells. Doesn't it? A feel-good gospel promising health and safety for you and your loved ones? The ability to avert tragedies with your do-gooding. Who wouldn't sign up?
But here is the truth: that theology only works until it doesn't. Profound, right? Please hear me, that sort of feel-good gospel might offer you a false sense of comfort and safety for a few years as you walk through life with healthy children, lovely home and a generous income.
But what happens when the economy tanks? Or your child gets sick? Or the storm comes? Where is your faith when you can no longer trust in your ability to do what is right and keep everyone safe?
Because you can not.
Those sweet babies in Oklahoma did not deserve to have that tornado hit their school. Neither they nor their parents sinned and caused that. No way. Now how.
There is no easy answer to tragedy. There is no wrap-it-up-and-make-everyone-feel-better answer to horrible things. They happen. We hurt. And the question that remains is simply this: Will you trust God still?
And here is my confession: 20-something-year-old do-gooder really thought she could avert bad things by being good. And then I began to live life.
When my amazing, wonderful Daddy was diagnosed with cancer, my world was shaken. Seriously, I could not do enough good to save him. I had to decide if I still believed. Would I still praise God in the storm? I chose yes. Yes.
When I delivered triplets far too early, I had to decide again. Would I trust God? Would I still praise Him in the heartache and fear? I chose yes.
When my boys were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, oh you know the drill, I had to choose. I had to decide between my faith in an awesome God and my fear. I chose to trust God to carry us through. And to beg -- beg -- Him to be glorified through my family.
This week my Benjamin will have spine surgery to fix this curve that is affecting his life. And though I like to think life has deepened my faith, and given me a steady walk with the Lord, I confess that I still want to scream, "Enough. Enough lessons. Enough testing. Enough showing me that I can not be 'good enough' to avert crisis, heartache and pain for my family."
He is a God who loves. A God who promises to comfort the hurting and care for the suffering. He interprets our groanings when our words fail. He bridged the gap for us between our own inadequacies (we simply can not be blue-nosed enough to earn a place in heaven!) and Heaven. He is the only way to the Father.
And I am on my knees this week, asking Jesus for mercy for my boy. Asking for protection for his health; for success in the surgery; for discernment and wisdom for his surgeons; and for peace for his siblings who love him so. Will you pray with us? Oh please, will you pray?
Surgery is early on Friday, May 24. Benjamin will have a spinal fusion and Dr. Greg White and Dr. Lee Segal will perform the surgery. He will be in the intensive care unit for a few days after surgery to closely monitor everything.
This boy did nothing to deserve having Cerebral Palsy. He did nothing to deserve having scoliosis. He did nothing to deserve this surgery and lengthy recovery. Rather, all of this happened so that God could be glorified in the wonder that is my Benjamin. So that God could be praised through the prayerful hearts of our loved ones.
You are a blessing to us. Such a blessing.