I am driving my priest friend crazy. I come to him with the things I need fixed and I ask why God won’t fix them, and he comes back with the whole “free will” thing, and I wonder why in the world I am even praying, and say I need an all-powerful God, and my priest friend is preaching a God who is with us in the midst, and then the whole thing starts all over again. I am stubborn and I lack patience. He is good and kind, like Jesus. He doesn’t give up on me.
A couple of days ago, my priest friend preached a homily tailor-made for me, about the Olympics. There was a Canadian figure skater who fell over and over again during her program, and as he watched her on television, he could imagine her coach and her mother on the sidelines, holding themselves back from doing one of two things: getting the skater on her feet to finish her program, or giving her safe shelter off of the ice altogether. At that moment, the hardest thing to do for both coach and mother was to watch someone they love fall and not help. I get it. When something goes wrong, we want to act. We want to intercede, but sometimes it’s just not our ice. We simply have to sit on our hands and watch and wait for it to be over.
My husband retold the metaphor in a different way today, because although I have a capable mind, my heart sometimes just does not get it. “Imagine yourself as a kid during recess,” he said. “Someone has thrown mud at you and it’s in your hair and all over your clothes. You stop playing and sit on the steps, upset, and someone comes to sit beside you. They’ve had mud thrown at them before, and they want you to know that they know how this feels. This person is Jesus. He’s experienced all of the varieties of pain we can imagine, and He’s survived it. He can walk with us through anything, and He does.“
“Well, okay,” I said, “but did anyone else at recess notice what just happened? Who’s going to get the teacher, or the principal? Who’s going to enact justice on the kid who threw mud all over me? Surely someone is moving to make things right. What kind of school is this, anyway?”
My exasperated husband agreed that someone in this scenario might be doing just that, but maybe we don’t see that all the time because of all the mud in our eyes. We don’t always see everything that happens, and it’s foolish to believe we have the whole picture.
So I said I was on board and even grateful for Jesus sitting beside me in my mess, but that I needed to know that there were some things happening behind the scenes, too. That kid’s parents definitely needed to be called in, for example, and that kid should not be sitting anywhere near me anymore in class, and he should be made to apologize, and he shouldn’t even have recess for the rest of the year week. And someone should be coming along to bring me new clothes and help me wash out my hair, right? Like, all of those things should be happening in a school that’s being run right.
But some schools aren’t run right. After all, everyone has choices.
And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Everyone does have choices, and sometimes things aren’t fair, but we are promised that God can bring good out of evil, that His ways are above our ways, and that things work for the good for those who love Him. We can count on that happening, even if we don’t see it, even if we don’t know how, even if it’s not on our timetable or according to our plans.
But we can count on never walking through anything alone. We can unclench our hands to let go of control we never had anyway, and we can take the hand of God who is both with us and walking ahead.
Someday we’ll see what all this falling and all this mud was really all about.