This post is going to be long, and it's going to be a downer. So if you're short of time or already in a bad mood, I suggest you stop reading now.
I have an odd mind. I'm kind of a type-A personality, and I'm a worrier. Sometimes, I find myself obsessing about certain things, and it's very hard for me to forget/disregard them. So I'm hoping that today, by writing all this down, I'll purge this demon a bit and reclaim some of the real estate in my brain.
For the past week or so, I have been unable to stop thinking about this. I'm sure you saw this story in the paper. This poor little four-year-old boy was basically starved to death by his grandmother and his aunt. This kid weighed 19 pounds when he died. (To put it into perspective, Clay is 16 months, and he weighs 24 pounds.) These types of stories have always affected me, but they seem to bother me more now that I have a little one of my own.
I've thought about what things must have been like for this little guy. How hungry he must have been. How he must have asked for food, and they told him no. How surely other people in the house were eating sometimes, and he smelled food or begged for some, and they told him no. How he must have found things - paper, odd bits of string - and ate them because he was so hungry.
And the cruelty of what these people did is not the only thing that's gnawing at me. It's all the things that the existence of such cruelty mean. I am a Christian, and I believe in God. But when I hear about things like this, I doubt Him. I struggle to understand how the painful death of this little boy can fit into some larger plan.
For example, IF perhaps this death is meant to teach someone somewhere a larger lesson, or prevent other deaths, etc., why couldn't the same objective have been accomplished without having a innocent suffer for it? And if God is benevolent, and He loves His children, how can He let a four-year-old starve to death? Is He asleep at the switch up there, or what?
I am a proponent of the idea that Christians are supposed to be God on earth. What I mean is, instead of moaning and groaning about how God should feed the hungry, we, as God's children, should get off our butts and help feed the hungry. We should do God's work in the world; it's part of our job as Christians. So maybe there were people near to the situation who could have/should have acted, and because they did nothing, this boy died. (Boyd's Life had a really interesting post a while back, talking about how man could be both God and Satan on Earth, how it could all reside within us. It's an interesting idea to chew on, especially since we do so many awful things to one another that the case can be made that we are our own enemies on Earth.)
BUT, if we're the only safety net, if God isn't stepping in when things go horribly wrong, then who the heck are we praying to? If it's all up to us, then what are we bothering God for?
I understand that part of faith is just that - faith in the face of puzzle pieces that don't fit. Faith that there is a larger design, even though we can't see/comprehend it. But it is difficult, difficult for me to see a story like this and not doubt, especially when I know so many people who would be GREAT parents, would be ecstatic parents, but are unable to conceive or carry a baby to term. Good people who have not been blessed with a child. Why withold a child from those people, and then give one to these monsters?
I think it would help me work through issues like this if I could find a church where you weren't expected to check your brain at the door, too. I have visited many places. But I am not looking for a congregation that accepts whatever should come down from the pulpit without question, without dialogue. And when bad things (like this) happen, platitudes about the Lord's mysterious ways are not sufficient for me.
What I would really appreciate is a church (or maybe a really good Christian Bible study group?) where it is acknowledged that horrible things happen. Evil happens. And we don't know why God allows it, why He doesn't stop it. And we probably never will know, because we don't have the answers. And that it's almost inevitable that, at some point, most people are going to resent God and wonder what the crud he's doing with his time, while we're all down here trying to keep this thing running with string and chewing gum. So far, I haven't had any luck finding a group like that, but I'll keep looking.
And in the meantime, I guess I'll pray a little bit harder, hug Clay a little bit tighter, and hope for the best.