True fact, most of my interesting lines don’t come from me, but from others, particularly from those I love. The title of this particular piece comes with a story (but of course you knew that).
When my now big, strong, handsome marine son was quite small, he had gotten his hind quarters stuck in his bunk bed ladder, a common occurrence for youngsters, as it turns out. (I believe the medical term is gluteus stuckitis.) Much like my own tendency to mix up Chinese words that sound similar he got his words mixed up. (Once I asked my Chinese housekeeper to purchase a large washing machine, cut it in a few large pieces and throw it in the crockpot on low.) He wanted to say miserable, (which was a pretty high level word for a 3 year old actually), but instead I heard Mom! Help! Something is making me invisible! As I ran into his room to rescue my quite visible youngster, I tried not to laugh at his word choice, seeing his distress (his utter and complete invisibleness if you will). Since then our family has adopted this new word, and when we are upset, we often share with each other that something is making us invisible. (This is even cuter when your youngster has a slight lisp.)
Forgive me for sharing something funny to explain something troubling, but the older I get the more I see that humor and sadness are often mixed in real life. As I reflected on my last post about a loving God placing people in families, I was troubled with the reality of so many who are placed into quite invisible circumstances, and the glaring question that begins with “How can a loving God…?” You know the drill.
And indeed it is a legitimate question. How can I sit here and write about a loving God’s sovereign placement of kids into families, when some are placed into difficult families? This of course is not limited to adopted children, as many are born into difficult families, or lack a family altogether. As the king of Siam would say, It is a puzzlement.
I have a friend, (I’ll call her Melissa), who listens patiently to all my ponderings about God and initially answers my difficult theological questions with one of two words: God, or sin. (I should add that she means a good and loving God, and mankind’s sin nature, which I also accept as true.) Her response used to drive me nuts, but I came to see that so many times the answer to my difficult questions did come down to a loving God or to man’s sin nature. I hesitate to write about sin because it is not a popular topic. I see that I now am in deep theological weeds here, but I won’t bore you with a treatise on sin and its effect in the world. People far wiser than me have written about this, my favorite being C.S. Lewis, the Oxford University English Literature professor, scholar and theologian. Although he is well-known for his Chronicles of Narnia series, enjoyed by children and adults alike, he also wrote Mere Christianity, and the Problem of Pain. No need for me to reinvent that wheel; I have neither the inclination nor the ability.
However I accept both premises-that God is good, and that man is sinful, and I find that the answers to many why questions come to rest here. That does not mean I am flippant about children who are born into terrible circumstances. I have been in the orphanages in China where many neglected children reached out their arms to me; I would go home in emotional tatters because I could not comfort them all with the mother’s love that they craved, and in my mind deserved. I have also seen cases of neglect and abuse here at home, and have wrestled with the inequities of life. I still do. And so I cannot comfort those who feel that life has dealt them a bad hand (even though I make feeble attempts). I think only God can do that, ultimately. (Melissa are you smiling?)
Here is something that I have observed however; something that defies explanation as much as the inequities—not everyone who has difficult circumstances has the same response. For reasons that I cannot fathom (but probably due to …God–shut up already Melissa), some people rise above their most difficult situations and accomplish incredible things. Some are not bitter, or angry but have a deep and abiding love of life, others, and God. I prefer not to mention famous people here, but rather people I actually know. I wrote about one such person, Marianne Cashatt, a paraplegic, and dear friend of our family who recently passed away. I never knew a sunnier person–truly. Whenever I visited her she cheered me up. I also think of my friend and fellow choir member Pat, who recently passed away. Pat struggled with cancer for about 25 years, and when I met her I noticed her radiant smile,her adorably cute face, her cheerful attitude, her kindness to all, and her stylish clothes (Pat always looked like she stepped out of Talbot’s catalog). Once when I took her a meal she asked me to stay and chat and wanted to know all about my life. I found myself mystified with this smart, cheerful adventurous lady (who got her pilot’s license at age 40).
I don’t think I would be as sunny, kind, or grateful to God as these brave women, were I faced with their difficulties. Um… let me be truthful; I know I wouldn’t. But each time I am faced with the inexplicable, I come to the answer that Pat, and Marianne, and lots of others have found. I still believe that God is good–even though there is sin and its resultant suffering in the world. And that even applies when something is making me invisible.
Inexplicable? Yes, usually.
Invisible? Yes, often.
Impossible to be happy? Not necessarily.
How is that? God.