Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Absolute Trust

I keep straining my ears to hear a sound.
Maybe someone is digging underground,
or have they given up and all gone home to bed,
thinking those who once existed must be dead. -- New York Mining Disaster 1941

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours? -- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

"'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" -- Jesus

The mining disaster in Tallmansville, West Virginia, with its especially cruel interlude of premature hope before it became clear that all but one of the trapped m miners had died, has weighed heavy on my mind this week. It's odd that, in a year filled with disasters around the world, this local, small-scale tragedy should make such an impression. Perhaps it's because we were waiting, in our living rooms, along with those miners' families, seeing and hearing them as they kept vigil for hours, enjoyed a brief respite, then had their happiness crushed.

Theodicy -- the theological conversation focusing on why God does what God does, or doesn't do -- is a stone that I think has crushed more than one fragile faith. My speculations are no better than others. But when I try to reconcile the bad things that happen in the world on an ongoing basis with my faith, I keep coming back to something Dan Erlander wrote in his book Baptized We Live; when I first read these words I found them incredibly jarring, but the more I've lived with them, the more they've provided me with a touchstone when bad things happen:

We live by trust and not by certitude...we live in ambiguity. Life is joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, good and evil, health and sickness. Having no proof that God cares, we take the "leap of faith." We trust that God is good, that God means us well...we trust that God will bring the shalom.


Lutheran Zephyr said...

Thanks for the Erlander quote. I, too, struggled with this tragedy (my struggles are laid out bare in my blog). I appreciate your poetic words and grounded approach. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your quote. I will remember it from now on.

I for one have questioned... why would God allow such a thing to happen and my chest has been heavy since I heard the terrible news early this morning, but after reading your blog that feeling has gone away. Whatever the reason for anything that happened, it is a part of God's plan. My anxiety, I realize now, comes from wanting answers and wanting despirately to know who's to 'blame'... surely if all of us knew, it would justify my anger and I'd feel better when that someone pays for his mistake. Wrong! How easy it is to forget in times like this that it is not up to us to judge anyone and that God is ultimately the captain of our ship.

Again, thank you. Your words have brought a comfort to me.

Nicodemia said...

I found the Erlander quote so helpful, I have copied it out to keep.

There have been so many tragedies last year, and in 2006 already. The US miners, the German Ice Rink people, mud slides in the Phillipines. Is this the start of another tragic year?

All we can do is trust God. What else CAN we do?

Rainbow Pastor said...

I once heard a sermon on trust in which the preacher pointed out that we live on trust--trust that our cars will start, trust that the church will be there, trust that our homes will be there when we return...and at that moment, a fire truck roared by, siren screaming!

But no one raced out to see where it was going...

Verdugo said...

What beautiful words. Thank you for walking thru this tragedy with us.