My wife Rebecca always does an incredible job curating the most thoughtful gifts, all of the way down to the card. However, as I am nearing my thirties, I have found that I much prefer experiences over physical gifts. She began to understand this and on my 28th birthday she provided the most meaningful experience I ever had.
I remember the smell of the rain that was about to fall, the way the grey clouds looked through the naked branches, it was a Tuesday. I walked into the living room and saw a lone brown paper gift bag on the coffee table (perfect for my personality I suppose).
“Honey, I asked you not to buy me anyth…”
She put up her hand, “Calm it down. Just open it” as she began to smile with her phone candidly sitting on her lap, seemingly to record my reaction. I sat on the couch and started to withdraw the contents from the bag. There was nothing but a coffee thermos.
“Thanks, Honey. I actually need one of these”
“Wait a second, open it up.”
I unscrewed the cap and found an infant onesie with a couple of pregnancy tests inside.
“Wait. Are you…pregnant?” “This isn’t right!” “You’re not pregnant.” “YOU’RE PREGNANT!”
Before this I didn’t even think I wanted to be a dad. My heart welled up with excitement I had never felt, comparable to when fifteen year old Thomas saw Star Wars Episode III with his dad at the Midnight showing.
But several weeks later Rebecca knew that something just did not feel right. We went to the doctor, got blood work done, and then went home to wait for the test results. Mid-Saturday morning came and we received a call with the results. Rebecca was no longer pregnant.
God had terminated the pregnancy. Well, that was what we were supposed feel because we kept being told, “Remember, God has a plan” and “Everyone happens for a reason.”
God has a plan? Really? This plan involves orchestrated pregnancy terminations for middle class families?
To say something is all in God’s plan can be the Christian equivalent of “tough shit” or “just deal with it.” It requires little to no effort on the person saying those words. A good number of people were quick to justify what had happened, but Rebecca and I did not need a justification for the ending of the pregnancy, we had already accepted that this outcome was without God’s cause. It was something that happened, and it sucked.
I do not believe God causes suffering, and I believe the scriptures that speak about such things were people who found ways to explain the unexplainable. It serves a purpose for some, but not all. I believe that the best response when someone is grieving is to offering your presence, not quick and easy cop out or “tough love” responses.
What do I believe? I believe that things that happen just happen, and that it not caused by the Divine. When we see the entire story of Jesus as the one who became flesh, we see a God who became present in human suffering. The Divine is believed to have shared in our human nature, a fact that serves as an example for all of us. We are most like the divine when we make the choice to suffer with others, not remain withdrawn.
We need this in life of Jesus, even if some do not believe that it actually happened as the Bible says. The truth of the thought helps us understand how we can better suffer with others. We need to take our time and be present with others. To be like the Divine is to empathize, to suffer with someone else, and to feel their emotions.
We sometimes grow more accustom to performing a lateral and giving responsibility to God, but in reality we see that we have more control than we realize. People need our presence, not words that some far off power wishes them well while the presence of others remains absent.
That is what Rebecca and I actually found to add value.
This is the example we have in the story that tells of the God who became flesh. If we took that more seriously, it could change how we interact with those who are grieving and suffering.