Existential crisis. In my life I’ve never really questioned the existence of God or the truth of Jesus or the workings of the Holy Spirit or the mystery of all three. There have been many times when I doubted my own place in this world. Times when I struggled mightily with sin, it’s consequences and the truths that come to light because of it. I’ve been confused and angry with God but I never doubted him.
Until Maddie died.
Life is such a strange thing. Why the death of a child whom I don’t know would affect me so profoundly is unexplainable. I just know that by the time I got to church on Wednesday night for Vespers, I doubted God for the first time in my life. And I was sure that I was done with him and his church.
I sat in the semi-dark, candlelit room and cried. I was so sad for Heather and Mike. So worried about another family I know who’s 3 month old son is in a hospital struggling for his life. So done with believing in a God that let bad things happen.
Then our speaker for the evening got up to talk. Now, I’ve had the experience of hearing a sermon or reading a blog post or talking to a friend that seemed to be directed straight at me. Words I needed to hear, ideas I needed to ponder, comfort I needed to accept. But Wednesday night was the most profound and powerful experience of that I’ve ever had. That Vespers talk was for me. I know it was.
He spoke of his own existential crises, of a time when he declared he was done with God and the revelation he found from it. He spoke of a deeply rooted faith, of mystery and of accepting that there are no answers to many of our hardest questions. I wish I was talented enough to describe to you what happened to me as I sat there listening to him and crying. The realization of my own deeply rooted faith that would never, ever be able to give up on God came with a keen physical sensation. I think it could be called relief.
You see, in all my darkest times in life, I’ve never felt like God has left me. I’ve always felt his presence with me. Even on Wednesday. But there I was telling God I was done, I was leaving, no more, good-bye. And the irony of it is actually quite comical. It was like standing in front of tree and declaring to the tree that you don’t believe it’s there and then sitting down underneath it, resting against it’s trunk and taking comfort in it’s shade. The tree isn’t going to leave me and I can’t leave the tree.
I’m still very sad. In fact, this week has been marked with much death, destruction and despair. I’m really tired of hearing bad news. I’m grateful for the little bits of good news sprinkled in, like the birth of another little girl. One life ended, another began. And so it goes.
I was looking for something profound during this Lenten season. I don’t know what exactly I expected but I know it wasn’t this. I guess when it comes to faith, we never quite get what we expect from God, we get what we need.
Maddie’s parents, Heather and Mike Spohr, requested in lieu of flowers for Maddie that donations be made to the March of Dimes. Several of us bloggers around the country who knew or knew of Heather and Maddie have formed walk teams for the annual March of Dimes fundraising walks. I’m walking for Maddie on Sunday, April 19th. If you are so inclined, I’d be humbled and delighted if you sponsored me for this walk.