Saturday, September 23, 2006

Serendipity 2—The Sequel

(Still not a movie. Thank goodness.)

So the question is, why in the universe would God care about whether or not I had a working washing machine? Or whether or not Elaine was able to get rid of one?

These questions lead to other ones, such as: If God cares about the details surrounding household appliances, why didn’t He instead just keep my washing machine from breaking in the first place? Why didn’t He prevent the stuff that’s happened in Elaine’s family which led to (among other things) their needing to get rid of a washing machine? Why did my grandfather, who served God as a pastor for decades, have to get Alzheimer’s, and why does my grandmother, who served God for decades, too, have to spend her waning years more or less alone, caring for a man who lost most of his personhood years ago? Why did a good friend’s brother have to die in a car accident that wasn’t his fault? Why were so many of my friends abused by their fathers? Why do children get abducted? Why are people still getting slaughtered in Darfur? Why is there a war in Iraq?

Does God not care about anything else except washing machines? Is He unable to do anything about bigger stuff?

Sometimes, when I’m feeling cynical and clever and not very respectful, I say that God buys me off with parking spaces. By that I mean I pray for stuff that seems super-colossally monumental—including stuff it seems like would be in His best interest to perform—and nothing happens (unless the circumstances get worse), but if, say, I’m trying to find a place to park and I shoot up a quick request for that, a spot appears in a startlingly strategic location. And I’m not being completely dishonest here. The beginning of this year saw a couple of answers to some of my bigger prayers, and I found this amazing, but by and large, I find myself still praying about most of the same things with little, except parking spaces—oh, and now a washing machine—to show for it.

So if I start talking about how God got me a washing machine or a parking space, it sounds silly. Or insignificant. Or glib. Or smug.

But there’s another angle to all this. I don’t really have answers to the questions above. I have some hints and niggling thoughts and whispers of reasons, but nothing I can really pin down that makes me say, “Oh, well, it’s all okay then.” On the other hand, maybe sometimes those questions are the things that end up being smug.

It’s not smug to be brokenhearted about the brokenness of the world. But it might be a little bit that way to assume God isn’t either. Or that He doesn’t know what He’s doing (or I know better). Or that He doesn’t care. God’s crazy—or I am; anyway, the point is I don’t really know what’s going on. I don’t have the big picture. I don’t have the wisdom that the suffering of the world bestows—yet, or maybe ever.

But I do have a washing machine. Which I wouldn’t have if Sue had been home when I called her first. I didn’t make this happen. I can only assume God did. I can dismiss it as something little and stupid, or I can realize that things like that just don’t happen in the world we have, and the fact that it did must mean that God really is here, after all, and that He really does care—about individuals, even. And woe to me if that doesn’t make me fall down on my knees and be grateful.

(By the way, I am.)

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