a little east of reality

Monday, September 12, 2005

answering prayers

The waiter guy over at waiter rant wrote a wonderful post today about an incident that occurred in the floods in Louisiana. He described his thought process in trying to make any kind of sense of some poor guy having to listen to his mother plead for help day after day when none was coming.

He said:
I shut the radio off and kill the engine. I have tears in my eyes. Tightness constricts my chest. I imagine it’s my mother pleading for her life. I try and shake the imagery out of my head but I can’t. Adrenaline pumps through my system. My hands start shaking. Sick desolation spreads out from the pit of my stomach.
He asked some poignant questions about God and prayer, and gave some interesting answers.

“God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us.”

The guy who said that was a Lutheran pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was executed by the Nazi’s for trying to assassinate Hitler. This man knew Evil up close and personal. But he still cherished his faith in God and his belief in the goodness of the world. How did he do that in the face of such monstrosity?

Because he realized that God was not all powerful. He knew God wouldn’t swoop down and save him from his jailors. He understood there’s no division of sacred and profane, any secular and divine. He saw there’s only one reality and he believed that reality was God. And from within that insight he wrestled with the mystery of suffering.

God, Bonhoeffer would say, suffers with us. He shares in our pain. If you’ve ever been to a child’s funeral you know the only thing you can do is cry. God is like that person weeping in the funeral parlor. It was God who was pulverized when the Towers fell, it was God who burned in the Nazi’s ovens, and it was God who drowned in that nursing home in New Orleans.

If you have the time, read the whole post. In amongst his funny stories about bistro life, he sometimes gives real insight and wisdom.

This is the comment I added onto the post, slightly edited to add a thought I had later:

There's so much we blame God for not doing that we could do ourselves. That woman didn't need to drown. Her prayers should have been answered - through other people. There was almost a week long window of opportunity there and no-one took it. We can say no-one could take it - certainly her son would have saved her if he could - but the most I hear about the lack of response to this disaster, the more I wonder how much more could have been done if the will was there to do it.

You know, natural disasters (the tsunami, the hurricane) do happen, but most of what ails this earth is caused by people. I would include the neglected levee, but it's much more than that. Most human suffering comes from other people. And I understand why God doesn't intervene in that (the only way to take away the consequences of free will after all, is to take away free will) but it still hurts to see so much of it happen. Isn't life hard enough already without us hurting each other? Why do we try so hard to step on top of other people on our way to places and powers we don't really need to have a happy life?