I started this on Wednesday morning, but it was a hard one to wrestle through, so I’ve only just finished it. Please read with grace – and read all the way to the end.
There’s been a small mountain of tissue on my bedside table, slowly accumulating over the past week. On July 9th, a dear and precious soul went home to be with Jesus. She wasn’t much older than me, and she didn’t deserve to die. I just finished Skyping her funeral, it’s 4 in the morning and sleep is escaping me. See, it strikes me as infinitely unjust that young and beloved souls should leave us so soon, that prisons are lined with healthy inmates and cancer wards house thousands of fatally ill children, or that good people experience so much pain.
I took two philosophy courses in my first year of university, which above all, taught me to question everything. Is democracy truly the best choice for society? Is history a product of human agency, or is it the other way around? Is forgiveness actually possible in our limited human capacity? Does God exist? Do we even exist, or are we just figments of our imagination? I spent the entire year poring over texts that are, in some cases, hundreds of years old, that attempt to riddle out these timeless questions; yet it seems that no matter how many times we ask them, no matter how many generations study them, or bright minds rationalize them, we’ll never truly know.
In my first semester of classes, whilst debating religion and it’s implications on society, my professor, impassioned, abruptly turned and pointed to the door and with a sort of desperation declared: “There is truth out there.. Somewhere.. It’s just waiting to be discovered!” And something about the weary hopelessness in his eyes and the elusiveness of this truth that hung on his defeated posture has stuck with me ever since. “There is truth out there.”
Is there? We can’t seem to decide whether the Bible is the truth or if Christ was just a con man. We don’t know which of the world religions to follow, or if science is the ultimate answer. Are Christians weak for depending on a fairy tale to get them through life, or are they strong for holding onto faith? Are they disillusioned by said faith? Did we all come from dust to return to dust with no lasting impact on this earth? Are we truly just mere specks living aimlessly on a planet that’s spinning through a solar system.. that is essentially waiting for our sun to explode, returning us all to specks in the massive universe we exist in?
In my second semester of Philosophy, I studied multiple theories on proving or disproving God’s existence. It seems that every hypothesis has an antithetical explanation. For weeks we bounced back and forth between theories and counter arguments. One class I finally passively gave up trying to defend my stance on God. My professor has been having that exact argument three times a day for the last twenty years, and it seemed like a futile cause, but that same day, she shocked me.
“Raise your hand if you don’t believe there is a God.” About half of my peers rose their hands.
“Now tell me this, can you think of any one single idea that is more beautiful than the God Christianity has chosen to follow?” That got my attention. A few students took a stab, listing world peace or utopia, but all the answers were limited by our finite humanity. The replies subsisted only within earth, and not one of us could generate anything nearly as complex or wonderful as God. I don’t remember exactly, but this is, in essence, what she told our class that morning:
“It is impossible to “one-up” God. A God that is all present, all knowing, all powerful. He is love and mercy and justice. He is entirely holy, pure, and perfect. He creates universes because he’s bored and in the process, creates incredibly intricate designs that we can only hope to someday comprehend. He has existed since the creation of time and will exist beyond its demise. Now tell me, if you can’t come up with anything better than that, how do you suppose Christianity even imagined it in the first place?”
Philosophy is the “love of wisdom” or whatever the Latin translates into, but really, it’s more like the root of wisdom. Philosophy is the reason we have astronomy or biology, or any other number of fields. One of my professors explained it to me like this: “Once philosophy has asked enough questions that the powers that be can categorize them into a single area of study, it ceases to be known as philosophy, and takes on its own life; however, philosophy is responsible for every subjects’ conception.” Philosophy will continue to exist until there are no more questions left, and since philosophy is driven by humanity’s insatiable curiosity, I doubt we’ll ever see its end, because we’ll simply never stop asking these questions.
When someone as sweet, caring, generous, and worthy of life as Dee is taken from us, we will return to these age old questions. When we watch our fellow brothers and sisters ache under the strain of poverty, disease, or disabilities, we will doubt. When we see our species commit genocide, war with one another, or imprison innocents, we observe with disgust. When hurricanes level, when tsunamis wipe out, when earthquakes shatter cities, we will shake our fist at the sky and demand answers. We say God has a plan, but what kind of God has this plan? I was watching the news the other night and within minutes heard the stories of a young girl’s rape, a boy losing his eye to several bullies at his school, and a plane that crashed into an apartment minutes after take off. Does it make sense to trust a God who lets all this and so much more happen on his watch?
I don’t know. I don’t have any answers for you – I’m still searching for my own, but despite all I have seen in 18 years, despite all I have questioned and wondered, the following has never left me, and with every challenge, it becomes more real to me:
God is love. God is good. He is merciful, just, gracious, holy, compassionate, all knowing, and absolute. He created freckles and dimples and the specks of gold in my sister’s eyes. In the same way, He created the ocean and mountains and breathed the stars into place. He is a God of magnificent detail – He is in the rising and setting of the sun, just as He is in the laughter of a child. He grieves when we grieve, and loves us “even when.” He is patient and slow to anger, but quick to forgiveness. He has always been, always is, and always will be. He exists outside of any realm of our understanding and yet chooses to make Himself known to us. He is a comforter, counsellor, and a caregiver. He loves the unlovely and cares for the forgotten, he looks out for a child as much as a king. He is powerful yet gentle, is resplendent yet humble, is a lion and the lamb.
This is the God I know; and of all those words, my favourite is absolute.
“Absolute – not subject to any limits, unconditional; having unrestricted power; viewed or existing independently, not in relation to other things; not relative or comparative; that which exists without being dependent on anything else; universally valid; ultimate reality.” It’s synonyms are complete, perfect, pure, unquestionable, undoubtable, incontrovertible, unequivocal, infallible, unlimited, infinite, and boundless. My God is all those things and so much more.
I can continue to question philosophically for the rest of my days. I could constantly doubt God and blame him for things like genocide, tsunamis, or death. I’ll never know why He doesn’t make His presence undeniably, indisputably obvious to the rest of the world, or why He lets bad things happen, but I do know all of the things I just told you, and based on those truths, I trust Him, and let me tell you – it’s a relief.
It’s a really good feeling to let God be God. There is truth out there, and I’m blessed to know it.
Sweet Dee, we will miss you here, but Sweet Jesus, I trust you’re taking care of her.
much love and many blessings,