Questions. No Answers.

Tragedy always makes us question. We look for answers, we look for comfort, and we find damn little of either one.

Truth be told, there are no answers. We can psychologize all we want and analyze the killer’s childhood, stress factors, even what he had to eat. We can talk about the effects of violence in movies. But the fact remains that nothing will give us an answer that satisfies.

Many people say “Turn to God.” I find that less than satisfying. In fact, for me that just raises more questions.

I struggle with questions when people who have experienced the tragedy and have come through it say, “God was so good to us.” Yes, he was. I rejoice with you that your loved one has experienced something miraculous. But what about those who died, who didn’t see a miracle, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was God any less good in those situations?

It sometimes seems so.

It’s no wonder we fall into the trap of thinking, “Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe if I would have …”

The fact is, if God is who the Bible claims he is and if there is truth in the song we sometimes sing, then God is good all the time. God was good when he protected your loved one from tragedy. And God was good when he didn’t.

For me, that’s where the real question starts. Not so much why did God allow or why didn’t God prevent or why didn’t God protect. The real question is does God exist at all.

How’s that for an admission of stumbling? My husband was raised in a Christian home; I wasn’t. For him, the main question he struggles with is “am I saved?” I have no doubt about my salvation. If God is who he says he is then he can accomplish what he says, and that includes saving this particular sinner. No, my main question is “but does he really exist?”

It seems that the logical answer to the problem of evil–or theodicy, as the theologians put it–is that God doesn’t exist. It’s just logical. It’ not rational to believe in a supreme being who says he is good and yet doesn’t protect those who love him.

We compare God to a parent; we call him–and were encouraged by Jesus to call him–our heavenly Father. And yet I know what this mama bear here would have done if a man would have pointed a gun at one of my kids and I could have prevented it. If I could have prevented it, that man would be sorry his father had ever met his mother.

That’s the kind of parent most of us are.

But God, the one we call our heavenly Father, does nothing?

It’s more logical to say that God doesn’t exist. I understand why non-believers don’t believe. I understand why my atheist friend thinks I’m foolish for believing. I understand the comfort in saying that God doesn’t exist because then the questions aren’t raised.

I also know the traditional Christian answers. I’ve read the book of Job. I’ve read CS Lewis’ The Problem of Evil. (However, Lewis’ book A Grief Observed he basically admits that there are no answers that satisfy when grief envelopes us. Read it. There’s more comfort in sharing a fellow stumbler’s pain than in searching for answers.) I understand that the best answer any Christian may be able to offer is a simple “I don’t know.”

If you have read this far, then you may be waiting for me to offer my answer. I don’t have any. I don’t know. All I have is questions.

Only questions. No answers.

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Today

So I start a blog about grace, and eventually (because it hasn’t been around long enough yet) I wanted to talk about offering grace to the outsiders, to those curved folks who the straight-and-narrow churchy people sometimes try to straighten out.

Yet today, I can’t. I don’t want to offer grace. I don’t want to offer mercy. I can’t even pray for God to have mercy on James Holmes, the man who went into a theater very close to my home and shot 71 people at the midnight showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people. Including a six-year-old child. My God.

The last thing I want for him is mercy. Grace is far from my mind.

And in that, perhaps I can only say once again, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

My prayers are with the families.

Bumper Sticker Theology

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read “God save me … from your followers.” I could identify.

The impetus for such a bumper sticker, of course, is that many God-followers (aka Christians in this case) are small-minded, intolerant, judgmental, non-fun … well, you get the picture. Chances are, you’ve run into a number of them. Christians will talk a lot about grace and acceptance and how they are just as “bad” as anyone else, we’re all sinners, etc. But it seems more often than not, what they are really thinking is what the Pharisee thought about the tax collector when they were both coming before God in the temple: “Thank God I am not like that man.”

Yep, I can identify. The sad thing is that I am a God-follower. I am determined, though, to live my life according to what the tax collector said: “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Welcome to Stumbling Toward Grace: Confessions of a Clumsy Christian.

Here you will find thoughts about God, spirituality, church, redemption. You will find discussions about sin, doubt, anger, beauty. You will find venting, creating, provoking, celebrating. And yes, stumbling.

I hope you come here often. I hope you comment. And no matter how clumsy you are, you’re not alone. Enjoy the journey.