Friday, January 04, 2008

Question Marks Everywhere I Look

Lately it seems to me that I have many questions and few answers. Everywhere I look I see more question marks. To the right of me. To the left of me. Even above me when I look up to God.

God has never once answered my "why" questions, but I don't feel guilty for asking them.

As 2008 begins, I wonder how long my sister will live. From all indications, her passing is coming soon. Why couldn't we three sisters grow old together, as my mother's family did? Three doddering old women who love each other, reading as we sip Constant Comment tea? Why should my sister be closer to death than her mother? Why can't she grow to old age, loving people, serving God and blessing those who know her with her wit, wisdom, love and faith? Why must those bright and intelligent blue eyes grow so--empty--and why must she have Alzheimer's--despicable disease--and be close to the end before she is hardly past middle age? Why should her husband be struggling with additional serious health issues after many years of serving God faithfully?

I wonder what this year will bring for my mother, struggling with life in a nursing home and the frustrations of infirmity and increasing dementia. Why is it me, of her three daughters, who is struggling alone with the issues of her aging? That was never the plan! I am the last one who should be called upon to do this. She never has trusted me, never quite understood me, never really known me. Why couldn't she have passed quietly in her bed in Texas without this degrading slide into extreme old age?

I look around me and in all directions I sense question marks. At my church--what does the future hold? For my children? Why did things turn out so completely differently than anything I ever planned? For my husband--why should this once graceful, brilliant, athletic man struggle with so many difficult physical complications?

For myself, ah, there are so many question marks right now that I cannot begin to name them. Why have my efforts, hopes, dreams, expectations--why have so few been realized, why so few prayers answered?

As I struggled with these question marks today, I found this:

A man walked in darkness and fog from his house to the cobblestone street, his step determined and relentless, but his face tear-stained and weary. As he reached the street, he peered both ways, looking for the lantern of a horse-drawn, London cab. The man muttered: "Nothing! Am I too late? But no! I must end all tonight! And the river it must be!" Then, in the distance, he saw a hazy light, slowly enlarging.

Almost whispering, the man said bitterly: "God, you provided me no solace, but here you provide the cab to take me to my death!"

"Where to?" asked the cabbie, when he stopped.

"London Bridge," the man replied, curtly. "A cold night it is, sir -- what sort of business have you at the Bridge at this hour?" But the man said nothing, so the cabbie ended his attempt at conversation, and set off.

But the fog became thicker and thicker, so that the cabbie could not see even his horse's nose. What should have been a 20-minute ride lasted an hour, and still there was no sign of the river or the 600 year-old bridge. The cabbie peered into the fog, desperately looking for some familiar sign or landmark.

Suddenly, the fog lifted. The passenger, startled from his morose stare, looked to his right and saw, to his amazement, his own home. The cab, lost in the fog, had circled back to the very place he began the journey.

"My God! You have answered me!" the passenger cried out. Later that night, by his own hearth, this man, William Cowper, one of the greatest of England's 18th century poets, meditated on Psalm 77.

I cry aloud to God, I cry out to God to hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. I think of God, and I moan; I muse, and my spirit grows faint. You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago. I remember my song in the night; my heart muses, and my spirit inquires: "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Is his word no longer valid for evermore? Has God forgotten to show his favor? Has he in anger stopped the flow of his mercy? And I say, "This is my grief: the right hand of the Most High has changed."

I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

(slightly edited NRSV)
That same night, William Cowper penned this great poem:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!
The clouds ye so much dread;
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

To me, every verse of that poem has at least one line worth some serious pondering! I am going to spend the next day or doing as the Psalmist did--recalling the blessings of God. Those question marks may not vanish, but maybe they won't loom quite so large.

I'll start with recalling that I am not supposed to be seeing. Instead, thanks be to God, I'm enjoying the beautiful snow, the sunsets, the gleam in little Trinity's eyes. Thank you for those blessing, Lord God.

Join me in the comments if you like Or maybe even ask your questions. Your questions are safe, though likely unanswered, with me.


Anonymous said...

Our suffering seems sad, but we suffer no more, and much less, than the larger part of the earths' peoples. Were we to not suffer, perhaps our joys would be less intense. Having 6 grandchildren myself, I know the utter delight that they bring. I know that they bring delight at a time of life when we may be facing the daunting prospect of becoming the senior responsible family member.

Then there are other hurts that life brings. For me, each Christmas involves an aching heart, because one Christmas several years ago, a group of Christians I loved and served for many years dismissed and rejected me. Had it not been for wise advice from family, friends and services such as 'Bullyonline' I might still be being hurt by those people today. Out of pain, God delivers.

I hope and pray that the pains you face in 2008 will be relieved, they are the common pains of life. Let them teach you to be compassionate towards others who suffer pain.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Anon. I had to grin at the wise advice...and yes, just life. I know. It passes, all of it, and changes, and evolves, and for that I am grateful. I am not lacking in compassion, but I am lacking in faith and hope. I must get past that, and remembering God's blessings seems a good place to start. I rejoice in your deliverance (been through that dismissal thing, and it hurts like nothing else does) and that you are enjoying six grandchildren. Thanks for your comment.

zorra said...

All I can say is

Psalmist said...

((((((((((Singing Owl))))))))))))

Many of your questions could also be mine. Like you, I have no answers. However, I believe God is present in the questions and is personally the answer; "I AM" and "I am with you" may not satisfy our very human wanting to know why, but they're our ultimate satisfaction. (Yeah, I know...easy for me to SAY, but much harder to feel it, eh?)

Love you, sister.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I've been worrying about you, Psalmist. I'll call you soon.

Anonymous said...

I hope that this year will bring some answers, and peace with the questions that are left unanswered. I could add my questions here, but I'd run out of room :)