"I will praise the one who's chosen me, to carry you"
-Selah: I will carry you

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The thorny subject of unanswered prayer

Disclaimer: this blog is my space to process what I am going through, what I am feeling and my way of trying to make sense of it. It is in no way meant to offend, dictate or spark religious debate.   You may find this helpful, or not. You may agree whole heartedly, you may not. Whatever. This is me.

So as my regular readers will by now have grasped, I'm on something of a see-saw  Some days are very hard, my heart is heavy and my mind won't calm. Those days produce blogs like my last post. Other days, a whole load of people pile onto the other side of the see-saw to lift me back up- and often they don't even realise they have done it. The last couple of days have been like that, and I feel better. I have realised- importantly- that actually I don't need people around me who are going through exactly what I am right now.  Even if I found them, they wouldn't feel exactly what I feel, they wouldn't get me entirely- they are them, and I am me. What I need to do is appreciate the people around me who don't, and can't "get it" but who listen anyway, and then pile on the see-saw.  And then, there's God. The father who knows everything there is to know about me. He gets me.  But what's the point if He doesn't answer?

I'm reading a book on unanswered prayer- "God on Mute" by Pete Greig.  The author, like me, likes analogies.  At one point he talks about a baby with chicken pox. The baby is hurting, sick, upset, distressed. It doesn't understand what is happening and thinks that this pain is going to last forever. There's nothing the parent can do to make it understand that the pain will pass, they will be better and actually, it is far better for them to have chicken pox now than later on. Instead, the parent sooths the child with calamine lotion, and hold it closely in their arms until the sickness passes.  I am not so naieve as to believe that one day this will all be over, that my Bertie pain is not with me for life, but I still liked the analogy. The storm will pass, and until it does, I am being carried. Remember the footprints in the sand?  Of course, I'd rather He fixed things, calmed the storm, but I'll take what I can get at this point, and that is hope.

A quick google search on unanswered prayer brings a very mixed bag- from the judgemental "Your prayers are not answered becuase of unconfessed sin" to the irrelevant "you aren't getting what you ask for becuase you just want it for your own pleasure" I am not asking to win the lottery....well, in a way I suppose I am, but you know what I mean. Another offering is that it's all for "spiritual maturity" a way to bring you closer to God. Why should Bertie's life be the price to pay for my spiritual maturity?  Since he died, I have joined a housegroup, and I am more involved with church...I am doing the Alpha course. So, He got what He wanted huh?  No. I'm sorry, I just still cannot accept that viewpoint. I prefer the analogy that CS Lewis wrote in The Magician's Nephew:  A young boy who's mother is dying approached the lion Aslan, to ask for some magic fruit to save his mother. Aslan appears to ignore his request, until the boy looks into the lion's face and sees tears in his eyes.  Aslan is as upset by the situation as the boy, he is not ignoring the prayer for help, but does truly care.  This fits closer to my feeling that perhaps, God could not save my son. He was as upset by the tragedy as me,but powerless to stop it.*

Another google hit led me to another christan couple who lost their baby girl, also born very prematurely. They are now very busy with their church and have decided that God's plan in their daughter's death was that had she lived, and been very disabled, they would not have had the time to do all the ministy they do. I'm sorry, but what??? Do they honestly believe God values their preaching above their daughter's life? Becuase I do not. No matter where my life takes me now, nothing I do in the future could be worth more than my son's life. Why should he lose his life to allow me to fulful some higher plan? I do not know why my prayers for Bertie, and those of countless others, were not answered, but I am certain that it was not through God's decision for him to die in order for me to come to some point in the future. If that were the case, why allow me to conceive him in the first place? A loving God would not knowingly decide to waste a new life, to put me through this pain, surely?

And now, my new prayers go unanswered.  I am not sure if God is powerless to give me a rainbow or not.  Surely, if He is not in control of who lives and who dies, He is not in control of who gets a baby and who doesn't either? I realise I am trying to apply human logic to a situation far above that, but hey, I'm human. So I wonder, is He listening but saying no? Is He saying not no, but not yet? Does He see the bigger picture and will I one day look back and realise that it was better that this storm raged a while longer? Truth is right now I have no idea.  If He is making me wait for a reason....why is the time right for so many others and not for me?  What do I have to learn that they didn't? Why is the time right for the 15 year old and the drug addict and the abusive parents and not for me?  Why does my faith need to be so tested, when others with no faith at all get an easy ride?

A wise and very good friend said to me, perhaps you are just not ready...perhaps this affected your body and soul more deeply than you realise? Maybe she is right... Hmm. Much as I hate the "you're too stressed" advice....much as I will always respond with people have babies in war zones/within a year of stillbirth/as a result of rape.......somehow it now sits better to think that than to believe that God just doesn't want me to be a mum.  Because if I just haven't been ready...then there is at least hope that I will be ready.  Of course, in my heart and soul I am more than ready, I am a mum already, and that is what makes the waiting so hard.  To me, the time was right 18 months ago. 

So there we are, and I am no closer to an answer.  But I am closer to hope, and I guess that is an answered prayer in itself.

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

*I do realise this viewpoint is theologically wrong- after all, we know that God is all powerful, right? To diminish God's power to make myself feel better is not really what a good Christian should be doing. I know that. But until someone can give me a better explanation, at least this way of thinking allows me to continue in a relationship with God.  War, murder, the holocaust...these things happen because of human actions. Humans have free will, God is not a master puppeteer and we are not pawns in some colossal game of chess are we? But here I am talking about biology, nature....act of God? Does God really decide to randomly massacre thousands of people with earthquakes, tsunamis and drought? Or, did he create the world, and decide to take a back seat....wind it up and watch it go? One day, I will get to Heaven, see the face of God and no longer need to ask. Right now, I am on Earth, I am human, I am going through the worst grief imaginable and I need to search for a reason for it all. It's the fundamental problem of human suffering with a God who is supposed to be both all powerful, and all loving.

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