I think I understand now why the Charlie Anderson character in “Shenandoah” feels more comfortable talking to his dead wife than he does talking to You.
I understand Charlie’s dinner-table prayers better now. The anger. The insistence on self-sufficiency. The determination to pray anyway because that was what she had done and it would have made her happy if she were still there at the dinner table.
I comprehend better what he feels to have a son distant and a daughter to whom awful things have happened.
Is that what this is all about, God? Becoming more compassionate toward a character in a drama?
No. Of course not.
But it’s not like You’re going to tell me what it’s all about, either. Those days of You speaking out of the whirlwind are gone, aren’t they?
Even Your answers to Job were mostly questions. Like that would help.
And It’s not like I blame you that Angi’s gone. You didn’t do that. I know who did, and I hate the evil that urges sin that leads to death at least as much as You do.
Yet you permit it. Sin and death, I mean. You let it happen. And there are millions of us who are trying to figure out why. Some will pin their disbelief on it. If You existed and You are good, they say, You wouldn’t permit it.
As if they understand all about You and can judge You any better than Adam and Eve did. Or what good is. Or what love really means.
Oh, I have my theories. That You created us to choose, and to make the choice fair You make it based entirely on faith and our perception of good in what we experience. You give us the choice to love You and others more than self or to love self more than anything else. And it doesn’t always work. A lot of us choose to love self thinking somehow that in spite of all the consequences of social alienation and personal guilt and even some perception of Your absence in our lives, being in love with self feels so good that it’s the best thing ever. I get that.
What I can’t fathom is why You would put someone in my life and the lives of so many others who loved self less and others more — someone who did that with such grace and abandon, like Angi — only to allow her to be taken away when so many years of that exemplary love could have blessed so many more, and so deeply.
I don’t get that at all.
I suppose it’s part of this whole faith environment that You remain inscrutable as a stone Buddha on the matter.
No, I haven’t forgotten Your Son. I know you allowed the same thing to happen to Him, and worse, and at probably half Angi’s age. I also know she went out of this world with all of the confidence in Your power to bring life back and better that He did.
Is that what this is about? Faith at the end? Faith that doesn’t quit? Faith that looks ahead in love?
Because I’ve got to tell You that, even with all the faith I can generate, life without her seems pretty awful right now, no matter how many other blessings You may send. Maybe I should see them better for what they are, but the proportion of pain seems so gigantic in my life that they are often eclipsed. Life is empty and dark and cold, and its purpose is murky and its foundation is shaky and its ultimate end is never in sight — like the horizon of a planet too big to circumnavigate in a thousand years.
My friends say it’s all right to be angry with You. That Job got angry with You. That the psalmists were often angry with You. That You’re big enough to take it.
But being angry doesn’t help. And blaming doesn’t help. And being theoretical about theodicy doesn’t help. And being overwhelmed by grief doesn’t help.
Angi’s gone. And I’m still here. And, with the tiniest fraction of all her extraordinary gifts, I’m supposed to muck through all of this life stuff without her.
I get that, too.
She’s not around to talk to anymore. She’s not here to listen, not here to offer advice, not here to comfort or counsel or give warmth or a sweet embrace when words don’t work anymore. She was never stingy with any of that.
So I hope You understand that, just like Charlie Anderson, sometimes I’d rather talk to her.
Than to You.
And I trust that You really are big enough to take that.