Questions Without Answers

“I want answers and I want them NOW!”  My father was holding the rusted sledge hammer with a splintered handle in his hand.  I’m pretty sure there were more than a few times when one of the questions he needed answered was, “What in the world possessed me to have five kids?”  This time however, he just wanted to know who the culprit was.  The hammer had been found, tossed into an old utility trailer, seldom used, that sat near the far side of our property.  I was quick to answer the implied question.  “It wasn’t me!” (It is usually the guilty party that speaks first!)  Unfortunately, there was a witness.  When Dad wanted answers (NOW!), no secret was safe.  It was a pretty sure bet that anyone with information would break before too long, and as he went up the line of my brothers, sure enough, one of them had information he was quite willing to share.  “I saw Paul out there with that hammer the other day, right beside the trailer.”  The interrogator’s attention immediately returned to the youngest boy there.  “Is that true, son?”  Well, I was no match for that look…or the accusatory voice.  “Y-y-y-yes…”  The punishment that followed was for both lying, and trying to hide the broken tool, not for breaking the handle. That didn’t make it hurt any less.

Every once in awhile, I myself have a few questions to voice.  The questions are followed up with the same statement my Dad made that day.  “I want answers and I want them NOW!”  Unlike Dad, I don’t always get them.  Perhaps, that’s because I don’t have the authority that he had in that situation.  It isn’t my right to know the answers now.  All I know is that I don’t like not being in control, not having a clue to the reasons that things happen.

For some reason, I have been deluged the last few weeks, and especially in the last few days, with memories of friends and family who are no longer with me.  For most of my life, I have taken death quite matter-of-factly.  After all, the Book says, “It is appointed to man, once to die…”  How much clearer could it be?  So people have died, I have said the right things, and pigeonholed the occurrence and even the emotions.  Over and done.  Problem is, the older I get, the more I realize what has been lost and the more I feel that loss.  I sense the holes which have been left and I realize that nothing will ever fill them.  Even when friends I hadn’t seen for years have died, the hole was left.  It’s not only the young ones I’m talking about, either.  All of them, young and old, have been part of my life and their absence is felt keenly.

T Ray Dickinson (with thanks to Chris Clendenen)

The recent deluge of memories has been motivated in part by friends who are in pain.  The birthday of an old schoolmate yesterday reminded one of her close friends (another schoolmate) that she missed Dorothy intensely.  Yesterday, a blog post by a friend who has struggled for well over a year with the untimely death of one of her best friends served to remind me of just how helpless we are in the face of unanswerable questions; questions for which we demand answers; questions for which no answer will ever come.  A chance photo posted last night of an old friend, who died too young quite a few years ago, brought to mind how much I have missed T Ray and his sense of humor, as well as his love of music.  The list goes on: Susie, Bill, Miss Peggy, my Father-in-law, my grandparents.  Curtis thinks about his son who would have had a birthday this week, now gone for over two years; Wade is lying awake tonight missing his dad who passed away only today.  You, no doubt, have scores of names and faces to add to the list.  And still, my demands don’t evoke any answers. 

It’s not just the passing of loved ones I want explained to me, I want answers about people who are still with us, but who are struggling under massive burdens.  Kim is going through chemo and soon, surgery for breast cancer…Mom doesn’t remember that I visited her a couple of weeks ago and has even forgotten most of the events from my childhood.  John is slowly losing his eyesight and can’t see to work with his hands any more or even to read.  I can’t begin to enumerate the people and trials that belong in this list.  I want to know.  How are any of these things okay, and why are they happening to these good people?

It is in times like these, the times when my mind and emotions run uncontrolled through the past and then dwell unreasonably on the future, wondering if anything will be right with the world ever again, that I am grateful for faith.  Not faith in what I can see…that has failed me miserably.  I can only rest in the strong, loving hands of a Creator who sees the whole picture and not just the tiny little piece of eternity I can view from my vantage point.  He knows that the fabric of eternity is being woven, and sorrow is part of it.  Joy is too.  Life, death, tragedy, celebration…all of them play their roles.  It doesn’t answer the questions, but there is comfort to be found.  When confronted with the death of his close friend Lazarus, Jesus himself wept and was moved deeply.  When He was asked to remove the physical infirmity of the Apostle, God reassured him.  “My grace is enough.”  Our Maker feels the pain, just as we do.  He is moved.  And, one day, He will dry our tears.

Marvin Eck (another one I miss), the pastor who married the Lovely Lady and me, always maintained that we would still cry when we arrived in Heaven, but he also believed that after that, the questions would be answered and our tears would be wiped away, never to appear again in eternity.  I wish I knew if he was right.  He’s finding that out now for himself.  

So, unlike the result my Dad got, the answers will not be forthcoming for me today.  No retribution will be made to right the wrongs.  Generally, things will have to continue as they have…for awhile longer.  I’m sorry that I can’t explain; sorry that I can’t pat your hand and say, “There, there, everything is going to be all right.”  Yet.

We have hope.  And that, for now, will have to do.

“Jesus wept.”
(John 11:35)

“Oh yes, He cares; I know He cares.
His heart is touched with my grief.
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.”
(“Does Jesus Care” by  Frank E Graeff)

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