Sunday 30 May 2010

It's not all about the afterlife

I was having a conversation with a friend a while back, and it got derailed halfway through, as all too often happens when there are children in the room. An interruption, a side track, and then twenty three other bits of conversational thread get picked up, and somehow the bigger point got left behind.

We were talking about faith, about beliefs, about being a Christian.

I'm not sure what I understand about Heaven, except that I'm pretty sure I don't understand. The thought of meeting up with friends, children, loved ones; the idea that death isn't final, that is a comfort. But it's not the hope of Heaven which gets me through the day. It's chocolate. Heaven's great; I quite fancy the idea of a new body myself if it works out that way, although I can't really picture Mog walking and talking, and I'm not at all sure she needs to be able to walk and talk in order to be any more of a person than the person she is right now. So I'm happy to sit back and not worry too much about trying to understand how this whole afterlife thing might work.

And I'm happy to do that, because for me, the whole faith thing isn't so much about what happens next. It's about what is happening now. It's about never ever being alone. It's about a constant dialogue - in which my voice is all too often drowning out the other half of the conversation - but the replies are there, when I'm ready to listen.

Faith is not about being a saint, and it's not about being perfect or even good enough, and it's not about some kind of cosmic balance. It gets a bit messy when I mix it with trust; do I trust God with my girls' futures? Absolutely. But do I trust that His will and my will are going to be perfectly meshed in this matter? Not right now. Do I trust Him to keep the girls safe overnight? Definitely - but I'll keep the monitors and the breathing machines please. Just in case.

And yet, time after time I've been woken just in time, even without them. "Something" woke me and made me go down and check on a fosling in the early hours of the morning, a fosling I never disturbed once he was asleep as I knew he'd wake and need entertaining. I walked in; he was having a totally silent seizure. "Something" prodded me to go in and check on Goldie one morning on my way downstairs, when my usual habit at the time was to bypass her bedroom, make a cup of coffee and her breakfast, and come back upstairs with it. And as I walked into her room I watched her, pinned on her back by a medieval torture device sleep system, vomit totally silently and whilst totally unable to turn onto her side.

As I write the above sentence, I'm sitting here wondering why that same God Prompt did not intervene to save Goldie from a scalding soak, seven years later. And I'm reminded that there were many many different factors involved in her death, many hands all playing their own tiny part. If the bath had been correctly fitted, she would not have died. If the bath had left the factory with the thermostat set to cold, she would not have died. If the carers had had a thermometer, she would not have died. If Goldie had moved to a Care Home not Supported Living, she would not have died. If I had said she could stay with me, she would not have died. If we'd had her home for that bank holiday weekend, if there had been more training, more time,if, if if...

So many different factors - and an apparently blindingly clear hindsight. We all have free will, we can all choose to do the wrong thing, and we can all make choices which have a negative impact on others. Give me a God who intervenes to prevent us making the bad choices, and ultimately God's people become robots, slaves, with no freedom and therefore no ability to make the right choice either. If I accept that we should all be free to make our own choices, then I have to be willing to accept that some people, probably not the right people, will face the consequences of those decisions.

Another derailed conversation, and I can't blame the girls this time as they're both in bed.

Back to Faith. Faith is remembering that the same God who woke me to clear Goldie's airway seven years earlier was right there with us as the rest of her body packed up. Faith is knowing that He was with her in her suffering and with me in my mourning. Faith is choosing to believe that God probably does have Mog's future in His Hands, even if I can't see it myself. Faith is knowing that God loves my girls so much more, and more perfectly, than I ever can or will. Faith is knowing, without understanding how or why, that Goldie is and was and will be safely held. Faith is knowing that, no matter what happens, no matter how it happens or when or why or where, that neither I nor the girls will ever be facing it alone.

Faith is believing that no matter how horrible I've been, there's no way in which I can fail which will ever cause God to stop loving me. Faith is believing, without necessarily rationally understanding, that it will all be alright in the end. And that it is all alright right now, even when it isn't. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. And faith is what gets me through the day.

I'm pretty sure what's more or less what I wanted to say to my friend.


Anonymous said...

A beautiful post, thank you. Reading about your daughter has helped to keep my daughter safe, because I check, check, check the temperature of the water every time. That probably plays into the faith/individual choice matrix somewhere.

Riven said...

we have been talking about this today. What I struggle with is why God allows children to be born brain damaged in the first place. I really struggle with it. They aren't getting free will at all or an even starting point.

Tia said...

That bit pretty much sucks. I don't have the answers - half the time I don't even have the questions. Best I can come up with really is that we live in a deeply imperfect world, a fallen and broken world, and so it's not surprising. But no easier to live with for all that.

Riven said...

True. I wish there was an answer, specially when athiests challenege you on it :-)


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