Poison Dart Frogs are some of the tiniest and beautiful creatures on the planet; they are also incrediably deadly. So, why call this blog "Tiny Dart Frog"? It goes back to the old adage - good things come in small packages. We are all created exactly as God has intended - unique, strong, and beautiful.
This past week my mother-in-law* died. So, I will begin by freely admitting, I am working some stuff out. Working out some stuff with God, working out some questions, working on some anger and heartache in my heart.
She died young of a rare disease - one in a million 'they' said (creuzfedt-jakob disease). The percentages don't matter. The fact that she's gone matters. The truth that she left behind 6 grandchildren under the age of 13 matters. Left behind a daughter and a son and a husband....it matters. A lot.
People have been wrestling with the age-old question of, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" forever. Or for that matter, why do bad things happen to people who do bad things? If God is such a good and loving God, then.... why doesn't God just do something?
It's natural to pose this question at times of crisis in out lives. I've heard people say that asking, "Why" is the wrong question. I get why they say it's wrong, but I think it's inevitable.
Because, the truth is, when you're the person who's life is failing apart, who feels like you can't possibly face crawling into bed and sleeping alone for the rest of your life, or when you're the person who can't call your best friend anymore or when you're the bright-eyed child who has one less grandparent today you're going to ask "Why?" Why ask why? Because we need to - at least I do and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.
Sometimes I joke about feeling like Job when a slew of bad things happen to me. If you remember, Job is the guy in the Bible who does everything right. He loves God, he follows the commandments, he lives an upright life (he probably eats his greens beans and keeps his sodium intake low too). And yet, his life is filled with horrendous despair. He loses his house, his animals, his family...everything. In my opinion, Job gets to ask, "Why? Why me, God?" I mean, I would.
But his friends, oooo, his friends make me so mad. His friends say, "Why?" and point fingers. They decide surely Job has done something to deserve his pain and suffering. Instead of asking Job, "How can we help, my friend," they leave him alone in his torment.
Ultimately, the "why" is really unhelpful, but most of us need to ask it. But for those of us who aren't lost in a pool of tears, we should consider asking ourselves, "How can I help?"
Because, I am really sorry, but I cannot answer the question of "Why?" I just don't know... I know the God I love and worship and trust doesn't plague this world with war and disease and sadness as justice, but I sure know it exists. I may be a pastor, but the only thing I know to say when people's worlds are falling apart is "I'm sorry". There are very few words to say besides that.
I hugged a lot of people this past weekend and said a lot of, "I'm sorry's." And then I heard about a young man at my home congregation who committed suicide. Why? My heart broke for his family. "Unfair!" my head and heart screamed. Yes, unfair and awful, but to leave it there - leave it at 'why did this happen' is unfair too.
So, as the "why's" rumbled around in my head I remembered the people who had surrounded my mother-in-law's family. They got through constantly caring for her because people answered the question of "how" with food, with phone calls, with hugs, with laundry.... They got through the death because they responded by loving, by crying, by holding hands. I can only hope that in these coming days that we remember to keep on responding....
Because, here's what I think - I think that in some ways God ultimately told Satan he was done playing games with him when Jesus came to earth. Satan can taunt us and death may still haunt us, but God in Jesus has definitively answered the questions of: why? how? and what?
Why did this happen? I don't know, but I do know why it will get better. God promises to be as present in death as in life.
How can this be? I don't know, but I do know how it will get better. God is amazingly gracious and will send comfort in and through unexpected people.
What will I do? I don't know, but I do know that you may only have to open your hands. I do know that what will happen will be different than what you envisioned and that God will be in it with you.
And, if you are someone who is currently ok, currently able to breathe deeply and see straight, then I know that you will be called upon to help God with the why's and how's and what's of this world. Don't shy away because there are people sitting next to you who need to know the gracious, unwavering, unyielding presence of God.
As I said to someone when I was the person who didn't know why or how or what....God with skin. Sometimes that's what we need. Be that - be God with skin to someone. It just might make all the difference in that person's world.
Still working it all out.... with God and you.
*[author's note: I am divorced, however, I have not yet learned how to make myself stop loving people who have been part of my life for 20 years, nor do I plan on ever learning how to stop loving someone. So, technically speaking....my 'ex' mother-in-law, but I'll never think of her that way.]
I've been on vacation this past week....but I didn't go anyplace. I just stayed at home. A 'staycation'.
Many people asked me, "What are you going to do?"
I had big plans:
massage and pedicure
volunteering in classrooms
just being a mom for a few days
checking things off my 'to do' list
and unpacking, organizing, shopping, running, reading.
Not very many of those things sounds that great (except of course the massage and shopping part...), but some of the things on my 'to do' list that I tackled were things like: finding a dentist and making appointments, dealing with my taxes (double YUCK!), hanging up pictures, getting stuff together so I can go to the DMV (affectionately known as the 9th ring of hell).
None of these are fun. They are the kinds of things which I push to the bottom of my list every single week and they are the pieces which make me feel like I never have enough time to get things done. They are the things that when I am already too busy and I see those sitting at the bottom of my list I feel over-whelmed.
This week, I took time to deal with these things. I despised some of the things I did on 'staycation,' but I made myself tackle at least one thing I had let go each day, even if it was just making a phone call. However, now as I look at my list, with all the fresh new check marks I smile. My list is shorter and I feel lighter.
My house is starting to feel like a home.
If we get sick or need a dentist....we have someplace to go now.
I took control of my finances.
I saw friends and allowed myself to have fun.
So often what happens when I go on vacation is I go to escape. It's nice to pretend like all those burdensome pieces of life aren't really there. It's nice to leave sometimes. Next vacation I hope to be sipping a soda on a sandy beach with the wind whipping through my hair....but this year I needed to stay.
I needed to stay and find me again.
What has made all the difference this week is - in staying, I am no longer stuck.
Sometimes we may equate 'stay' with being in one place or being stuck. Staying and facing things allows us not to be stuck.
I breathed deeper than I had in a long time. I prayed more than I had in a long time. I cooked more than I had in a long time. I 'stayed' with me.... and that's a hard thing for many of us to do sometimes.
We want to escape, we want to run, we want a 'Calgon take me a away' moment...
The problem is we always return to find that the things we most want to 'just go away' are still sitting there - making us feel stuck.
Jesus asked John to stay with him. Mary stayed with Jesus. Jesus stayed with Legion and sent the demons away. It seems like staying sometimes means we encounter the presence of 'More'...
It may be uncomfortable to stay. It may mean you have to face things you would rather leave at the bottom of your list forever.... but if I know anything, I do know that running away from problems never works.
My name is Christine Stephan, although I answer mostly to Mom or Pastor.
I am a Lutheran pastor for an amazing group of Jesus' disciples just outside Washington DC AND a mom to 3 of the best boys in the universe.
I blog here about family and faith and frustrations....That thing we call 'life'.
My boys are passionate about all things legos, anything involving a ball, video games, and chocolate.
I am an avid runner, a lover of interesting books and deep conversation, a very amateur writer, and also a lover of chocolate.
I also love theology (which is weird, I know), but I don't love theology more than Jesus.
This blog is hardly ever profound, but it is real. As a pastor and I mom, I find 'real' to be more helpful in my journey with Jesus than crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's.