Last night I participated in a reading of short stories by several writing groups in Manchester, VT. It was a fun, laid back time. I read a little from my story that will appear in the Southshire Anthology and my short parody of a Dan Brown novel. Yet, the evening took a very serious turn when one woman, who is dying of cancer, read short segments of her memoir.
While she did cover some humorous events from her life, the bulk of her story was essentially an indictment against God and Christians. Disappointment, disillusionment, hurt, incongruity, and so on: she has moved beyond hopelessness and despair to outspoken critic of God. I could list some of her charges, but they are nothing new. Not to take away from the validity of her offense, but all of her problems are well known to the church. They must be dealt with now and are inexcusable. Of course she brings her own baggage to church, but don’t we all?
My aim is not to share her indictment. My aim is to talk about our course of action as Christians when faced with those who are so hurt by the church and militantly opposed to God as this woman. Part of me wants to say to her, “God is not bound by religion.” Another part wants to say, “Are you sure you’re not just making up a God who doesn’t exist?” And another part, “Just because people have failed you doesn’t mean God has.” Or there’s the question I really want to ask but know I shouldn’t, “I think you’ve put up a wall between yourself and God, not the other way around.”
In truth, I’m far beyond pat answers with such a person. I’m also beyond just being nice. She regularly makes statements that are offensive and intended to stir things up. She seems to be taking shots at God, waiting for lighting to strike, and then smugly continuing on with her indictment when nothing happens. She wants people to react and respond. I don’t know when I’ll see her around town again, but I wonder if I should say something, anything at all. I’m not so much worried about “defending God.” He can take care of himself and doesn’t need me to “stick up for him.” My focus is on seeing the freedom of Christ come to her, freeing her from pain, hurt, and bitterness.
But where do we begin?