About two weeks ago, I had to go for a CT-arterial scan due to a family history of heart disease and an echocardiogram that showed the possibility of a dilated artery. Having a mother who died at 47 of colon cancer, I take all health-related family history pretty seriously, which is why I go for colonoscopies the way other people go for teeth cleanings.
When I finally saw the cardiologist yesterday — after a somewhat-nervewracking wait between iodine-injected scan and results — I was a tiny bit nervous that my Advent season was going to be more about waiting in doctors’ offices and hospitals rather than waiting in silent prayer at home in front of the Advent wreath. But I lucked out. The doctor told me my scan bored him. One reading was zero, as in, can’t get any better or lower than that. At that point I think I started breathing again. It had been a long two weeks, going without breathing and all.
I sat in my car in the parking lot and immediately called Dennis, and then I called God. (Probably should have done that the other way around, but Dennis is easier to reach.) I was a minute or so into thanking God for this good news, when I suddenly flashed in my mind’s eye to the two local families who will be burying their teenagers this week after a tragic car crash caused by an allegedly drunk driver (not either of the teens). As I thought about those families and the pain they must be feeling and about my own little worries and the gratitude I was feeling, I wondered how I’d feel about God at that moment if I were in their shoes instead of my own. Certainly I wouldn’t be thanking him. Would I be yelling at him? (Probably.) Would I be doubting him? (Maybe.) Would I be walking out on him? (Possibly.)
When we are caught in a moment, it’s hard to imagine that life will go on, no less that it’s unfolding as it should. How could sorrow or tragedy ever be part of a cosmic plan? And yet, somehow it is. I think I cried through a video tribute to those two teenagers yesterday not only because I could imagine in some small way the desperate sadness their parents must be feeling but because I know how easily the ground can shift beneath us and how quickly we can go from feeling blessed to feeling abandoned.
But that is not God’s doing, that is our own. God remains, whether we are giving thanks or shuddering with grief. And it’s okay if we yell and doubt and walk away for a while. I know I did all of those things when my mother died almost 25 years ago. God’s big enough to take it all and wait patiently for us to realize that God doesn’t cause our sorrow; God walks us through it. Not an easy thing to remember or live but something I’m going to sit with a bit this Advent as I pray for those families and for all those facing sadness and wondering, “Why?”