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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Head, the Heart, and Literature

"I'm growing increasingly less confident that God cares."

I can't blame him. First, his dad. Now my niece. Tons of other details and issues that comprise the sum of a rather disappointing life right now. For some unknown reason God does not respond when the stakes are high. He lets the truly terrible happen while providing--through elaborate and convoluted means--minor blessings in life here and there.

"I'd rather have people than things," he mumbles.


So, what's up, God? And since He rarely answers: What's God up to?

I don't know.

I've never known. Years of Scripture memorization, Bible studies, a minor in Bible from a Christian university, years of teaching Sunday School, study and discussion have left me where I am today: Clueless. Not because I don't have opinions or insights or ideas about all this, but because I don't know. I can't provide an answer that brings comfort or satisfactorily deals with the topic. And this is where what I call "Sunday School answers" fall so short. This is why I hate Christianese responses. This is why so many people are frustrated by the pat answers they teach us in Bible school. This is the problem:

The answer doesn't address the pain.

I've got my theology down pretty well. I can give you the correct response and I can clearly demonstrate how the majority of well-meaning comments in times like these are theologically errant. But so what?

Emotional pain is a heart issue, and textbook responses fail to reach the heart.

Well written literature gets much closer to the pain. But, as Thornton Wilder states:

"The business of literature is not to answer questions, but to state them fairly." I claim that human affection contains a strange unanalyzable consolation and that is all. People who are full of faith claim that the book is a vindication of this optimism; disillusioned people claim that is is a barely concealed "anatomy of despair." I am nearer the second group than the first; though some days I discover myself shouting confidentially in the first group.

End notes in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

So while literature tugs at our hearts, it does not push us one way or another.

Life does.

That's one reason I think it's essential to read biographies--both secular and Christian: So we can see how others have wrestled with these questions. And while these glimpses into the deeper issues of life won't give you all the answers, it will start you down the path.

Unfortunately, I'm finding, once you're on this path it's rather hard to walk.

And that is where others can be such a wonderful help. Please continue to pray for my family. This is proving to be a very difficult time.


One last benefit of literature: Since it is so good at touching the heart of an issue, it is often reiterated and rephrased throughout history as we continue to wade through the grime of life. I must say, I love Switchfoot's incorporation of Job in The Economy of Mercy (starting around 2:35 if you don't have time to listen to the whole song)...

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father


Connie, the daisyhead said...

Our pastor likes to say that God does not waist pain. He does not waste suffering. I think he's right. The Bible says it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous. Somehow, God takes all of the swamp muck that life has handed out and turns it into something beautiful.

In time.

It's the waiting that stinks. It's living through the loss that stinks.

Two out of our five children (the 2nd & 3rd) had a serious genetic disorder. They were very sick babies. Surgery to place a colostomy. Many months of getting healthy. Surgery to remove colostomy & reconstruct colon. Only my son (the 2nd who had it) was not that easy. He was sick for 2 1/2 years. We didn't know what would fix him or if anything would. When he was 3yo he had his last surgery~ to remove his colon.

This is not meant to be a churchy response. I just want you to know that I have been in that spot of deep grief and suffering over a child.

On the other side~ I can see what God did to use that time, to turn our suffering into something beautiful. Even into something Kingdom building.

He will do the same for your family. I am certain of it. If He told you now what He will do, you would not believe Him. You will see~ in time.

I'm praying that He will give all of you the grace and strength to make it to the finish line.

Standing with you~

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

((hugs)) to you and your family right now. I think admitting we don't really know all the answers and crying with someone and sharing their pain is wayyy more comforting than giving this, "Well, God needed another angel in heaven" stuff or the other sorts of comments you may unfortunately have already heard.

*whew* Sometimes we know "God is good" but don't feel it.

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks, Connie. Redemption is a beautiful and powerful thing. Sometimes, though, it's hard to believe that it will come through in these situations. And even when it happens, the pain and experience of loss was very real. Thank you for your prayers!

Yep, Mrs. C. Yep. Though, I totally understand saying stupid stuff when there's nothing helpful to say. I'm pretty sure I said some really unhelpful things in the recent past.


Susan said...

My family knows all too well the deep pain of loss and the questions to wich the answers never seem to come. Why God? What are you up to? How will we go on?
How will we ever find normal again? What is normal?

We lost our daughter in-law in childbirth 5 years ago and I am raising our sons two girls ages 5 and 10 now. I have started homeschooling the 5 year old (Sonlight):o) and will start the 10 year old after the end of this school year.

I'v been learning a lot more about God's providence. I can see it now.
I still don't have the answers to a lot of my questions but I CAN SEE GOD'S HAND. I can really see the whole thing up until now. The path... even for many years before she died. The after this point too...I have a path, a direction, destiny? I think so. God has called me "For Such A Time As This".

Luke, joy really does come in the morning!
Blessings to you and your family

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks so much, Susan.



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