I love being intellectually challenged by books, conversations, or anything that can make me think deeply and differently than I normally do. But there’s a danger in that. The danger is allowing truth to be only something far away, something theoretical and nothing else. That’s when I know it’s time to read something personal. I chose to re-read “The God I Love” by Joni Eareckson Tada, because I remembered the first time I read it, and how real it makes all this talk about God. It traces one woman’s story of hearing about Jesus, finding Him, and struggling through what it means to follow Him no matter what. Her courage and beauty certainly stand out, but so does the fact that she is, ultimately, another person. She was chosen for particular hardships, most of which the average person will never experience, but so many of the ideas she sorts through and relates are shared by just about everyone.
Most people in Christian circles are familiar with the story of the quadriplegic who didn’t give up on God. It’s almost in danger of becoming cliche, as it’s an idea we seem to hear about a lot. The problem with that is we tend to consider it almost expected. As if we would respond the same way. As if any good person knows how to deal with pain and it’ll all turn out right eventually, especially if God is thrown in the mix. After all, it won’t happen to us, right? That’s why I love this book — it’s a reminder that no, pain is not easy to work through for the people it comes to in a bigger way than most, and that no, pain doesn’t just come to “other” people. It’s a reminder that we’re all human, we all ask the same questions, and we all need the right answer, the same answer.
I finished this book recently, right before the horrific events of the past couple days. While pain may show up in different ways, at some level it has to be the same. Whether you’re paralyzed from the neck down, whether you’re the loved one of a victim in a terrorist attack, or you’re relatively new to the idea of pain, at some point we all experience it. At some point we all ask why. Why me? Why them? Why now?
It was the same feeling I had in the science experiment — the one where I played the guinea pig and all of life’s big questions were being tested on me. There’s got to be more to life than just being born, eating and sleeping, and then dying. There must be more than mere existence. I have to have some significance. “God, you’ve got to be up there,” I whispered hoarsely in the dark. “This crazy war. The commercials. Everybody getting killed. More commercials…” My whisper became a cry, desperate and urgent and insistent. “And you must — I know you must — care.”
We are creatures who are designed to ask “why”. But we are also creatures who at some point have to take a step back from all the philosophical and theological explanations and answers and arguments, and fall at the feet of the God we love, or the God we have yet to learn to love.
“Oh, my,” I gasped. My heart skipped a beat. There it was, dead center in the lobby, rising over fifteen feet above me: a huge statue of Jesus Christ…His head was bowed and his arms were outstretched in a gesture that urged, “Come.” …Gazing at his arms spread so wide, I found myself in his orbit, feeling as though he was looking directly at me.
…Lying there, I didn’t try to analyze it much more than that. I simply looked into Jesus’ face and basked in his blessing. I hadn’t expected anything like this when I was wheeled into Johns Hopkins. I was here to get my nails cut out. But now I was thinking about other nails, staring at the scars they’d left in the hands of God’s Son.
His nails for mine.
Here was a God who understood my suffering.