Last weekend, I attended a Christian men’s retreat, and had an amazing time. I made great friends, ate great food and most important of all, moved much closer to a great God.
This past weekend, my wife Karen attended the very same weekend, and I prayed constantly for her to have an equally wonderful experience, and that God would:
- Keep her safe and comfortable;
- Help her connect meaningfully with the other women at the retreat; and
- Move Karen to move closer to Him;
Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess.
On Saturday evening, Karen lost her footing on one of the retreat centre’s somewhat irregular staircases and faceplanted. Her face was fine, but her ankle is either sprained or broken.
I don’t mind telling you that I was (and probably still am) pretty mad at God about that.
On the scale of negative things that can happen to a person, a damaged ankle is undeniably small potatoes. But I prayed specifically for her to be kept safe and comfortable; and generally for her retreat weekend to be an entirely positive experience. Since that was true for me, it clearly shouldn’t have been too much to expect the same for Karen.
Karen has a somewhat weak constitution, and it takes her forever to heal from even a paper cut. When she gets hurt or sick (which happens often), the effects seem to go on forever, and I’m powerless to fix her.
Meanwhile, I have a very strong constitution and rarely get sick. I had a much easier childhood than she had, and well into adulthood, bad things very rarely happen to me. If bad things are going to happen to one of us and not the other, it should be me! But it always seems to be her.
Another example of this phenomenon happened 2 ½ years ago, at another Anglican church getaway that I sort of roped Karen into attending – we were both cabin leaders at an Anglican Youth Camp near Wetaskiwin. One day, while she was climbing up to her bunkbed, the ladder slipped, she plummeted to the floor and broke a toe. She spent the rest of the week limping and grimacing her way through an experience that was extremely fun and gratifying for me.
They say history repeats itself, but then again, they’ve said that before.
“God, why did you let that happen to her?” I berated my creator last night as I unpacked Karen’s things. “You could have prevented that injury with the flick of your littlest baby finger and you didn’t. Why?!? She only, always does the best she can for You, so why wouldn’t You spare her from this pain and inconvenience? Why would You tarnish her retreat experience this way? WHY?!?”
As ridiculous as it seems for us pathetic, weakling humans to do anything but cower in unending fear of a being as powerful as God, I think He wants us to yell at Him sometimes. He wants us to unload our negativity (even when it’s directed at Him) on His shoulders, which are infinitely big. We can’t hurt Him; His skin is infinitely thick. He can be the object of our anger and the confidant to whom we vent about Him at the same time. Because He’s God, there’s no conflict on His end, and somehow, because He’s God, there’s no conflict on our end, either.
So I felt quite comfortable blasting Him with both barrels, as part of the process of dealing with my anger about the situation. I thanked Him for listening, and prayed for him to illuminate His will on this matter for me.
Soon after I finished scolding my all-powerful heavenly father, I felt a bit better. I went downstairs and joined Karen on the couch. She seemed much less angry about her injury than I was, somehow. We chatted about various events of the weekend, and eventually made our way to her tumble.
She then mentioned that at some point relatively soon after she fell, and one of the nine nurses who happened to be at the retreat centre (thank God for them!) administered first aid and iced her ankle, Ann – a woman who attends our church but we don’t know very well – came up to Karen.
“So … do you think this is God’s way of telling you that you need to slow down?” Ann asked very abruptly and matter-of-factly. The conversation didn’t last very long and not a whole lot more was said.
It seems that God sent Ann to have this quite unusual and unexpected conversation with her, just so she could deliver that message for Him. And that 30-odd hours later, He dispatched Karen to deliver it to me, in answer to the question I asked Him mere moments earlier.
Like many of us who try to balance work, parenthood, spousehood and disciplehood, Karen does need to slow down (perhaps moreso than most of us). And maybe God had been trying to tell her that in more subtle ways for weeks, months or years, but she thick-headedly refused to listen (not only opposites attract, you know). Maybe He wasn’t content to watch her try to be all things to all people anymore, and decided to let push come to shove. Perhaps this injury was necessary to get her attention. Maybe He needed to break her, so he can re-make her.
OK, God. Point taken.
I’m awed, wowed and grateful that God chose to communicate with us so directly and so unmistakably, but I must admit I’m still mad about the medium he chose.
And I think that’s OK with Him.
Peace be with you.