By Christine Goings
Alrighty, so here’s something you all probably don’t know about me… I don’t have a stomach. Let that thought sink in for a little bit there. Yeah that thing that holds all of your food… not in me! Pretty crazy right? I mean, how does that work?!
Well first of all I want to start off by saying that everyone has a story. Not all stories are crazy exciting or super sad, and you might not even know quite how yours goes, but still, you all have one and so here’s a bit of mine. It all started in grade nine, which was such a fun year for me! The best part of grade nine was that at my school, we got to go on a weeklong camping outdoors trip in the mountains where there was a ton of fun stuff like mountain biking, canoeing, cave exploring, and a bunch of other awesome activities! This trip was something you look forward to all year long! But for me, the trip was bittersweet; both the best and the worst. See, the week before the most exciting field trip of the year, I was diagnosed with Stomach Cancer. The same Cancer that 10 years earlier had taken my mother’s life. Let’s just say it put a bit of a spin on the whole thing for me. While I had a blast and made memories that I’ll never forget, I couldn’t help but have the fact that come Monday, all my friends would be back at school reliving the trip while I sat in a hospital.
BECAUSE THROUGHOUT MY ENTIRE EXPERIENCE ALL I WANTED WAS TO BE TREATED LIKE A NORMAL PERSON... SO I TRIED TO HIDE ANYTHING THAT I THOUGHT WAS ABNORMAL OR WEAK.
Now it wasn’t really the easiest to try and figure out what that all meant while canoeing down the river with a bunch of people who didn’t know anything. Why didn’t I tell any of my friends? Well I didn’t want to be treated any different. I didn’t want to be asked if I was OK all the time, or be given stares, or hear any whispering about me. I just wanted to be normal. But what is normal? Because throughout my entire experience all I wanted was to be treated like a normal person, but at the same time, I was different, not normal. So I tried to hide anything that I thought was abnormal or weak.
For starters, that meant no crying. Also, being in a hospital bed, not moving wasn’t what I normally looked like, so I just didn’t allow people to come visit me, or I would just pretend to be sleeping when they did come. Normal people didn’t have massive scars across their bellies either, so for a whole year after my surgery, I didn’t even set foot on a pool deck. My doctor also said that I wouldn’t be able to eat normal amounts of food anymore, but I was determined, and would stuff myself until I was physically sick. It wasn’t until someone told me the most helpful thing, that my thinking changed. She told me that I had to figure out a new normal. Because there are things that you just can’t change about yourself. You don’t get to choose your height, how big your feet are, and you sure don’t choose to have cancer. But those don’t really determine who you are inside. The things that you do and the decisions you make are what shape you and make you who you are.
Think about if everyone in the world was an exact copy of each other. First of all, how freaky would that be! Definitely no need for mirrors! But also, unless we all were able to be geniuses at everything, the world would just be kinda… meh. There wouldn’t be people who are super smart at math or science and inventing things. There also wouldn’t be really great books because all the authors would write the same. Would art even exist? How about music? Pretty boring place, right?Well God also talks about this. He uses the body as a reference:
1 Corinthians 12
So all of us are a different part of the body. And without all of the different parts, we simply couldn’t function… or even exist for that matter. And if we were all the same part, we wouldn’t be able to discover God’s potential. In other words, God created us to be different, to not be normal. But it’s alright because he created us to be like Him. In Genesis 1:27 it says, "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them."
So obviously God isn’t normal either, and he’s perfect! So maybe there isn’t such a thing as normal. I know for sure that I’ve given up trying to figure out what that would even be! So why not embrace your part of the body. Don’t be afraid to be different because at the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of weirdo’s! As it says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
God has a purpose for you. You weren’t just copied out of Google images, you were created one of a kind. At the beginning I said that everyone has a story. Well my challenge to you is to not be like every other story. Don’t have a normal story. Have a story that tells the world just who God made you to be.
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?” I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-4)
You would think after reading these two sections of scripture that this topic would be settled and we could say with confidence that "No, the earthquakes in Nepal are not a result of God's anger of judgement on the people of Nepal." But as we live in the era of the internet, every wacko with access to a descent wifi connection has a voice and with that voice comes an agenda. What is worse than having an over-inflated fatalistic perspective of God's actions on the world (that every detail that happens is directly or indirectly caused by God) is when those same people use that idea to perpetuate their own agenda and that such events are simply a judgment of God because the people affected were not following the version of truth that they deemed true.
Consider the quote in this picture. Though the reasoning is so obviously flawed, we see a sadly similar idea daily on TV talk shows, blogs, podcasts and the TV evangelists with an axe to grind. There are too many examples to count and the reasoning seems to get even more ridiculous every week.
Consider the words and conversation my colleague, Martin Trench, had recently:
"Daddy why did that earthquake happen?" , "Because your sister's dress is too short!" - boy oh boy.
I had this exchange yesterday with someone:
**** "Nepal had bad earthquake a lot of people died...so could it be that God planned that so He wants people to come back to Him?"
"No God didn't plan it. Earthquakes happen in certain areas whether there is anyone there or not. We just happen to build cities right on top of earthquake zones. It's just a natural disaster."
***** "my mentor told me that she saw so many bad things in world...and she believe that it could be God's plan because He wants people to come to Him and repent"
"That would make God a sadistic murderer of innocent people, in my opinion. Humans build cities in earthquake zones, in tornado areas, and at the foot of volcanoes, then when a disaster happens they think God did it. Those things were happening in those areas long before people lived there. Its simply a natural disaster."
and on and on and on....
Even when the idea of such acts are being spun as 'God showing His love by drawing people back', it is probably warped at best. At worst, we are attempting to presume to intimately know the will of God in any of these things, be it rain on a wedding day, the droughts in the states or earthquakes in Nepal. How could we be so confident, so arrogant, to even begin to assume such things.
Now, don't get me wrong, the hardship of this world and the trials we face, on a daily basis or in the magnitude of an earthquake, can cause us to see our mortality and bring us to a realization of our need for hope and salvation from the state that we are in. God is a master of spinning the ugly of this world and turning it into good, but to emphatically know the will of God and without doubt acclaim God caused it, is totally another thing.
WHAT CAN WE DO, HOW CAN WE HELP, HOW CAN WE BE A LIGHT AND HOW CAN WE BE AMBASSADORS OF LOVE, HOPE AND GRACE IN THIS SITUATION?
I wonder though, is it possible that one of the main issues we see in all this is the obsession with drawing lines against those who disagree with us or look different than us? When we are affected by tragedy on a global scale, we look for a reasoning, someone to blame, a scapegoat to crucify and drag into the light to explain why such a thing could happen. It becomes the actions of others and their failed belief/system that is bringing the world down.
When we give into such reasoning, we miss the whole purpose of the verses above. Instead of loving our enemies we wish to blame them, hang them out to dry, shift blame away from ourselves, denying all responsibility for our own actions, drawing lines of 'us verses them' and miss the whole idea of God's redemptive and reconciling plan of His Kingdom moving forward in this world. It reeks of the Law and the Old Covenant which the author of Hebrews makes crystal clear cannot bring the salvation people wish to see and has ultimately passed away for something better (Hebrews 8).
Let me plead with us all to stop! Stop attempting to explain the aftermath of a fallen world through existential reasoning, stop looking for someone to sacrifice on the altar of blame, stop looking for excuses to exclude, divide and hate. Maybe, just maybe, instead of us sitting on the sidelines accusing and debating the question of why God would 'cause' something like this, we would be a people of love asking "What can we do? How can we help? How can we be a light and how can we be ambassadors of love, hope and grace in this situation?" Let us be a people of radical love, hope and grace--a people that are led by the example of Christ:
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