The sun rose before Mrs. Poppy and myself. By the time we left Sikeston, Missouri the sun had been up an hour or more. We woke to a foggy landscape that would stay with us through most of the day. The fog was not so dense that it made driving dangerous. We had at least a half-mile of visibility down the road. At that point cars traveling in our direction, would abruptly disappear into the mist. On the opposite side of the highway, cars would suddenly appear as if emerging from an other-worldly portal.
Even knowing we were headed north, I could not locate the sun that bathed the landscape in a warm glow, softening the edges of everything it touched. The vista outside our windshield became an impressionistic painting as the fog settled into the valleys and low-lands that we passed, creating lakes and rivers of swirling grey mist.
I wrapped my fingers around a paper cup filled with hot coffee, courtesy of the motel we had stayed at the night before. It was better than expected for a complimentary cup of coffee, but mostly I appreciated its warmth.
The atmosphere outside the SUV fit the mood inside. Mrs. Poppy and I sat in a comfortable silence, each with our own introspective thoughts that required no conversation. The music of Leonard Cohen would have achieved the right level of melancholy for our frame of minds, but the situation required a level of purity that Leonard could not have provided. Perhaps a fugue by J.S. Bach would have been in order, as he slowly and mathematically created a musical world and then brought it crashing down, but that was not to be had, so we rolled on through the mist in silence.
We were returning home from a funeral. Funerals are always tough, but this one was particularly difficult. Dying is as much a part of life as being born. Intellectually we know this, emotionally when it happens unexpectedly and at what we think is the wrong time, it’s a struggle.
This service was for a family friend, taken shortly after her 60th birthday and just a few weeks after her retirement. She had just started the next phase of life, devoting herself to her family, her art, her hobbies, and then unexpectedly in her sleep, she is gone. Her family and friends are left reeling and this huge question hangs over everyone’s head, … WHY?
I know there are people who think it’s wrong to question God. Personally, I think it’s a healthy thing to do. It is better to voice your concerns to God than to ignore him. He is not so fragile as to be wounded by our questions or diminished by our doubt. The Bible is littered with heroes of the faith, who have questioned God.
Every parent has experienced the questioning phase, where every other word from your child is, “why?” We do not disown our children for questioning, we understand this as a phase of learning. Neither does God disown his children for questioning.
Having said that, I have never received a direct answer when I question God and don’t know anyone who has. Instead I get the feeling that he’s saying, “Let’s continue this conversation as we walk along.”
Sometimes after a few miles and a few years, we look back and say, “Oh yeah, I get it now.”
Often though, we never get an answer and this is where faith enters the conversation. Faith enters because it is needed in times where there are tough questions but seemingly no answers.
Everyone understands faith is a virtue. How we come by that faith is a matter of debate. There are those of the belief that faith is something you make a decision to have, that if you concentrate hard enough, clench your jaw and are absolutely determined, than you will have faith. I have a suspicion that those who claim an absolute, unshakable faith are also proud of their humility.
I have a much more pessimistic view of myself and by extension, of humanity. I don’t see a lot of goodness naturally occurring within me. I’m not sure I want the type of faith that I can generate.
I believe faith, like grace, flows from God, measured out as we need it. Faith is not an anesthetic that numbs the pain that we are feeling, rather faith and its sibling, hope, walk with us, guiding us through the darkest times. Faith knows of paths that human logic can’t find.
We have driven an hour and the fog is still with us. I can’t see everything that lies ahead down the road. I can only see a short distance in front of me … but I can make the entire journey like this.
I have just enough faith to know that if I stay on this road, it will take me home.
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” – C.S. Lewis