For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
– Isaiah 55:8-9
Yesterday was a truly gorgeous day here in the Kansas City area.
Yes, the weather was a perfect 78 degrees, sunny, with a gentle easterly breeze, rustling the newly leafing branches of the trees.
THAT was a genuine delight.
But what made the day especially lovely was the news my wife and I heard from her oncologist.
Yesterday we found out that after five months of chemotherapy, major, invasive surgery, and untold hundreds of prayers, Joan’s scans showed NOTHING.
As in, NADA, zero, zip, bupkis tumors or cancerous presence in her body.
It was the result we had been hoping and praying for, but had not dared speak aloud.
THANK YOU, JESUS! And thank you SCIENCE! And thank you wonderful, caring medical professionals!
And so, since we were only two blocks away from a Panera Bread store – and since it was nearly lunchtime – we decided to celebrate with a fresh, tasty lunch.
And then as we finished our lunch and stepped outside, back into the beautiful day God had provided, I thought about my great-grandparents.
Honestly I am not sure why they entered my mind at that moment. As far as I know, I never met any of my great-grandparents.
No matter whyI thought of them, here is HOWthey entered my framework at that moment. As Joan and I stepped out the door of Panera I thought,“Wow! We have just received a clean bill of health from a disease that only three generations ago would have probably been a death sentence for someone. And we followed that up by rather effortlessly enjoying a delicious, well-prepared meal… a meal that would have required monumental efforts by my great-grandparents to prepare.”
I then realized that the only difference between MY outcomes and my great-grandparents’ outcomes was the entirely accidental timing of my birth.
1951 vs. 1851.
And I thought, “Oh, what a MASSIVE difference 100 years makes.”
Faced with such a disparity in outcomes – based on something as arbitrary and capricious as a birthday – the natural question I was prompted to pose is: where is the justice?
How is it that such a minisculespan on history’s timeline can mean such a hugediscrepancy in overall quality of life? How does that square with any notion of fairness?
Or we could widen our lens a bit and ask the question of geographical justice. We could ask, “How is it that a child born today in one part of the world can have such an enormously higher chance of survival and good health than a child born in another part?”
Or in an example that hit very close to home for us this week: “How can it be even remotely just that a family member who has successfully battled back from breast cancer can suddenly die in her sleep from cardiac arrest?”
Or – apropos of yesterday’s news – how cruel and unjust was it to watch the great cathedral of Notre Dame burning on the Monday of Holy Week?
What did ANY of these people do to earn these outcomes… either the good ones or the bad ones? How do any of us hope to understand the notion of JUSTICE in such a twisted setting as this?
And alas… I find that the longer I sit and stew over this question, the further and further I drift from any sort of answer. The paltry power of this three pounds of grey matter inside my skull is clearly no match for this cosmic conundrum.
As reason escapes, I find I am left only with a decision; the decision of how to live in a world like this. Will I choose to live as if I am forever the butt of some cruel joke… always looking around, expecting either the chair or the rug to be pulled out from under me, for the amusement of some Celestial Prankster?
Or will I choose to live in faith… accepting the reality of the utter unsearchableness of the universe, yet confident that behind all of it there is a loving, compassionate Hand that holds me, protects me, provides for me, and comforts me… even in those times when nothing seems to make a lick of sense.
The message of Easter is ALWAYS relevant, but maybe it becomes even more relevant during times of confusion, heartache, and a temptation toward cynicism.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Luke 24:5, NRSV
The message of the empty tomb is meant to remind ALL of us that the worst thing is never the last thing… that even when we can’t see it or understand it, we are surrounded and sustained by love.
… and that there will never be anything in the world more powerful than LOVE.Holy Week blessings to each of you.