"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)
A pastor who prayed over Copeland at one point reminded me - well, to be truthful: told me - that her disease, her sickness, her plight, whatever you care to call it, wasn't God's design. It wasn't His plan. We talk a lot about "God's will" and of course I do believe He has a will, although I'm growing more and more convinced that our sorrows and sufferings have absolutely nothing to do with it. What we see in the midst of great agony and strife is usually a glimpse into both Heaven and Hell - and in the glimpsing, there's a gift. In my broken, four-pound baby, who looked a little different, lived a great deal differently, and ultimately left me here to grieve her loss, I found a sort of joy that I'd never known, a real joy, and my time with her was not only laced but literally steeped in happiness and blessing. And yet, the hour of her departure and certainly the last moments I held her were wracked with a sorrow and heartache that I could not have imagined. There was a bit of Heaven, and a bit of Hell. How I long to fully know the one and fully spurn the other! Therein lies the real gift. Perhaps God's will is more wrapped up in removing the blinders from our eyes than in giving or taking anything away.
Someone asked me recently if I was angry with Him. Interesting question. My mom told me once that as a teenager, she used to sing that old song, "To Know Him Is To Love Him" at church. I think it was by a group called The Teddy Bears. Of course their intention was never to sing those lyrics about God. But, for a bunch of kids who regularly heard it on the radio, it was a fun twist. I can't hear it now and not think about that story. The irony is: the words are true. Even more ironically, they'd probably be even truer if they read, "To know, know, know Him/ Is to be annoyed, annoyed, by Him." Am I mad at Him? You bet I am. I'm mad and frustrated and annoyed and irritated and perplexed, and yes, I love Him, deeply, but, as in all other relationships, if to know Him is to love HIm then it follows that knowing Him might often make you want to give Him a swift kick in the pants, as well. C.S. Lewis writes about the bizarre emotions he experienced regarding God after his wife, Joy, died: "All that stuff [I wrote before] was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred. I was getting it from the only pleasure a man in anguish can get; the pleasure of hitting back. It was really just... mere abuse; telling God what I thought of Him." He later goes on to say that what he felt - that God wasn't fair, that "when He seemed most gracious He was really preparing the next torture" - wasn't true. Of course God is fair. And good. But to express our anger or our outrage or our incense with Him isn't about expressing truth. It's about offending. We long to feel the subtle comfort of 'payback.'
So am I mad? Sometimes. If God didn't ordain Copeland's sickness, if it wasn't His design, why in the world did she have it? Because I live here. It's like asking why I have a Southern accent. It comes free, courtesy of my locale. She wasn't sick because I needed to learn a lesson. She wasn't sick because I didn't do enough things right - or too many things wrong. She was sick because we live in a broken, fallen world and until Jesus comes back, things are just going to keep going wrong. Not all the time - that's when the glimpses of Heaven come in. But quite frequently. Life is truly one long dysfunction. Only by God's grace - getting what we don't deserve - do we ever see any good at all. I bargain with God a lot. I tell Him that this was it, this was my quota of "bad stuff." And I mean it. But the reality is that as long as I'm here, the bad stuff's going to keep on coming. All I can do is pray the packaging looks a little different and that Jesus will hold me up until He takes me home or returns. It sounds like a pretty raw deal. But that's through human eyes. If we could see differently, we'd think differently.
Before Copeland was born, I prayed that God would give me a "vision for eternity." I think I probably uttered those words more in a moment of personal satisfaction - "wow, that sounds good!" - than true desire, but nevertheless, they seemed to have been Spirit-filled. I want a clearer understanding of Heaven, to be sure. I want to know more fully where Copeland is. But my prayer at that point, while I thought it regarded her experiences, was really about my own. If the only vision I have is for right now - she's gone, i'm here, and the world's literally going to Hell in a handbasket - then I'm going to be one bitter girl. The vision I need is one that tells me that what makes sense to my senses isn't necessarily true. Broken bodies often equal whole spirits. Strength can sometimes house itself in weakness. A vision for eternity turns the truths of this world on end. It's the only way an unattractive, unpopular renegade hanging on a cross can possibly mean more than brutality and devastation.
And so I keep praying that prayer. Fix my eyes on You, Lord. Like another old song, "Come Thou Fount," says: "Prone to wander/ Lord, I feel it/ Prone to leave the God I love/ Here's my heart/ Oh take and seal it/ Seal it for Thy courts above."