#SpeakLife? How About I Just Speak Honestly?

This was a feel good meme from Toby Mac that didn’t make me feel good.

The picture and quote above was posted by Christian Contemporary Music Artist, Toby Mac. I believe it was intended to be uplifting for people who are currently experiencing hard times for one reason or another. It had the opposite effect for some.

I just read an article from the front page of the Baltimore Sun which was headlined, “I Just Want To Know Why.” It’s likely you’re already aware Baltimore has a gun violence problem. Baltimore has a lot of problems, but gun violence tops the list. The streets of Baltimore City are averaging one homicide a day. According to this article, it was written on day 213 of the 2022, and there have been exactly 213 homicides. It’s not pretty.

The headline was quoting Tanya Morris, mother of 34 year old Bartimaeus Morris. Bartimaeus was one of 4 people shot in a recent shooting in Baltimore. He was shot and killed while on a shopping trip to purchase drinks for a birthday celebration for his mother. According to police, Bartimaeus was not the intended target. He was an innocent bystander.

I have a friend who is a survivor of sexual assaults. Not one, but numerous assaults which began around the time they were 6 years old.

6. Years. Old.

Now in their 30’s, they deal with the mental health ramifications one might expect from such experiences.

I have more than one friend who has watched their child suffer the effects of cancer. More than one of these children have died.

Nobody will confuse me for a photographer, but that’s Toby Mac at a concert I attended in 2018.

Toby Mac himself has experienced more suffering than I have. His son, who Toby clearly adored, died of an accidental drug overdose in October of 2020.

This post isn’t meant to disparage Toby Mac. I’ve been in the front row at numerous Toby Mac concerts and enjoyed them all. He’s a talented guy, engaging and genuine, and that’s not the feeling I have coming away from all Christian contemporary concert experiences.

I’m simply a bit fired up at the moment because I feel like Tanya Morris’s heartfelt demand, “I just want to know why,” is among the most honest and fair statements a parent can utter at a moment like the one she’s experiencing. It’s raw, genuine, and from the bottom of her heart. She’s clearly a person of faith. I mean, c’mon. She named her son Bartimaeus, after a blind man Jesus healed.

Are we to believe, hypothetically speaking, that Toby Mac would take Tanya by the hand, look her in the eye, and in an effort to bring relief would tell her that her son had to be gunned down as an innocent bystander because it’s part of God’s plan, and she will be a stronger person in the long run? I don’t think he’s that cruel.

I have a hard time envisioning him or anyone else looking at my friend, the repeated victim of a child predator and telling it needed to happen for them to be a stronger person later in life. I know for a fact they’d trade anything to have had a childhood without that particular trauma inflicted upon them.

I can’t imagine anyone looking at my friends who have watched their children suffer and die from cancer and tell them it’s part of God’s plan – that it had to happen.

I wonder, if Toby could go back and prevent his son from accidentally overdosing on drugs, would he?

Would he trade the good that may result from his son’s death for the opportunity to have his son living again? Or would he not, content to have faith in what good the future holds as a result of the hard time he went through (and I imagine continues to go through) after his son’s death. At this point, less than two years afterwards, I have to think he would.

Am I to have faith in a God that kills people, children included, or allows for repeated rapes to occur because it means things will be better for us in future-land?

If so…well, I’m out.

I know someone else who suffered tragedy too –  my maternal grandparents. Grandma miscarried several times before finally giving birth to 4 children throughout the years. Then, in 1970 her 9-year-old son, David, drowned after chasing his dog onto thin ice. This was a woman (and husband) who had dedicated their lives to serving their God as best the knew how. It wasn’t fair. That little 9-year-old was loved by everyone.

The story didn’t end there, though. Eventually grandma and grandpa adopted two more children (named Melissa and coincidentally, David) who needed loving parents. These two little ones grew into awesome adults with families of their own. They loved their adopted parents well. They ended up producing 5 grandchildren before Grandma and Grandpa died who also loved their grandparents. Now, would all of this have happened happened if little David hadn’t drowned? No, probably not.

It means that his death allowed for future good to happen, but that’s not equivalent to suffering and death being required for the future good.

When grandma passed, she’d been suffering with Alzheimer’s for a while. She forgot a lot of things from her life, but she never forgot little David or what happened to him. When family visited

Little David, in the summer months.

with her on the anniversary date of his drowning, grandma could still recall the significance of the date. She still teared up at the thought of him, even with all the love she had for the children she adopted and became as real a part of our family as if she’d given birth.

The whole story presents us with an unfair, unanswerable and perhaps a terrible question. If grandma could have chosen to have little David to have not drowned, meaning she would never have adopted two more children, would she have chosen to save him? I mean, seriously, what kind of question is that? I’ll tell you what kind of question it is. It’s one you keep to yourself, and not put in a blog post. There’s no answer where you don’t look heartless, to a certain extent.

Except there’s a possible third option.

I think if Grandma and Grandpa had all the information about the two kids they adopted back in 1970 they would have saved little David and also adopted the two others as well. I know they would have. That would have been the best option which provided the most good with the least suffering.

Isn’t that what we’re expected to do? Shouldn’t we be working to provide the most good with the least amount of suffering?

Can’t we expect the same of an all-powerful, all-knowing God? If God is truly all-knowing and all-good, shouldn’t we be able to expect God to act in ways which would produce less suffering and most good? I mean, that’s what we expect of people in a healthy society, isn’t it?

I’m not here today to say I don’t believe in God. I do. I’m here to say I don’t believe in the God I used to believe in. There’s something different going on. Something far more mysterious than we’d like to admit during times of troubles. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I understand God to be something I do not.

You know why two of four people were recently killed in Baltimore by a person with a gun? Because Baltimore is experiencing a problem with gun violence.

You know why my friend was raped multiple times? Because someone was sick and twisted and found sexual pleasure where they should not have.

You know why my friends’ kids have had cancer? Because people get cancer sometimes.

You know why Toby Mac’s son… well, you get the idea. Life is hard. Horrible for some. But I won’t sit here and accept that these things have to occur. They do not.

Let’s just acknowledge “hard things” for what they are. Hard, and sometimes they suck.

Full stop.

As our life changes in the wake of tragedy, suffering or other hardships, sometimes they give way to new goodness. Sometimes they do not.

Let’s not tell those suffering or those that have experienced suffering that they had to experience it. Life is better with less suffering, no matter what the future holds.

 

2 Comments

  • Thank you Jeff. I felt your emotion and energy in every single one of your words. I do not see every injustice in the world, but my heart has certainly when students and community children/teens also deal the effects of being murdered, raped, neglected, abused, as well as adults. To just love on these souls is my job when they come to me with those same questions. There are no answers. Jesus himself knows there is one answer, unexplainable answer, I need when I see him face to face that he cannot get out of answering. We never get over the tragedies we live or the tragedies we walk alongside those in our lives at the time, but we learn to live new types of normals that are very different and unique for each individual. I believe that is why the call to just love each other fiercely is so deep. Each journey is marked with joy and scars. Happiness and sorrow. Published stories and skeletons.
    I love you with an everlasting love my friend.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Amanda! You’ve always been a tremendous friend and support for me. I’m eternally grateful!

      Reply

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