Last week was tough for all of us.
First Boston. Then West, Texas.
We saw—on our tv screens and laptops and phones—people crying, people yelling, people hurting. Their loss seemed our loss as a heavy curtain of despair crept across our country.
Last Saturday night my friend Kim’s brother, his wife, and their two teen-aged daughters died in a car crash. Their son, the youngest child, survived the wreck—alone.
I went to the hospital and sat in a waiting room with Kim as she mourned her brother. Kim’s husband told me how Kim had been the one to tell her nephew that he was now an orphan and an only child.
I sat close to Kim’s mom, my hand on her back as she told stories about the weekend before, about buying her granddaughters fabric for sewing projects, about discovering the perfect gluten free donut shop for them just minutes from her house. She faltered as she tried to describe the girls, switching in and out of the present tense— “Madison is…” “Madison was…”
Two weeks earlier I sat across from a dear friend in his living room as he and my husband planned his wife’s funeral. Never have I known two people so glued to one another, so unequivocally one, as Ron and Donna Little. Again and again he shook his head, furrowed his brow, as if none of this—choosing songs and selecting an obituary reader—could be real. Six months earlier his beautiful wife was healthy, perfect. Now…
The next day we buried her in a field—watching as cemetery workers lowered her into a hole and heaped red clay dirt on top of her coffin.
My five year old asks from the back of the car, “Are invisible things real?”
And I smile like a cat with a bird in her paw and say “Yes” with such relish she giggles.
I say, “Sometimes invisible things are more real even than visible things.”
And she says,”Like God.” And I say, “Right.”
And she says, “We’ll see God in Heaven, but we can’t see Him now.”
"Huh." She wonders, "How can that be?” I can hear the shaking of her head in her voice.
I wonder, too, and I wander through so many things to say but none a perfect explanation. I think to say God is here but behind a veil, but that’s not right because He’s fully here and fully not here, both. I think to say, “He’s like the wind.” But the wind, however powerful, never manifests into touchable, colorful presence like I know-hope God will. I think more, but say nothing.
London, though, hardly thinks at all before she says, “It’s like the sun.”
I look for the sun through the car window. Where is it?
She says, “It’s sunny outside but I can’t see the sun.”
I look straight ahead and see clouds, backlit, rays of lovely peeking through puffy cracks.
"But I will see the sun," she says. "Right now it’s invisible."
An invisible sun…
1.3 million earths could fit inside our sun. And two clouds obscure my view of it.
I think of the sun and the clouds and my God during weeks like this last one. When I attend funerals. When I read Caring Bridge updates. When I learn that 70,000 people have died in Syria.
I think about how God is here, how God is big, but how sometimes the clouds block our view. Clouds make the God-scouting tricky.
On the dreariest days—the ones thick with storm clouds, when day seems night—on those days we wonder most, “Where is He?”
I could point for you, if you wanted, to the light peeking through the puffy cracks:
To the selfless acts of courage and love spurred on by disaster.
To my friend Kim, full of the Spirit of God, comforting a grieving boy in the midst of her own unbearable grief.
To Ron, drowning in pain, who said to me, “Death is an enemy… but it has been conquered.”
God is here.
But still… He’s not.
And when darkness comes and evil wins (if just for a moment) we are reminded that still we walk in the shadow of death, still we mourn, still we hurt, still we strive and still we wait for the day when the clouds will part.