samedi, avril 06, 2013

An asterisked faith

It was warm when I went out for my walk, a ramble that takes me down and up hills, past streams and, often, by some rather docile looking bulls (perhaps bulls are docile when they aren't being tormented or unforgettably fictionalized by Flannery O'Connor).

But given the rather late hour, as the sun set it quickly became cold.

 I could not avoid the mocking chill of a spring that many of us in the east have found delayed (here, though, the rain still waters the earth, and there is a harvest).

As I strode, I couldn't stop thinking about Rick Warren's son Matthew, who committed suicide last night.  Warren, in case you have been living in a hermit's cave for the past fifteen years, is pastor to the mega-mega Saddleback Valley Community Church, and the author of "The Purpose-Driven Life."

Matthew, wrote Warren in a letter to his congregation(s) was an "incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate man" with a brilliant intellect -- beset through his short life with mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts.

They say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But it seems, from what his father wrote, that Matthew suffered for a very long time. They tried the best medical care money could buy -- Rick Warren isn't a poor man. But nothing worked -- long enough, anyway, for this lovely young man to outrun his demons.

As a person of faith, I don't understand, I tweeted in some anguish, how God can allow this terrible kind of suffering without ceasing.

My thoughts inevitably went back many years, to the death of my brother.  Two years older than Matthew, Jonathan  was also a beautiful soul, someone who cared profoundly for the world of nature and for oppressed peoples, particularly native Americans.

Jonathan did find some relief from his depression -- in loving a young woman with two children he met out in northern California.  It seems as though, finally, this boy who had undergone so much misery at the hands of an educational system that didn't understand his learning disability and our sometimes dysfunctional family would find peace with her.

But then, in a minute of what I still consider terrible evil, she was killed, and one of those children with her, on a German road -- on her way to the airport to rejoin my brother in California.

Though Jonathan didn't struggle constantly, as far as I know, he could not withstand this cruel assault. His death changed so much about life for my father, my sister and myself -- not to mention my mother, who was ill then with the disease that would ultimately kill her.

Since then, I have been impatient with aphorisms.

"He's gone to a better place." Or "God just wanted another angel." Or, particularly "We don't understand, but there's a reason for everything.":

No. No. No. YOU don't understand, I want to say -- but I don't (usually). I try not to, you see, because I know that for many, such truisms provide a frail comfort zone against the mystery of theodicy --why God allows evil in our world.

I do mutter, on occasion, whether they hear me or not "I don't believe in that God."

I can only imagine the Warren's ordeal -- drug after drug, therapy after therapy, and each time, each time the profound hope that Matthew was going to be o.k. He was going to o.k., not in heaven (where I trust he is now free from pain), but o.k. right here.

Isn't that what we want for all of our children - earthly happiness? The heavenly kind is great, too, but let it come in time -- not too soon, we pray. We don't want to bury our children.

That's what Rick Warren and his wife will be doing in a few days.

Why did Matthew Warren suffer so long, and so terribly?

Since my brother's suicide, my faith has had an asterisk -- symbolizing the soul that cries out to God questioning: why?

I am fiercer.  Less tolerant of b.s. More capable of being provoking.

Still, I believe.

But I don't understand.