There was a huge “boom!” and the whole building shook. I ran outside in fear that something horrible had happened. It had.
We were preparing for a fun night of BBQ and worship with the men of our church. Hundreds were signed up. As the pit crew was finishing up the food prep, a freak accident caused an explosion that instantly killed the man who was manning the huge smoker. When I got to the scene men were in shock, some on their hands and knees. Many were in tears or frantic. There are no words to describe the level of trauma we all experienced. Shortly all of the local news crews showed up to report on the tragedy. The police representative made a brief statement and then I was up. The first few asked simpler questions…”tell us about the man who died.” “how are the men reacting?”…then the last reporter turned to me and challenged me with “tell us, how are you going to explain this to your people?” I don’t remember what I said but I do recall turning around to walk away and bursting into uncontrollable sobs.
As a pastor of 42 years I had to explain God many times. When I had to tell a family that their son had been found drowned. When I stood in the ICU with a young woman as she gave permission to take her mom off of life support. When a grandma reached out to me as her 4 year old grandson was dying of cancer. After far too many suicides. After 9/11. During COVID-19…
How many times have I heard “there must be a reason for this”. And thought…no…there isn’t a reason, it just happened.
What it all has made me is a reverent agnostic. I borrow that term from Donald McCullough in his book The Trivialization of God. First, I am reverent. I believe in God. I worship God. I love God. I am a theist. No question. And as a destiny coach I will tell you I believe the calling on our lives…the destiny we move toward… is really a summons from God.
But I am a reverent agnostic. I do not know a lot of things, especially about God. McCullough suggests that “agnosticism is just a five-dollar word for ignorance”. So though I have spent countless hours researching the Bible, reading the experts and having deep heart felt conversations with fellow spiritual sojourners…I still don’t get it a lot of the time.
I just read an interview with the theologian N.T. Wright who reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic. He said “This Christian faith thing is a lot more mysterious and often a lot darker than we in the modern West have wanted to make it. And it’s by inhabiting that kind of space that God may work through his people in new ways. But at the moment, we can’t see too much of what that might be.”
Yep. Many times…now for instance…the way forward is murky. All of this to say…I try to live my life palms-up. I am open to the mystery. Open to dialogue. Open to learn more. And more than a little anxious to help others find their place in this world so that when the worst happens, when the brokenness of the world overwhelms us yet again, we destiny seekers will rise up with healing and compassion and courage. Even if we don’t understand it all.