Drowning In The Neighborhood Pool

A dozen or so years ago, I showed up for Sunday morning worship services like a good preacher’s wife. People were filing in, finding their seats, hugging friends and getting ready for the service to begin.

As I settled in my seat I noticed a woman to my left, crying. Her eyes were puffy and her nose was red, like she’d been crying for quite some time.

“Oh, my. Are you okay?” I asked, which of course, I knew she wasn’t.

She mopped herself up and proceeded to tell me the story of her weekend.

Underwater.jpgAn eighteen month old toddler had nearly drown in their neighborhood swimming pool. Thankfully, a quick thinking adult performed mouth-to-mouth and saved the child’s life. But in the chaos, her three-year-old brother tumbled into the water at the other end of the pool. It wasn’t until the panic finally subsided and the crowd dispersed that his little body was found lifeless.

One child was lost in the mayhem of saving another. 

As the woman finished her story, I swallowed hard and held her hand in an attempt to mollify a pain that would not be comforted. Then she looked up at me, eyes pleading, and asked, “Why? Why did this happen?”

I slowly shook my head. But before I could part my lips to speak, she asked another question, “Do you think God allowed this to happen to remind us all of how dangerous the water is?”

This was the logic she’d been reduced to. Like groping in the dark, I could see on her face the desperation to find something, anything at all, to hold onto to keep her faith intact. But in fact, Her God had not shown up at the pool that weekend. And no amount of reasoning, not even the ludicrous, was going to make the events make sense.

If God was real, He’d made his choice. Now there were meals to deliver, a funeral to attend and a casket to cover in dirt.

My husband preached his message on the goodness and faithfulness of God that morning as I sat distracted by life’s cruelty. As the service came to a close, I found myself silently demanding answers. “Where were you?!” I prayed, squeezing my eyes tight, choking back tears.

The music started as the choir began to sing our dismissal song, Our God Is An Awesome God.

I did not join in.

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9 thoughts on “Drowning In The Neighborhood Pool

  1. Wow that’s awful. It reminds me of 25 or so years ago. A 3 year old fell out of a car and suffered an eventually fatal head injury. People tried to make sense of it – “god needed another angel” (which I hate). Childrens’ suffering really tests peoples’ faith.

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    1. Oh gosh. I just read a message of condolence on our neighborhood website that made me think of our exchange here. There’s a family that lost their 15year old son last week to a heart condition. On the website, another neighbor wrote, and I quote…

      “My prayers are with your family. “This too shall pass”. Warmest Regards, [name].”

      I read that and I sat there stunned. THIS too shall pass?! Who The F says that to a grieving mother??!!

      My hair is on fire. Just want to scream!

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  2. Thanks Marty. I agree, the whole “god needed another angel” thing is infuriating. I know people are trying to help with that statement, but I don’t get it. A perfect god cannot need a little kid in heaven and what kind of monster would drown a kid b/c he ‘needs an angel’?!?

    What are the right words to say in situations like this? I’m convinced there are none other than, “I love you”, “I care”, “I’m here.” Filling the silences with nonsense only makes matters worse.

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  3. I was going to say that I agree that this woman was being so irrational it’s unbelievable, and I do agree but then I thought, hey wait a moment, that’s exactly why Christianity has been successful, especially with people in terrible situations. It helps them alleviate the feeling of despair at life’s inherent cruelty. It’s basically a lot like drug addiction.

    But in other news, God makes bets with the devil in the Book of Job, made calls for infanticide and humans and angels are not the same thing because angels don’t have free will even though satan rebelled against him which must mean that was the plan all along. Consistency!

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  4. Precisely. This was not a stupid or irrational woman. She was a woman trapped. And when you’re trapped, you do what you must to make it through. I jumped through many a hoop during my Christian days. She was just doing what we do: Make God fit.

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  5. I think that in that case, God was kinda like a punching bag. If she didn’t have God to question or blame or whatever, she’d blame specific human negligence or realise that life isn’t always fair. I don’t usually avoid telling people that this is the why things are but I’ve even warned specific Christians I know not to look too deeply into the historicity of Jesus or they’d lose their faiths. It sounds odd but I sheltered them from the truth in the most honest way I could find because they seemed like they’d collapse without the lie they were relying on.

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  6. A punching bag? Not in this case. She wasn’t angry at all in the course of our conversation. She was baffled and desperate to make sense of the tragedy. Placing blame didn’t appear to be on the agenda. Her God had not intervened and she wanted to understand Him. She was grief stricken and perplexed but not angry. At least, not at that point in time. I’d wager that anger probably hit her later as it usually does in the process of grief, but I didn’t witness that stage.

    Me? Well that’s another story. I was angry and I didn’t even know these people. But I was a lot of things during that period of time. Angry was just one. We saw plenty of tragedy during ministry and as the leadership, we were challenged to give answers that we simply did not have. It plays with the emotions.

    I completely understand your point about wanting to shelter a Christian from a collapsing faith. And it’s just an irony for me when I feel those feelings. I have a Christian friend who lost her husband some years back and I really feel that if she didn’t have her reunion with him in heaven to look forward to, she’d be utterly despondent. It is that hope that keeps her going. I’d never want to take that from her.

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