I’m old enough to have crossed the halfway point on the average lifespan and it’s a time when you spend more time thinking about fairness.
Twenty years ago, I was in that phase they call the Young Invincibles. Twenty years from now, I’ll be one of the Philosophers. But now, now is a time when life can be cruel to people who don’t deserve it.
That can be a tough thing to reconcile with faith.
* * *
Heather and I went to elementary school together, played in the trumpet section together in high school band. We were not close friends and we did not stay in touch after high school, only to become “Facebook friends” 20 years later. Even then, we didn’t become great friends — just people who went through childhood at the same place and time.
Heather became paralyzed five years ago during childbirth. That in itself is a cruel hand that no one deserves. Still, she started working toward a degree to become a counselor, all the time raising two children while confined to a wheelchair.
The degree was almost done and, best of all, she started to regain feeling in her legs. She might walk again, perhaps in time for her older child’s graduation from high school.
But now she’s gone. I don’t know the cause, but imagine it’s likely related to the initial paralysis.
Gone at 42. The first half of life was the only half. Two children — ages 5 and 13 — are without their mother.
Fairness? What on earth is possibly fair about a fate like that? We’re taught to never wish something so awful even on those we consider “bad” or even “evil.”
The anger inside us makes it easy to succumb to the urge to wonder: What kind of God allows such an unspeakably terrible fate to happen to someone?
* * *
We’ve wrestled with the question of bad things happening to good people since the beginning of time. Some of those bad things are small in scale — tragedy on an individual level. Others are so widespread — a genocide or holocaust — that they shake an entire society to its very core.
Some people cope with bad things by rationalizing that “God intended this to happen” for reasons we, as human beings, will never fully understand. We often explain tragedy to young people this way — “God needed Mommy in Heaven.”
If you choose to look at things that way, does that mean you also believe there’s a spiritual reason to every cause-and-effect in life?
There’s just too many “bad things” happening every day for me to accept that God intended them to happen: The three teenagers who die in a car crash on graduation day, the convenience store clerk murdered by a robber, the child who’s kidnapped and locked in a basement for 10 years.
Maybe God didn’t want bad things to happen, but rather the reason they happened is something that we just won’t understand in this life.
The other theory is that, perhaps, God created the universe and life and set things in motion. He gave us free will to make decisions. And he sends us reminders from time to time — signs and wonders, if you will — that there will always be things (and events) that we won’t be able to understand. But he’s not controlling (or approving) of the trillions of decisions and events that happen every day on this plant. He’s the ultimate laissez-faire Father Figure.
When tragedy happens, I lean on the second theory for comfort. The rest of the time, I probably drift towards the first. But let’s face it — the only time we ponder issues like this is when bad things happen to good people.
* * *
What are we left with after time passes and the anger subsides?
Life is unpredictable, so we need to remember that every little thing really does count. No matter how small the gesture, how brief the smile, it all adds to the good in the universe.
Good, pound for pound, weighs more than evil on a cosmic scale. I think that’s because, at our core, we all begin life as inherently good people. And it’s harder for evil to take root when it is being smothered by good.
So start today. Right now.
You don’t know, after all, what may happen tomorrow.