Why does Mick Jagger’s observation ever come as a surprise, to any of us? I mean, we’re intelligent people, we read the scriptures, we ponder and pray, we argue and think, we serve and have been served, we know that God is not at our beck and call, we know that this world is not one which comes with any guarantees. Tragedies abound, both large and small, and they generally remain unexplained. So, given all that, why do any of us ever find ourselves frustrated and saddened and confused by things that don’t work out? Why did I, case in point, find myself weeping in my bishop’s office, wondering why I couldn’t get something that I desperately wanted? What could possibly have brought me to ask such a stupid question in the first place?
I blame it on a wedding band.
One spring in Utah, when Melissa and I had been married less than a year, we went camping. We hadn’t been able to afford a proper wedding band for Melissa along with her ring, so her mother lent her an old band of hers. That evening, in the tent, she took the ring off, laying it in a corner. In the morning, as we got up and broke camp, she couldn’t find it. We scoured the campsite, took down the tent and put it back up and took it down again, turned the sleeping bags inside out. We considered bizarre scenarios (a raccoon silently invading our tent during the night? accidentally caught on my key chain, which I carried with me to the showers that morning?), retraced our steps, all to no avail. It was lost. Melissa was distraught. It was her mother’s old band, of great sentimental value, and she’d lost it! So, at the end of our ropes, we kneeled down and said a prayer, asking God to please, please, let us find it. We got up, went through the car again, the tent again, our pockets again. No luck. I wandered across the campsite, and randomly kicked at the dirt. PING! The band sailed up from where I’d kicked, hit a tree, and landed at Melissa’s feet.
There was, of course, more than we could have done. We could have searched all day; we could have drawn up a grid and gone through the campsite on our hands and knees inch by inch. But then, there’s always more than could be done. As the case actually was, we’d basically given up, and then the band appeared. There was every reason in the world for us not to find it; the fact that we did was, to put it simply, miraculous.
I’ve thought about that experience often, sometimes in a critical way. After all, what sense does it make for God to answer a prayer in regards to such a silly, inconsequential matter, while He simultaneously ignores the desperate petitions of those suffering from pain almost beyond imagining? Children die, parents drown, wars are waged, diseases destroy, earthquakes devastate, Satan reigns with blood and horror upon the earth, and what does God take the time to do? Grant the wish of a couple of overwrought newlyweds, and guide an aimless kick to reveal a crummy old wedding band? Nonsense–surely it must have just been meaningless luck! But no, something tells me otherwise. Something tells me that, at that moment, our God was a responsive God….or, at the very least, there is no way I could ever be certain that God wasn’t at that moment truly responding to our prayer. Which means, therefore, that I can never be sure that at any point He might not do it again. After all, the scriptures and the prophets all testify of a God who can and does (sometimes, under certain never entirely clear conditions) reward the humble and heartfelt desires of His children; why shouldn’t we hope that such might be our fate?
So despite all my doubts, despite all my inability to ever feel as though I can affirmatively testify of anything, I pray. I ask God for things, I plead with Him, I beseech Him, I beg. The results have often been poor. But I’ve kept wanting, kept wishing, kept praying. There always seemed to be an open door somewhere, a remaining option, an avenue left to explore; while I was never certain of where God’s hand was or even if it was there, I could never dismiss the possibility that our trials and struggles were going somewhere, were a part of something, were being answered. And I still can’t dismiss it today–though I wish I could.
This will be my last post here for a while, perhaps for a long while, perhaps for good. I’ve received some news which has, to say the least, prompted some serious soul-searching. Barring some last minute miracle (like kicking at the wedding band?), Melissa and I are, I think, going to have to explore some new paths, and that’ll take time and thought and effort that I can’t really share with anything else. So we’re paring back, and letting some things go that we can do without. For myself, with all the rethinking and scrambling that’ll likely come along with trying to make a big change at age 37, blogging is one of those things.
I didn’t want it to be this way. I keep telling myself that the loss we’ve suffered is a small thing, an inconsequential thing. In a world a suffering, it doesn’t compare to losing a spouse, a child, a soul. But still I wonder why: if the band, why not this? No answer from the heavens. Or then again….is there? I don’t know. I don’t see how any possible sense can be made out of decisions of mine which have resulted in us coming to the end which we have. But of course, I’m not the one who sets the ends–not really, not in the final sense, assuming there is a final sense.
I’m going to miss Times and Seasons, and the Bloggernacle, and everything that I’ve learned and laughed about from reading and sharing with and being taught by all of you. Who knows? Perhaps it will turn out to be the case that it was through T&S that I learned and grew enough to be able to handle this shock to my whole sense of self. Is that an answer? Not the one I wanted, to be sure; it’s no wedding band. But, to quote Mick Jagger again, perhaps it’ll turn out to have been the answer that gives me what I need.