These are friends of mine. They have shared their stories with me little by little over the years. I knew it would be a painful for them to revisit these memories, not to mention putting them into words, but each of them graciously and generously accepted the invitation. For their courage and grace I am deeply indebted and eternally grateful.
Today I met Pat for lunch so we could go over her story. I needed more from her. I had to ask her how it came about that she grew up feeling that she was unworthy and unlovable. Who convinced her that the pain she experienced in her life was God's punishment and that she somehow deserved it?
I wanted to understand her family and the shameful incident that drove them out of town and nearly destroyed her youngest son--a creative genius who went on to study art and music in college. The sweet, sensitive boy who lost his mind to a college prank--an intentional LSD overdose orchestrated by a couple of his buddies. I had to ask her how she came to learn that it was his body that turned up in the woods behind the house six months after he wandered off one day. How the police established his identity. How she survived it. Why she still goes to church.
Next week I'll meet with Robin and we'll go over the details of the car crash that took her younger brother's life when she was just fifteen...when he died in her arms. I'll ask her about the day her happy, active infant daughter went mute with autism. We'll revisit the day she learned she had stage 4 breast cancer and what it was that got her through that.
Then I'll meet with Rita. Then, Maria.
This book is hard to write because these stories are hard to tell, and hard to make sense of. If, in writing it, I have learned anything so far it is this: I wouldn't want God's job. I think He must be very sad.
How do you see the problem of pain? Do you believe in the power of prayer?
What if God's answer is "no"?