My long time friend Rick has, by example, taught me many things. One of his buzz words is, "Conversation." It is his conviction that conversation is the key to a better understanding of people, places, traditions, and stuff by simply talking through things, and, when possible, do it over coffee.
I am a bit on the shy side. I always have been. Insecurity is my middle name, or at least it should be. What is odd about this is that I have been in sales as well as full time ministry. Why would a shy guy like me seek after positions which required talking to and being around people? Simply put, I had always believed God could take my shyness and use it to help people. I used to believe that God could do absolutely anything. Then I changed. I stopped believing. One disappointment or tragedy after another for the last several years with very little "evidence" that God was helping me has left me barren of faith and hope. It is not a good feeling, I can assure you of that.
My most recent beef with God happened about 6 months ago, when my sister-in-law's husband passed away suddenly, leaving her with two toddler children to raise on her own. That was pretty much the last straw for me. I had the image of God just randomly picking people to die, and Drew just happened to make the cut. There was no meaning behind his death. None. None at all!
Until today, at least for me.
There is a bizarre history of my wife and her sister (technically half-sister). Before Drew died, Tracy and Arah had never met. They each knew the other existed, but neither had reached out. Since Drew's untimely death, we have all gotten to know Arah, her children Levi and Abby, and even Drew through her stories of him. Arah and I quickly discovered that we had a lot of things in common and we have had many deep conversations (Rick would be proud) about life, death, afterlife, writing, faith, movies, and other interests we have in common. I had previously shared with Arah my own struggles with faith, and so for my 42nd birthday, she gave me a copy of Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom. In the front cover she wrote, "I hope that when you read this, your journey to God somehow becomes more peaceful."
I appreciated her gesture, but her words evoked my inner cynic. "What journey to God?" I silently scoffed. And yet I was very anxious to begin reading. I had never heard of Mitch Albom, and the book's appearance didn't exactly scream, "READ ME!!"
Reluctantly and yet anxiously, I began to read. I just finished it this very day, moments ago. It was the first time I can remember in a very long time that a book moved me to tears. The last time I cried reading a book was during Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti.
In short, the book is a true story about conversations Albom had with two men of God from two completely different backgrounds that occurred over an eight year period.
Conversations. Asking questions. Listening. Considering. Struggling to understand. All of which culminated into Albom's eulogy for his rabbi. His conclusion in the Epilogue is what caused me to tear up:
"In the beginning, there was a question. In the end, the question gets answered. God sings, we hum along, and there are many melodies, but it's all one song--one same, wonderful, human song.
I am in love with hope."
I cannot recall the last time I was "in love with hope." Has it been that long? When did I lose hope? I really can't remember. Yesterday I received yet another disappointment. And then two more last night. I cursed God. I did. From my pain and despair, I cursed Him. This time (it wasn't the first time I cursed God), there were no pleas for Him to prove me wrong. I was tired of fighting with Him. He always wins anyway. I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, yet it took 2.5 Ativans to relax me enough to be able to sleep. Even after I drifted off, I had many nightmares and awoke feeling unrested.
Today I decided to finish Have A Little Faith just to get it done. I finished the book, but I doubt seriously that the book will be finished with me anytime soon.
This may be very selfish of me to think, but what if Drew Johnson died so that Tracy could meet her sister who in turn could meet me and think enough of me to buy me this book? I still find his death meaningless, but somehow not as meaningless...at least for me.
Great book. Well written. Very deeply profound.