On a very hot September day, my daughter and I made our way to Livermore, Ca. to have lunch with a young woman we haven’t seen in a while. Family friend, and one of the people that affectionately calls me dad, she sat in front of us with eyes full of life, story, and of pain and question. We caught up over some pretty good Thai food (yes, spicy food on a hot day… we are gluttons for punishment), laughed a lot, and asked and answered some hard questions. On the way home, my daughter and I talked about what wasn’t said… there was much that was left on the table (not food… we killed the food quickly like starving children… it was pretty good 🙂 ), and that was ok, because those conversations will become part of walking together again.
In the conversation, one of the hard questions dealt with fairness in life. I am particularly sensitive to this, because I remember some of my earliest memories as a child thinking that “certain things were right and made sense”, like living in a house with a mom and dad… that is family – that is right – that is perfect (this was how my 5 year old mind worked). Much to my surprise, or chagrin, my 6 year old mind was thrown into a tizzy when “family” changed.
Things are supposed to be fair…
We were in a meeting at work where they started talking about “pay for performance”. Simple concept: those that do more and/or better work get more pay. It makes sense, and we can all get behind it. It’s fair. So, from the time I was 5 or so until now, I have been inundated with the concept of a “two plus two” version of life: good people get good things; bad people get bad things, and as long as I am doing good things, I should see good things coming to me.
When I was 12, I “got saved” (became Christian, found Jesus, etc). I was more than elated. I told my friends, and had a couple conversations with my younger sister, who followed suit. She also became a lover of Jesus. It was right… then, we found out about the tumor…
Two plus two… good things for good people… she didn’t deserve this… what is going on?
We sat across the table from this woman, and I could see the hurt peeking through the smile in her eyes. She was asking questions that I asked when family changed, and when my sister had to go for surgery after surgery, and when other things happened in my life… “I’m trying to live right, but now I am seeing my life and dreams tailspin, yet I see others that could care less about living right, and everything goes right for them. Why?”
My sister fought a valiant fight, but ended up succumbing to the cancer. I remember hearing well meaning people telling me “God took her because he knew what her life would be like”. Really?…. I can look around quickly and find people living in horrible conditions, living in constant pain, yet God didn’t take them. What would prompt God to say “your life is going to be so much worse than anyone living on earth that I have to take you now”? Now, I know it is not the case – it’s just some people’s way of needing to try to give an explanation to a very hard situation. After all, we all like life to be like two plus two.
When our friend started asking why, there was a part of me that wanted to have a real answer for her. I wanted to make two plus two = four. But I’ve learned that much of life isn’t like that. Life has so many ups and downs, twists and turns, it’s like two plus two equals something like blue green algae – it just doesn’t make sense. So, we talked longer, until the owner came and told us that she had to lock the door (we did stay 30 minutes after they closed. They were nice people).
We stood outside the restaurant in the hot Livermore sun, hugged each other many times, took “reunion pics”, and said our goodbyes. I left with such pride at my “other daughter” (as well as my daughter), as I saw her growing into an ever increasingly mature woman. I was proud to be a part of her life, and glad that I would be able to walk with her through even these tough times in her life. I also thought about the questions I have been asking God about my life lately, realizing that I, too have been asking God to make my life fit “two plus two = four”, knowing that it never will. It’s ok though, because it’s not really about that. It’s about walking out life, with God, family, and friends, through the highs and lows, twists and turns. It’s about not letting the lows stop us or the highs define us. It’s about being the person I know I am supposed to be regardless of whether I have “the answer to life”.
Two plus two… the meaning of life… it is all blue green algae
Mark and Angel give a great list for dealing with tough situations (I especially like #34 and #39):