It must have been during the summer of 1989. I don’t remember many details of the day other than the fact that I was going to a mall to pick something up. It was brutally hot. Temps were in the mid to upper 90’s and our car didn’t have air conditioning…. Well, at least air conditioning that worked which was pretty much true of all the cars we owned back then. I pulled into a parking space and wound all the windows up. As I stepped out of the car I slammed the door shut and began to walk away. I don’t know why, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Alissa… all of 7 months old… sitting in her car seat in the back. She was sound asleep. A shudder runs through my body as I remember that moment. I was so close to walking away from that inferno of a car and leaving my little girl inside. I just forgot that she was with me! Even now I feel guilty for something that was averted. I don’t know how long she would have survived. I’m pretty sure she would have been gone by the time I returned.
This was not an occasion where I wanted to run into a bar or a grocery store or some other errand so I intentionally left my child locked in the car. We hear too many of those things these days. It was an honest mistake. An honest… almost tragic… mistake. I would not have been the first parent to get caught in that heartbreaking, horrible, nightmare. Nor would I have been the last. I do know that my life would have been permanently altered if I had not seen her. It was SO close.
These issues have been in the news for the past several years. In some cases parents are being charged for their “recklessness” and their children are being taken away. No doubt on many occasions the charges are warranted. I would not want to be the judge who makes these decisions. It’s all so tragic. And then of course there are the rare occasion where it seems that parents may have wanted to kill their children so they leave them in the car and claim they forgot…
It’s the accidental oversight that I want to focus on, not the irresponsible, selfish adults who mistreat their kids for their own benefit and pleasure. As I mentioned, I just happened to catch the sight of Alissa out of the corner of my eye. Why did I see her and other parents did not see their little ones? What is it that causes one circumstance to be redeemable and the other to end in tragedy? What causes one parent to live a life of grief and agony and another to easily avert a tragedy? Simply put, where is God in all of this? I know, this may sound like a familiar theme… and it is. Why? Because it is a question that runs through our minds anytime a tragedy occurs. We so easily let the words, “Thank God” slip out of our mouths when something good happens. But what do we say when there is no “Thank God”? What do we say when the parent doesn’t see the child? Why one, life altering set of tragic circumstances and one… almost forgettable one? At the end of the day the answer has to be, “I don’t know.” For a non-believer, it’s simply one more reason to mock those who believe in a personal God that interacts with His creation. What loving, benevolent parent would allow the agonizing death of one of their children if they could avert it? Seriously… that’s the question isn’t it? How could a loving God allow devastation to His children when it is certainly within His power to do something about it?! Again… I don’t know.
I do know this however. If there is a God… and I believe there is… then He is WAY BIGGER than my thoughts can comprehend. And I believe that His way of doing things is WAY BIGGER AND MORE COMPLEX than what I can imagine. If we want to, we can believe in a God that we can fully understand and predict, i.e., the god of our own invention. It is surely not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is mighty, powerful, eternal, and yes, scary. He is a God who is unpredictable and does things His own way. For those who think they can understand and explain God… they are naïve. Certainly there are some things that have been revealed to us, but they are not the full picture. It’s like describing an iceberg by only seeing the section above the water.
For those of us who are Christians, we need to come to the place where we trust in God even though we don’t know Him fully, we cannot know what He will do, and there are NO guarantees. If you want a predictable God, the Father of Jesus is not your Guy.
Many of you are familiar with the Narnia series of books written by C.S. Lewis. They have been popularized through films in recent years. Aslan, the lion, represents Jesus and Jill is one of the main characters. Below is a quote sent to me by Ellen a few weeks ago from a book about the Narnia series by Rowan Williams commenting on the Narnia book entitled “The Silver Chair”. This quote helps describe the God that I know.
“Jill, newly arrived in Narnia for the first time, is alone and desperately thirsty; ahead of her there is a stream of clear water – and ‘just on this side of the stream lay the Lion.’ ‘If you’re thirsty you may drink,’ says the Lion. But Jill is afraid. ‘Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?’ she asks; and the Lion replies, ‘I make no promises.’
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
‘Do you eat girls?’ she said.
‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
‘I daren’t come and drink,’ said Jill.
‘Then you will die of thirst,’ said the Lion.
‘Oh dear!’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’
‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.
Aslan makes no promise; nothing can make him safe, and there is no approaching him without an overwhelming sense of risk. But there is no other stream. A less fearful and guilty person than Jill might – like the talking horse Hwin in the Horse (Ch. 14) – conclude that ‘I’d rather be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.’ But one thing Aslan cannot do is pretend he is not what and who he is.
The Gospel of John says: John 4:10-11
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
My friends… THERE IS NO OTHER STREAM.