Tears of Confusion

My oldest son was just shy of three years old when I discovered that he was gone. In the distance I saw him riding on his little red tractor. Gathering up my 18-month-old son, I began the chase. The problem was, I was seven months’ pregnant. With the added weight of my second son, I couldn’t run faster than my older son was scooting. The best I was able to do was to keep him in sight.

The race had gone on for about three blocks when I saw my older son heading for the freeway. There wasn’t much else to do, but put my 18-month-old on a corner, tell him to “stay,” and ask the UPS driver parked on the side of the road to watch  him  until I got back. Then, with less weight I went  after his brother. I remember how my younger son started to cry. I’m sure he felt that I was deserting him. What he didn’t know was how much he was in my thoughts, as I pursued his brother. He had no concept of how hard it was for me to leave him there. He didn’t understand that I didn’t want him left by himself, even for a few minutes. Nor, could he know how very worried I was about him. He didn’t know that my heart was aching for him.

“Where is God anyway?” It comes, that question, when life deals us a bitter blow. “Why? Why didn’t God stop the drunk driver who killed my friend. . . .Or the spread of cancer in my child . . . why didn’t God make my marriage work, when I prayed so hard?” “Why did my child get mixed up in drugs?” “We loved each other, why did my spouse die so young?” Would that there were easy answers to these difficult questions. The more I experience of life, the more convinced I am that there are no easy answers to life’s griefs, disappointments, and sorrows. I am equally convinced that God cares, that God is with us in each and every tragedy, that God does not leave us comfortless. Believing that and feeling that are, of course, two entirely different situations.

What we believe in faith is that some day we will understand this life with all of its unfairness. To say that it is God’s will a child dies of cancer, a drunk driver kills someone, a marriage fails or that anyone gets messed up in drugs seems to me blasphemy. It’s equally evident that God doesn’t protect us from life’s hurts. I once heard the theologian Henri Nouwen say, “The good news of the Gospel is not that God has come to take our pain away, but that God has come to be with us in it.” The apostle Paul says it another way, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

No, I don’t have the answers for “Why.”  But this I believe  – that even as my heart ached for my younger son with his tears of confusion, even so, God’s heart aches for each of us in ours.

Seeing Through a Glass Darkly

The question of suffering is deeply troubling. We want the very best for those who are precious to us. When a loved one hurts, we hurt. When they suffer, we suffer. Part of what makes us human is this connection of suffering love. So, we wonder how a good and loving God, can allow the grief and pain we see in our world. We don’t understand why God allows a September 11th or the shooting of little girls in a small Amish school.  Mudslides, fires, earthquakes and tsunamis all come with their own “Why.”


Especially, we wonder why God allows painful things to happen to ourselves and people we love.      If nothing else- we at least want to make some sense of our suffering.  A young woman from a congregation, that I had left weeks earlier, was murdered by a man who had just moved into her apartment building. As I searched and prayed for words of comfort and hope for the family, this passage of scripture began to fill my mind, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known..” I Corinthians 13:12

At the deepest level of faith, we trust that God will take our broken hearts, our deepest questions, our gut wrenching grief and weave them into our life in such a way, that some good will shine through. Today, we do not understand the “why” of suffering.  Till then we are comforted by God who chooses to be involved in our world, in our lives.

The apostle Paul’s affirmation in Romans encourages us. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

The mystery remains . . . as does God who is with us and from whom, nothing can separate us in Jesus Christ.

A Collective Grief – Twenty-Seven Years of Searching for Jacob

CandleFlameI was surprised by the tears, and sense of profound grief which hit me, when I learned Jacob Wetterling’s remains had been found. Jacob, the eleven-year-old who was taken at gun point from his brother and best friend on an October night in 1989 has been in the background of life in Minnesota for twenty-seven years. I was living in a small rural town about 90 miles south of the Wetterling’s at the time Jacob was kidnapped. The story of his abduction had left us all with questions. We found inconceivable that three boys were accosted by a man with a gun, on a rural Minnesota road. That one of the boys had been taken, the others told to run, was beyond our ability to comprehend. We wondered at first if the story was true – and if true, how was this possible? Within a few months, the story of Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance was in the backdrop of Minnesota life. Emerging from time to time, was a story . . . A Reminder of a life disappeared, filled with continuing questions of how, why and who? By the end of 1989, Jacob had become the most popular boys’ name in Minnesota and would remain among the most popular five boys’ names for nearly two decades.

Through these twenty-seven years, my appreciation for Patty Wetterling, has only grown, as she took a tragic loss and turned it into a cause that would help other families. A fearless advocate, I often stumbled on an interview on local radio as I traveled to meetings, hospital calls and home visits. I came to recognize her voice as she talked about issues related to offenders, missing children, Amber alerts and always something about Jacob. Yesterday, the state was reeling, as news spread across the media, local stories first, then national news. This one lost child set off a chain of sequences which has changed the world for the better. In his disappearance, Jacob saved lives of other children.

Thinking about my sense of grief, my tears upon learning Jacob had been found, I realized that somewhere in those twenty-seven years the Wetterling family, had become part of our collective Minnesota family. Jacob became our child, our grandchild, our nephew, our brother. The Wetterling’s loss became our loss.

Patty Wetterling’s fierce mother’s love would not allow us to forget her son. News media regularly brought back the story asking for more tips and fresh leads. The hope of finding Jacob alive was ever in our hearts. As unlikely as that might be, Patty Wetterling’s work with missing children, only made it more plausible. The Wetterling’s became a symbol of what was possible. Long abducted children were found, the newly abducted rescued, parents and children reunited. You wanted, so deep in the heart, for that gift to be true for the Wetterling family.

Today, Patty Wetterling posted on the Jacob Wetterling Resource Facebook page:

“The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together. We will be eager to talk to media as soon as we are able.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us.
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Be with friends.
Play with your children.
Hold Hands.
Eat ice cream.
Create joy.
Help your neighbor.
That is what will bring me comfort today.” -Patty Wetterling

Life does not always give us what we want. But, sometimes, it does give us what we need. A few days ago police were led to Jacob’s grave by a man long suspected in his disappearance. Scars, twenty-seven years in the making, were ripped off and raw grief poured out. The years of searching for Jacob are over. Along with all the questions remaining are our prayers. Prayers for healing, for joy to offset sorrow . . . Prayers for peace in finally knowing where Jacob is . . . Prayers that other lost children will be found.