The mind drifts when you are relaxed. I often wonder why we are designed to need a break from time to time. A day off, a long weekend, a vacation or sometimes just a rainy summer afternoon with a good book. The fact is we all need a break from time to time; we are made that way. I believe that changing your surroundings certainly helps. I remember, as a child, being mesmerized by the granite mountains called the Swiss Alps or a moss forest by a stream in North Carolina. Living in Florida we don’t have mountains (we do have a large trash heap: Mt. Trashmore) or wooded trails and vast fields to wonder around in (well, actually we do, and we call it the Everglades, but that is anything but a break, unless you think dodging boa constrictors and alligators is a form of relaxation). Mountains are majestic and evoke a sense of smallness, which is what taking a break is all about. We sometimes feel as if the weight of the world rests on our shoulders, and the break simply says, “who cares.” Looking at mountains, walking a trail, looking at a star-filled sky or staring at the vastness of the ocean does that…makes me feel oh so small and insignificant. I like that.
One day, while taking my obligatory walk on the beach, enjoying the oh so perfect day, my mind drifted to what would happen if the day was no longer so perfect. I use the time to have these interesting conversations with God. I asked God, “If my Lisa and the children were all hit by a Mack truck today and all died, how would I react?”
I must utter a disclaimer here. Lisa and I were not fighting and I did not wish her or any member of my family dead. However, for some odd reason the idea popped into my head. I did not leave God hanging with my odd question. I thought it best if I gave him a multiple choice answer, since I am convinced I may have caught him off guard with that question. I asked God to choose from one of two choices. These were my two choices: first, would I be a pillar of strength and model the often quoted verse that one follower of God may give to another during a time of tragedy, “all things work for good to those who love God,” or secondly, would I “go to the Caribbean, sit under a palm tree, drink rum and make fun of people.” Quite dramatic, they seem to demonstrate one end of the spectrum to the other. My intent was to make it easier for God to answer my question since I was concerned that I may have caught him off guard; however, I think He was no longer caught off guard. I think He was now simply concerned.
I will never forget God’s answer to me; almost immediate was His answer. God sometimes takes His time to answer, not this time. I think He saw an opportunity to intervene. Perhaps emergency alarms were going off in Heaven, God’s version of a fast pass. Honestly, how did that rate with someone asking God to help them not be late for the previews at the movies or that elusive parking space or perfect pair of shoes on sale?
God’s answer was simple. He said, “Whatever you do, you will be back.”
I had to think about that answer for a while. God has the most interesting answers sometimes. God’s answers often provoke further thought. What did God mean with his answer, “whatever you do, you will be back?”
The fact that He used the word “back” was somewhat disturbing because it did imply that if Lisa and the kids were hit by a Mac truck and all killed, I would not model the pillar of strength that one hopes to see in moments of tragedy and quote the often used Bible verse of “all things work together for good to those who love God,” but that I would go somewhere, hence His use of the word, “back.” However, where would I go? Since I had given God a specific geographical location, the Caribbean, is that where I would go? Was He referring to an island, or was it a state of mind?
Additionally, when He used the phrase, “whatever you do,” He implied that I would have a choice. I was intrigued by that thought. A tension exists when we talk about God and choices. God knows everything and is in control; however, the world is messed up and many lives are tragic existences of their once pristine expectations. A Mack truck killing my family and God allowing it is something I will never understand. Why does He allow tragedy and pain. I believe if I was God, I would heal everyone, protect everyone, feed everyone. I would allow no suffering. What good comes from it? Is God really that active or perhaps a-bit more passive in nature? I think God likes to keep us guessing. I am often a bit hesitant when I meet people that seem to have God all figured out.
I continued to contemplate my question and God’s answer. I found His answer odd, but in a good way. He simply was saying to me that our relationship was so intertwined that whatever decision I make, even one that entails walking away from Him, getting angry and bitter at Him or simply becoming so disillusioned with Him that I do dumb stuff, eventually, I would miss Him. I think that I sometimes live in a frame of mind that says I have to keep showing God that I am deserving of His love. However, God was saying to me, that even if He allowed pain and suffering into my life and I reacted in a way that blamed Him, He would patiently wait for me to process it. He would keep an eye on me, and when I decided that I had enough, He would welcome me back with big arms. He simply reminded me that He would never leave my side, even under that palm tree. I like that about God. In fact, I would say that I love that about God. I think that sometimes when bad things happen to us, we think that we have to put on a mask. I remember hearing a quote that said, “I have been wearing my mask for so long that it’s become my face.” Sometimes I do that. I don’t want a mask with God, and apparently, He doesn’t want one with me either.
I was comforted by the fact that God won’t ever leave me alone, even if I decide that I don’t want to be around Him. I was also happy to see Lisa and the kids that night. No Mack truck today, but we live a life that we must hold onto loosely, knowing that we can’t control what happens in these uncharted waters that we navigate, but that God, in the end, is a good God – a very, very good God.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.