Over the last month or so, I’ve had the privilege of being one member of the tag-team who cares for my four-month-old grandson, HSO. When his mama and daddy resumed their jobs, they knew there would be a handful of days each month when their schedules would necessitate outside help. Sure, they could’ve exiled the little guy to Miss Marple’s, impersonal but handy, wipe-and-dipe corner day-care pen. (The truth is, I’d never let that happen to one of my grandchildren!)
So the other day I’m ensconced in an easy chair with this delightful little Creature in my lap. He’s drinking milk from his bottle, pausing momentarily to smile and flirt with me. And I’m reflecting on how amazing and precious and innocent he is. I’m contemplating all the similar thoughts that filled my head when my own four children were this age. While the Babe blissfully enjoys his meal, I’m quietly thanking God for this Gift and praying for the man he is to become.
During this contemplative moment, my thoughts divert elsewhere to a vibrant young couple whose vivacious 17-year-old daughter (their only child) has just been yanked from their arms without warning. A tragic weekend auto accident … two other teens hospitalized and this beautiful young woman dead at the scene. I cannot imagine the pain of such loss!
Two lives, two divergent narratives: one child on the cusp of discovering and navigating his surroundings, the other child’s life cut short, despite a promising future. She is ripped from Time, no hint of how her absence will impact those left behind.
Can we reconcile good and evil? Are we permitted to enjoy the blessings of life without feeling guilty because others suffer? Is there a way to process tragedy, to make sense of it, without going insane? (Yes, without being driven to putting a gun to our heads.)
Observing the man born blind, the disciples asked this penetrating question of Jesus: “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” (Read the entire narrative in John 9.)
What parent — when their child has experienced horror or tragedy — has not asked a similar question? We fix our child’s scraped knee; we should be able to mend his or her body (restore sight/health/life) because we’re fixers … that’s our job! When we can’t, it must be sin in our lives, right? [Cue the self-flagellation and recriminations, please.]
Who sinned? Not this man nor his parents! Jesus explained: The man’s blindness occurred “… in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Before the beginning of Time, God identified the man born blind as part of His Plan. At a specific second of Time’s progression, the works of God would be displayed in this man’s life!
Bad things happen in our fallen world. One child is born into it while another leaves. Yet, we must never forget God knows both of them by name, and He has ordered their days (many or few) so His works will be manifested. When Mordecai assured Esther (Esther 4:14) God had destined her “for such a time as this,” Mordecai recognized the works of God would be displayed through Esther’s courageous behavior.
John’s gospel narrative doesn’t end with the blind man’s healing. The Pharisees pose another penetrating question (vs. 16b): “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”
The man born blind demonstrates sharper vision than the religious leaders (vs. 30, 33): “He opened my eyes … If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” What a blessing to know we are part of His handiwork, set apart in Time to display His works! God is good — all the time.