Thursday, March 1, 2012

God, King of Irony

***This is a longer post.  Three years ago I wrote a reflection on today's readings.  This particular entry is a chapter from an (unpublished) book that I wrote after my first child was stillborn.  If anyone out there knows about publishing and wouldn't mind a answering a few questions, please email me.***

After my daughter died I came to know a new title for God, King of Irony.   I wonder if that title was edited out from the list: Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonder Counselor, King of Irony, the Alpha and the Omega.  Did someone proofread the text and say, “Uh, you know that Irony one doesn’t really work.”  

Clearly, God must have a sense of humor, look at the duckbilled platypus, the ostrich, penguins walking.  There are a whole lot of funny things in this world.  Knowing that God has a sense of humor is somewhat comforting; it’s nice to know that God probably has a giggle every now and then.  Yet, I find nothing comforting about God being ironic, in fact, I feel like God is the only one who appreciates the joke.

If we are actually allowed to ask questions when we get to the Pearly Gates the first one I’m going to ask is, “Uh, what was up with me being a Pediatric Chaplain and then my first child dies?  Was that supposed to be funny?  Were you thinking, ‘Oh, this’ll be good!  Get the popcorn and let’s see how she deals with it.’?”  Okay, I probably won’t ask that, or if I do I won’t be that snotty.  But, truly, there were moments after my daughter, Keenan, died when I felt like God was having a laugh at my expense because it seemed, to me at least, I was supposed to know what I was doing.

There is one moment in particular when I really felt like God had a great big belly laugh.  About five months after Keenan died I was asked to write a reflection as a representative from LaSalle Manor Retreat Center for a Lenten booklet for the Christian Brothers.  I said yes without knowing the readings of the day.  A few days later I sat down to look up the readings and write the reflection.  When I was done reading you could have knocked me over with a feather!  

The first reading was Esther C:12, 14-16, 
"Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, likewise had recourse to the Lord.  Then she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: "My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.  As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forefathers that you, O Lord, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among all their ancestors, as a lasting heritage, and that you fulfilled all your promises to them.  Be mindful of us, O Lord. Manifest yourself in the time of our distress and give me courage, King of gods and Ruler of every power.  Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.  Save us by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord. You know all things."

The Gospel reading was from Matthew 7:7-12
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,  or a snake when he asks for a fish?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.  "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” 
I wanted to slam the Bible shut and throw it across the room.  I didn’t.  I kicked the chair over and yelled, “You have got to be kidding me!”  This is what I wanted to write:

It’s a GREAT BIG LIE!  I was expecting my first baby, a little girl.  I prayed everyday, many times a day for Keenan and I what did I get?  I got a dead baby!  God’s a liar!  The End.

But, being a good theology student I had to take a closer look at the readings and this is what I  wrote: 

Reflection for March 5, 2009
"I don’t like God’s sense of humor.  I gladly volunteered to write this reflection for LaSalle Manor, then I got the readings.  God is not funny.  For the last six months I have struggled with the passage from Matthew, “Ask and it will be given to you...For everyone who asks, receives” Oh really?  How I would love to be able to put God on trial over that verse alone.  

"What has been my struggle?  Why do I think that God is a liar?  My husband and I were expecting our first child last September, a little girl named Keenan Marygrace.  I know firsthand what Queen Esther means by “mortal anguish.”  With only three weeks left until her due date, Keenan died in my womb.  She was stillborn on August 25, 2008.  My husband and I prayed for Keenan’s health every day of my pregnancy.  We asked and what did we get?  My husband and I walked our daughter down the aisle at church, but she was in a white coffin, not a white dress.  I have a case, don’t I?

"There is one small word from the passage of Esther that reminds me that God did not fail.  Recourse - help in a difficult situation.  Stillbirth definitely ranks as a difficult situation.  We had more than help; we were blessed with angelic beings masquerading as nurses and the community at LaSalle Manor did everything they could to support us.  

"The Church is wise in pairing these readings together.  I am sure I am not the only person this Lent wishing to put God on trial.  Yet, Esther reminds me that even if my prayers aren’t answered the way I think they should be answered, God is there supporting me in my pain.  How has God disguised your angels?"
It seemed like God was being ironic, but it turned out to be an opportunity for honesty: me to God and God to me.  There is always recourse.  

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