At the beginning of my senior year at Georgetown College, I suffered an auto collision while driving on a rural road. My torso was crushed, and I broke many of my more interesting bones, most notably my neck and my back. I remember quite a bit about that dark period (especially the asphyxiation bits), but one of the things that stands out to me the most was - you guessed it - a theological conversation.
After several days in hospital, I was still non-ambulatory and doing nothing on my own. The day after my chest tubes were removed and I was charged with the terrible task of independent respiration, I received a visit from a chaplain in training from the local Evangelical seminary. The young man had little time for small talk, and got right to the point: "I know you want to put it off, but before long you're going to have to ask yourself, 'Where was God in this?'"
Though I couldn't laugh, this struck me as very funny. The only thing this man knew about me was that I was twenty-one, had bruised-purple skin, a broken back, and bolts sticking out of my skull. The only thing I knew about him was that he couldn't grow a beard and had taken out gigantic grad school loans to buy the privilege of theologizing to my broken ass. "I know... where he was," I rasped.
One of my friends from the College dorm (an atheist who dabbles, if I remember rightly) had taken the crucifix from my room and and nailed it to the wall across from me in the UK Medical Center. "He... is always... there. That's ... really... all there is... to say."
The God of the Christians (in either our Bible or our tradition) never talks about suffering in quite the ways that we want. I'd like to know why a careless driver and a rainstorm left me with a few years worth of arthritis, more pain than I'd ever imagined, and a lasting fear of the dark. I'd like to know how and why I survived all of that. I'd like to know why the dark, painful places of my soul are there. Wouldn't you? I don't have a proper answer, but this is what I do seem to have: a god who hangs on a cross, naked and dead. That's no easy answer. This is a god who suffered, and and suffers along with me. As I hang upside down, suffocating as my beard grows thick with my blood, the corpse god Jesus Christ suffocates outside the city walls. His blood pours to the ground for the life of the world, and fills the chalices on our altars.
As I suffered alone, so did he.
As I wondered - and wonder - if it meant anything, so did he.
This is our hope. This is the faith of the Church. The God of Jesus Christ - who raised him up from death and exalted him as the world's true Lord - gives life and hope to all of us.
Paul's Writing Assignment
3 weeks ago