I went to college in Providence, Rhode Island, but I can't recall having ever given the city's name much thought.
I think I memorized some material about the word "Providence" as I prepared for my ordination exams, but it wasn't a word I'd heard utilized much, and so that particularly arena of studying fell into one of those "memorize without meaning" categories. Like Greek.
But I find myself today placing the word "Providence" at the top of my list for prayer and study and exploration and wondering.
I used to care a lot about whether God suffered with us. It seemed obvious to me that the answer was "yes" ~ as Jesus, betrayed by his friends and followers and executed on a cross; as God, a loving parent watching a child suffer; and as the Spirit, seeking to wend its way throughout the experience of human life. Then I got to seminary and discovered a wide range of viewpoints on this topic, and I read a lot about it after Josh died, and I wondered a LOT.
And then I didn't care anymore.
In last night's episode of Call the Midwife, Dr. Turner says to one of the midwife sisters after the inexplicable death of a newborn, "These are the times when I wish I had your faith." The young Sister Bernadette looks calmly at him and responds, "These are the times when I wish it made a difference." He looks rather startled, and it occurred to me that that exchange must mark the beginning of the love story I know is coming.
I suppose that's the point I've reached. Whether or not God suffers, as we do or in some other God kind of way, makes no difference to our lives here.
On the other hand, whether God cares and provides for us, here and later ~ that might be making a difference.
I have discovered recently that a number of people in my congregation share a cut-and-dried and, to my way of thinking, brutally limited, understanding of who God is and what God is up to. You accept Jesus into your life and you're going to heaven. You don't, and you aren't. I've also discovered that when I try to respond to them by conveying (in a most paltry way, apparently) the abundant and infinite nature of God's love, they respond to me by saying, "No."
I have no idea what to do about this.
I thought that eventually I might invited to schedule my departure over the issues of gay marriage and ordination.
Now I think that it might be over something far more fundamental.
So . . . Providence. God's care and provision for us. That's what I'm wondering about these days. And how I communicate that God is way more interested in all those "re" words ~ renewal, restoration, reconciliation, re-creation ~ that in the "de" ones ~ destruction, demolition, devastation.
Or. I guess I could be wrong.