Monday, April 8, 2013


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.


  1. It's enough just that you provide another point of view. It's a real dilemna when one comes face to face with someone they respect who sees things differently. It starts to niggle and unsettle and is down right uncomfortable.

    At one time I was very much into the kind of thinking you are describing. Out of fear and the need to be right/in control and to have life/death figured out so I could feel safe. Wound up right tight I was.
    It's an awful journey to a bigger God.

    1. Hope, I wish you would write more about that, either here in the comments or in your own blog or I'd love to offer you a guest post. I'm quite taken with the phrase "awful journey to a bigger God."

    2. And in light of the Matthew Warren situation, I've been thinking a lot about my life in the first few days after my son died. And the visit to Chicago six weeks later. The things I saw and the things I heard and the things I learned and the way God took a vacation ~ I have very much had quite enough of hell. It is not possible for me to get my mind and heart around any kind of God who would accept a long term future like that for anyone.

      Maybe Odin. (I've been watching The Vikings.) But we don't worship Odin, do we?

  2. Oh tears and laughter at once. I don't know where that phrase came from about an awful journey - it just popped from my fingertips and I stared at it for a few seconds and decided to leave it. And rereading it makes tears spring up because it's true.

    We joke in my family of origin that we are descendents of Odin but really can only trace our lineage back to King Christian V of Norway! I have quite a few pagan/wiccan worshippers in my family so the jokes live on. And their beliefs have enlightened to my faith journey as well.

    I will think about writing more about it.

    1. King Christian V from Denmark (and Norway.) My Danish relatives are rolling their eyes and so are my Norwegian ones now.

  3. I appreciate Hope's statement that "it's an awful journey to a bigger God" because I have experienced that journey and it was both awful and awe-full. For me it was a slow journey which began many years ago but I was catapulted along during a difficult time in my life when I really didn't realize that my theology of God was morphing until somewhat later. The end result is a feeling of great freedom not to be constricted by a dualistic theology.

    As far as your people are concerned, I agree with Hope that you can present a different point of view but don't expect them to accept it quickly, if at all. But you must be true to yourself and preach what you believe - which I know you will!

  4. I heard that exchange on the "Midwife" show last night and had a very strong response to it, too. Gregg wasn't paying attention, and I asked if he heard it. He hadn't, so I repeated it to him. It is so humble, and so true. It doesn't change the facts, but it can change how we live with them.

    I've been thinking of you and Pastor Warren's family...I don't follow him, but I am with him and his family in spirit.

  5. Its unbloggable to write of why I have a kind of faith, born of experience in what you call Providence, but I do. Over the years I have wondered at Gods care for me, and oddly eventually found my way out of the dark into it again and again. Yelling in fury at this Providence was the final barrier to my actually taking my own life... not much else counted when I think back. Interesting to read your perspective from the "other side" so to speak, and to wonder why I was cared for when it seems others were not.

    1. Or if "care" means something different than we think it does.