Everything happens for a reason...
I respectfully disagree. (Translation: shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up) (Actual translation: choose your favorite profanity-laced way to say that this is utter bullshit, then say that five times in a row.)
Last Monday night (at Lunch Lady Bob's), we saw an ad for a new TV show called "A Million Little Things." I didn't hear much about the premise of the show because early in the ad was that line, after which I just went cold. Your friend just committed suicide. There is no good reason for that. There is no good reason for a child to be ripped from his mother's arms, then returned to her weeks later only to run away because he no longer recognizes her. There is no good reason for my cousins to be sifting through the ashy remains of their home after it was destroyed in the Carr Fires in northern California.
There is no good reason for my cancer. There is good that can come out of it. Lots of good has come from it. I’ve learned that the depths of my strength and the strength of my kids is greater than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned that Windsor, among its many strengths and storied history, is the home of some of the kindest, most compassionate, loving, funny, and helpful people you could ever meet. I’ve learned that people might leave, but if they love you they’re never really gone. I’ve learned that I can handle needles. A lot of needles. Too many needles. I might even be able to get the tattoo I've been wanting after all. I’ve learned that writing has a unique ability to change the brain, to heal, to inspire (okay, I kind of knew that last one, but seeing it happen is… wow). I’ve learned that doing good comes back to you, but maybe not in the ways you might expect. I’ve learned that sometimes “just sitting around” is the most important work you can do.
But, none of those are a rationale for cancer, for children being torn away from their families, for natural disasters. Maybe, if you think of a “reason” as a cause for something, then yeah, there are causes. Global warming, pesticides, agent orange, bullying, ill-conceived political strategies – these can all cause or contribute to truly horrible events. But I personally believe that there is a God, and my God doesn’t want or plan terrible things for us. God is a God of grace and mercy – faith, hope, and love. God desires joy and good things for the children of the earth, not great things for the privileged few at the expense of all the rest. How could a believer ever come to the conclusion that God has willed unspeakable things to happen to any of the sheep of God’s pasture? And if you do claim this hypothesis, how could you ever say it to the face of someone to whom the worst imaginable thing has just happened? If that’s how God operates, then later days, God. (There is NO WAY that that is how God operates, so here I still am, God.)
I’m going to suggest you keep that philosophy to yourself. Save it for your private moments of reflection instead of your public writings, conversations, and speeches. Maybe explore it a little bit and see if your heart changes. I hope that you never have to face the loss of a child, the fear of a terminal illness, or the loss of your home in order to learn that it’s not necessarily the logical extension of a reasonable God/world/universe, but just a crazy, stupid, random sucky thing.
My beautiful cousins, looking so fierce and sifting through the ashes that used to be their house.
But when the bad thing happens, learn all the good things you can from it. Let it change you for the better. Accept the blessings of others and learn to pay them forward even to people who “don’t deserve it.” Including the ones who have the gall to tell you that everything happens for a reason.