A mother of a son with significant medical issues wrote me recently about God.
Dear Rabbi Paul:
In general I’m a believer in hope but at the moment I feel lost for direction which takes me to my original contemplation about God. Why do the bible stories suggest that God spoke to our leaders? Doesn’t that lead to false hope that we can get some answers or guidance directly from God? If we’re all suppose to be equal why does it seem that they got special attention?
I responded this way:
Dear Struggling Jew
Your questions are so poignant and personal, pained and hopeful, exhausting and energizing. As I pondered how to respond, I found myself a bit anxious that I would not be up to giving an answer that would help. But this has been sitting with me, so I’m jumping in.
I believe with all my heart that there is a God to whom we are connected, with whom we can communicate, for whom our well-being matters.
I believe with all my heart that God loves us, cares for us, and is helping us get through, even the most difficult times in our lives.
I believe that seas do split and bushes do burn, only don’t be looking at the Pacific Ocean to split or the Azaleas outside our front doors to burn unconsumed. Look for the strength that comes from out of nowhere to face the possibility of yet another surgery – if that strength is not miraculous, I’m not sure what is. Look in wonderment at your children who have grown up with good values, with love in their hearts, with hope and possibilities of bright futures – even though one of them has significant medical trouble. That they have survived and find joy and/or goodness many days of their lives – without being consumed by the fires of anger and/or the self-pity of “poor me” – is no less miraculous than the bush that burned unconsumed.
In the Bible, God talked to people like you and I talk (on the phone) to each other. The people were sure they were talking to God and they then decided whether or not to heed God’s voice.
I believe that God still talks to us; I have conversations with God regularly and have received answers to my prayers (though not always the answers I have wanted). But the communication comes in ways as different from talking as texting is to face-to-face. It might be a butterfly that is out of context, or a feeling in my guts that this is the right path. It might be a surge of courage when I am feeling weak or afraid.
Sometimes the answers come when we least feel we can go on, and yet we do. When we are sure we cannot make another decision, and somehow we face the issue and decide anyway. Sometimes it is the love that still fills our hearts when our anger bubbles up.
I say all this without the wealth of experience with the challenges and turmoil of your life. But I still believe, because I watch people like you get by and get through and still love and educate and walk forward step by step…
Those are my thoughts for the moment. What do you think?
And what do you think? How would you answer the mother’s questions?