It’s a beautiful late September evening, with the day’s warmth giving way to a fall evening’s chill, as I sit in front of the middle school, waiting for Open House to begin. The sun touches the still-green trees, visible for miles around from where the school sits on top of this hill. Crickets chirp. An early parent walks by, talking Russian into his cell phone. This slice of the world is calm and peaceful.
Now parents begin arriving in earnest. The vice principal who saved my daughter from potential bullies two years ago arrives. Happy, chatty moms arrive, gloating over their parking places. I look like an oddball, sitting here jotting in my notebook.
I have so many thoughts, but no way to express them. There are too many prayers I need to offer: so much pain, loneliness, regret at the Old Folks’ Home; so much political bitterness, hopelessness, and fear; so much rage the world over. And here I am in the face of a beautiful evening, doubting the power of God to intervene. How can it be that God would be powerful enough to end my Mom and Dad’s suffering, but not compassionate enough to do it? How can I pray to this God?
Was God powerful enough to create tonight’s beauty, and to create the capacity in me to appreciate it? Did God give me loyal friends who spend their compassion on me? How can I not pray to this God?
It is time to go into the school. I go to my daughter’s homeroom, which is the science teacher’s classroom. On the wall he has posted a Mark Twain quote: “When in doubt, tell the truth.”
And so I will tell the truth. I doubt, I doubt, I doubt, but I cannot fully turn away from God. There is too much beauty and love on this earth, and the earth does not belong to me.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;