Tag Archives: love

Not Everything Happens For a Reason

“…or, God is Not Playing a Game of Cosmic Chess”


Forty-five days ago what should have been one of the happiest moments in the lives of my wife and I turned into one of the worst; she went into labor.

The problem was that she was 5 weeks early. This wasn’t the main problem in of itself however; the doctor said that at that stage the baby was nearly full-term and should have the same survival rate as a full-term child. The main problem was that when we went into the doctor’s office and she performed a sonogram, we couldn’t hear a heartbeat. The visual ultrasound confirmed the worst,  and the following words, directed towards my wife, will forever be ingrained in my memory: “Your baby has no heartbeat, it is dead, but either way, you’re giving birth today.”

For eight months we had dreamed how our precious Anastasia Noel would look, what she would be interested in, what foods she would like and what kind of person she would be. We tried to prepare for how our lives would be changed, how we would need to give up this or that, how this Christmas would be the most special Christmas ever and how our parents were going to be transformed into grandparents and we children would now become the parents.

All of this came to sudden halt. We were devastated, and understandably so, but the reality of the situation didn’t kick in immediately. It took some time for us to completely shift our way of thinking, just like it took time after we discovered she was pregnant.

That day, for me at least, was an alternation between a powerful sadness and dispassionate shock. My wife’s mother and grandmother drove five hours to be with us, arriving an hour or two before the delivery and not too long after my own parents and sister, who themselves drove two hours. My wife’s sister and friend were there, as were our friends from church and Anastasia’s planned godparents, Theodore and Stacey (who, coincidentally, was also named after St. Anastasia).

One of the most common phrases I heard directed towards us that day, and in the weeks after, was “Everything happens for a reason, I’m sure God has something special planned for you.” This phrase became for me something absolutely repulsive, although I appreciate the sentiment of those who mentioned it.

I don’t believe that everything does happen for a reason, that God is playing something like a game of cosmic chess. In chess you play tactically; you make a move based on a hoped-for chain of events: “If I move this pawn, then it puts his queen in danger and he will have to move his bishop to protect it, opening up his rook for attack.”

The reason I don’t believe this is twofold: God is love, and because of this love there is free will in humanity, and freedom in all of creation. If God did have a hand in every single event that happened, if He made sure that nothing happened without a specific reason, then it would negate this freedom. This isn’t to say that I am a deist and believe in the great “Watchmaker God” who set the world in motion and then moved on, but I do believe that God created a system around himself, and lets that system play out according to the laws it was designed by.

Our baby did not die for some overarching reason. God did not “want her before her time” (as one person told me) and so take her away from us. I don’t believe this because God is love, and to actively take something away from us which is both an expression of the love shared between my wife and myself, as well as His love for humanity by allowing us to continue on, is not an act of love. Our baby died because something went wrong during her development which caused the placenta to not form as it should, and so not be able to supply Anastasia with what was needed in order to sustain her.

No, not everything happens for some specific reason. Not every action undertaken by nature or by humanity is directed by God. Not every tragedy happens in order to allow some good. Some things just happen as a result of the system which God created, such as natural and extraterrestrial disasters. Other things happen because God loved us enough to give us freedom of the will and not make us automatons.

Not everything happens for a reason, but this doesn’t mean that nothing does, nor does it limit the possibility that once something does happen, it might open up the possibility of something else. Now that my wife and I don’t have to worry about how we are going to be able to afford rent, all our bills, -and- support a child, we might have the opportunity to do something to continue better our situation and our relationship that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do, such as going back to school or being drawn even closer together by what we’ve been through.

I said some words at the funeral for our stillborn daughter, and while at the time I fumbled it up due to my emotions, the following is what I meant to say:

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, and I don’t believe that God took our daughter away from us. Our daughter died because something went wrong in her development. I do, however, believe that He welcomed her with open arms when she arrived in His Kingdom. I have no fear for my daughter; she is now where I am fighting tooth and nail to be, standing before the throne of God. My prayers are for my wife and I and our family, that we will have the strength to grieve and to carry on. I do hope for one thing though, that even though we never got to get to know our daughter, she knows us and knows how much we love her still. Glory to you God, glory to you.

IC | XC
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NI | KA

 

Memory eternal, my sweet Anastasia. You got to skip all the hard stuff, and are now another bright star in heaven, and a special intercessor for us before the almighty Pantokrator. Please pray for us, that God will have mercy on us.

I love you.


Christianity makes no sense.

Christianity makes no sense.

At least not rationally, and this is a problem for a large population of the world. The concept of a sort of “meta-person” who exists and has the ability to create, control and interact with creation can be a difficult concept for some, but the idea that that person could then die, and that be a good thing, complicates it exponentially. In a letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote:

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Even two-thousand years ago the idea of a god which which died, and yet was supposed to be all powerful, didn’t quite make sense. For the Jews, whose history had been filled with wonderous events such as the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the first born in Egypt, the gift of mana from the skies and many others, the death of a person whom these new Christians said was of the same essence of the God they worshiped did not seem miraculous at all; perhaps more blasphemous!

For the Greeks, who valued above all wisdom, and who were steeped in the traditional philosophies of giants such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, the Stoics, the Pythagoreans, and a number of others, the conclusions of Christianity couldn’t not (and cannot) be arrived at through an archetypal rationalistic method.

At the beginning of his letter, the Apostle tells us:

Brethren, among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.

Christianity does not make sense, if we try to understood with the wisdom or rationality of the current age. This was true two millennia ago, and still true today. This age is ruled by science, which while by no means is a bad thing in of itself (I shudder to imagine what life would be like without the knowledge we have now), what is bad is the individual and collective egotism which can come from it.

We have learned so much about the universe around us; from how what goes on on the surface of the sun affects what goes on here on earth, to how a malfunction in a single gene of our genetic code can have profound effects on the body. We have used this knowledge to take control of our world, to build communities of previously unimaginable sizes and manipulate our environment to sustain them, to chase away the dark with perpetual light, to fight back against illnesses that would previously ravage our bodies with little to no opposition, and to build machines which allows us to communicate instantly any where in the world, manufacture goods with almost no human interaction and carry us across vast distances.

These are all good things. But these things have also caused us to believe that if something exists, we can find it,  and that if something needs to be known or done, we have the power to do it; it has caused us to believe that we can do anything that we need to, on our own.

The Orthodox Church teaches us that this is what was the downfall of humanity, represented in the persons of Adam and Eve, this belief that our wisdom is so great that we do not need God and figure everything out on our.

In the quote above, the Apostle mentions that he and his fellow workers impart a secret and hidden wisdom, one which does not pass away as does the wisdom of the rulers of the age. More importantly, it’s a wisdom that God has instituted for our glorification.

When humanity was first created, God created us for the purpose of communion, communion with each other and with Himself. We created in such a way that we had unlimited potential to grow closer and closer to Him, to share in the love and communion which the Holy Trinity has among each person. This was our glory; that we could become increasingly more like God in love and to share in His divine light. God created us with free will so that the extent to which we grew closer to Him was dependent on us, that the love which was to be shared would be real and not imposed.

However it is also this free will which caused our turning away from Him. The tree from which the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve came was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this way the author of Genesis conveys the idea that humanity took it upon itself to learn of the world and decided that it did not need God anymore to make moral decisions. When this decision was made, humanity turned away from the Giver of Life, and ventured out into the darkness by itself.

Due to this, God gave humanity the Divine Commandments, to give us a guideline on what was good and what we should be doing, to act as a yardstick of morality. The commandments are not a way to eternal life, they are not salvation; rather they show the way of death, and create sin by saying that any action which went against the commandments, was a sin, a turning away from God.

The Logos, the Word of God, then became incarnate in the person of Jesus. God Himself married his divine nature to our human nature and in doing so He healed the sickness which the turning away from God had created and refreshed our souls. God made it possible for our nature to receive a fresh start and to return to the state it was in when humanity was first created.

And lastly, to return to the point of contention at the beginning of this post, Jesus, God incarnate, died. Up until this point, when the body died the soul could not return God, since in life it had turned away and lost the glory which had been ascribed to it. Having turned away from the Source of Life, the soul was shut out the Kingdom of Life. Jesus’ soul too went down into death, but, being divine and the Source of Life the bonds of death could not contain Him. The divine nature broke the bonds of death and “shattered the gates of Hades,” making it so that those who had turned back to Him in life could not be prevented from returning to him after it.

This is the wisdom of God that the rulers of the age did not and continue not to understand. This is the “foolishness” of God that wiser than the wisdom of man. God did not die, he destroyed death. The wisdom of this age cannot understand the wisdom of God because it is temporary, while the wisdom of God has been since the very beginning.

No, Christianity doesn’t make a bit of sense if one attempts to arrive at it from a rational, self-contained, temporal understanding. It is not something we can hope to understand on our own because it is something completely outside of us; we cannot see it, we cannot arrive at it from cause and effect, we cannot deduce it from the evidence around us – ironically though, what Christianity teaches is a bigger miracle than was ever revealed to the Jews and it is a more profound and sublime wisdom than the Greeks could ever conceive:

It is the miracle, wisdom and gift of life itself.

IC | XC
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NI | KA