Bridge over the River Why

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1

Little kids ask why and big kids ask why too.  Typically little kids ask why for two reasons.  They are either genuinely inquisitive because they have a hunger to learn or they are deceptively inquisitive because they don’t like what they are hearing.  With the latter, they are looking for a good reason, or convincing argument as to why they should or shouldn’t do something.  Their parents hesitate to answer because they may not want to discuss it, may not have the time to explain it or engage in a conversation about it.  Parents know when their children’s why question is simply a ploy to delay obedience and slow down what they consider an inevitable process.  It’s time to go, the car is running, we have an appointment to keep and your reluctance to cooperate, and put your shoes and jacket on, is holding us up.  No discussion, except maybe an insistent “because” and the kid with an unzipped jacket and untied shoes is tucked under the arm and carried out the door.

It is much more complicated for big kids.  Although some why questioning may still be foot dragging, big kids begin to wrestle with bigger issues that carry bigger consequences and beg for new levels of understanding.  But what happens when the answer to a critical why question is not forthcoming? 

That juncture in a person’s life, when cosmic whys no longer have answers that flow from an ordered universe is part of the rite of passage into adulthood.  Having jettisoned beyond the orbit of parental influence into the vastness of space a person has to face for the first time the realization of truly being on their own.  It is a lonely and confusing time, having slipped the bounds of predictable and reasoned explanations from parents, teachers, pastors and other wise counselors.  The silence is unfamiliar, it is haunting and it only deepens in stark contrast to sporadic cries for understanding.

My first encounter with cosmic silence was near the end of my freshman year in college.  Late one night, under a starry sky, I found myself alone in the middle of the football practice field, pacing and staring heavenward, tormented by unanswered whysWhy are humans on this planet?  If there is a God why isn’t He more concerned about the mess we are in down here?  Is there any rhyme or reason to my life? Why am I here?  It was a defining moment for me, although no answers came.  And yes the silence was deafening and frustrating.  I can still remember walking back to the dorm with an eerie sense of peace and feeling embraced by the warmth of the light in the lobby as I came through the front door.  That’s all I remember.  No revelations.  No understanding.  Not a clue. 

Six years would pass before the silence would be broken and questions I had asked would finally find an answer.  But it was a watershed event in my life nonetheless.  In God’s mercy He heard my cry that night and in His wisdom and grace He protected me and guided me through many dangers, toils and snares to finally lead me safely home to His answer – Jesus.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Why is like a meandering stream.  Just when you think you have crossed it for the last time you are surprised to be encountering it again and again.  Early on in my Christian naiveté I thought that once a sojourner became a follower of Jesus, they no longer would have to ford the stream of unanswered why questions.  After all, isn’t Jesus the bridge over troubled waters?  At least that’s how I preferred to sing that song. 

But it didn’t take me long to discover that the map of every life has unexplainable losses, untimely detours and the river why runs through it.  The lives of those individuals we read about in Bible were no exception.  Why questions, similar to those posed by writer of Psalm 10 quoted above, were points of demarcation in the travelogues of paupers, prophets, priests and kings alike.

The key on the map reveals that Jesus is the bridge over the river why, but it is not in a way we would prefer.  Ironically, when it comes to our why questions, it seems He reverts back to relating to us like a parent with a little child.  It was not unusual for Jesus to relate to His disciples in that way and we find Him even shortly before His resurrection addressing them still as little children. (John 21:5)  

Explanations to the big why questions of life are seldom if ever forthcoming from God.  Instead, He silently embraces us in our perplexity, picks us up in our disheveled state and carries us when necessary, even while we are kicking and screaming, through a doorway of hope into His higher purposes for us.

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