A spider with thin black legs and a white body the size of a tennis ball. On my stove. Could anything be worse? I scream, and keep screaming, but Marnell doesn’t seem to hear. I rush into the other room to get him, but by the time we return to the kitchen, the spider has disappeared. Yes, this is worse. But I comfort myself. At least now I have something dramatic to recount in my blog post.
This comfort ends when I wake up and realize that the tennis ball-sized spider was a dream. Well, I’m glad it was a dream, don’t get me wrong. But now, I have to write about what I’ve really been thinking about, something harder to conquer than a huge arachnid. The great existential question.
If this question were an animal, it would be a spider with a tennis ball-sized body that hides when you try to kill it.
Why is Life Unfair?
Life is unfair in some moderate ways that provide a good struggle to our egos and ambitions.
Two students study hard for a test. One aces it and the other barely passes. Two moms have babies born the same day. One is fussy, the other is angelic. Two writers publish books. One is wildly successful, the other plods along.
Somehow, I think writers are the worst at this, although maybe it’s just because that’s what I’m familiar with. But it’s a much discussed topic, even among Christian writers. It’s sort of a ridiculous competition, since writers really don’t compete against each other as much as against other forms of entertainment. It’s good for me if people read other people’s books, because it is more likely they will read mine too, for example. But still. We struggle. Don’t believe me? The other night in a fit of exhaustion and grouchiness, I told Marnell that I may as well quit writing because everyone else does better anyway. Or some childish thing like that.
My hunch is that every person has been at both ends of the stick at one time or another. We can always look at someone who is worse off than us, and someone who is better off than us in whatever aspect of life we are thinking about at the time. Of course, one good solution is to avoid comparison. But as long as we have eyes and ears, we will be confronted with people who worked harder than us and have less, and people who worked less hard than us and have more, whether we consider wealth, beauty, “success,” health, book sales, or any of the other variables of life. I say “success” because I think in general the word is very poorly defined. As one person put it, If wealth were the inevitable result of hard work, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
But life is also unfair in ways that make our spines tingle.
Feet in dress shoes crunch across gravel, damp with rain. Car wheels and more car wheels roll in for a Sunday afternoon funeral that no one expected just a week before. My nephew? In a casket? The one that Anina was going to run around with and fight with and grown up with?
These are the facts:
- Two sisters have babies in 2021. One baby dies of SIDs and the other lives. My baby is the one who lived.
There are so many others, even just in the realm of babies.
- Two families pray for a child. One family receives a child. The other does not. We are the ones who did.
- Two women have babies in 2021. One Mom dies of cancer shortly after. The other does not. I am still alive.
Meanwhile, my grandmother weeps on her sick bed because she woke up and found herself still on earth.
In another room, a woman lies ill and dying. A nurse asks, “Where is your husband?” The woman replies, “He ran off with the babysitter.”
Some people spend years building their lives, only to watch it collapse into the rubble of war or disease. Other people spend years building their lives, and watch their children and grandchildren before dying of old age surrounded by family.
The stories I have heard from war or from the Holocaust fry my mind. I thought of a sentence to write, about something I read but I can’t put the words on the page. They are too terrible.
Anyone who thinks they have “figured out” the inequalities of life either is flatly ignoring reality, or lives a very sheltered life. We can give these unfair things to God, yes. We can pray for grace, yes. But I do not think we can “figure them out” or out-think them.
What is God’s Size?
At the recent funeral for my nephew, a perfect baby with all of life before him, the preacher (his uncle) shared this thought. If God were small enough to understand, He would not be big enough to be trusted.
I was taught by my parents from a young age that life isn’t fair. I’m glad for this, but even then, I struggle with it.
I think the only progress I’ve made since my first struggles with this topic is that I no longer expect to be able to figure it out. I’m not saying I don’t try anyway at times. And judging from the psalms, it’s not against the rules to ask God why things happen the way they do. But, God is not small enough for the human brain to understand. Human advice and explanations are basically the worst form of support for those suffering, as Job’s three friends demonstrated.
There are no good human answers in this life for life’s unfairness. There are no poisons to kill this spidery question.
There is only God’s grace. Grace, the most powerful force in the world, which can appear at any time, but which cannot be conjured by our demands.
Grace, that took my Grandma finally to glory as I typed this post. Grace, the tangible expression of God’s love.
Grace, which we can only hold our hand open to receive, which we can only pray will be showered on the people who need it most. Grace, which we can be a part of, not as saviors rushing to aid the poor, but as needy people assisting other needy people.
If God were small enough to understand, He would not be big enough to be trusted.
Planning a Black Friday sale sometime BEFORE Black Friday. 😊 Details to follow.
Terry, Gary and Larry Fitzpatrick live in northern Indiana along the St. Joseph River. President Reagan lives in the White House. Gasoline costs 90 cents a gallon. For families like the Fitzpatricks, computers and cell phones are still things of the future. The boys’ Christian parents teach them to pray and give them a project to learn the fruit of the Spirit. They help Gary navigate the pain of losing his leg and his firefighting dreams.
But having a wooden leg doesn’t keep Gary from adventures. With Terry the acrobat, and Larry the brain, Gary begins a quest to find an answer to the most important mystery of all.
What happened to the surgeon who amputated Gary’s leg, and has now disappeared?