He may have said something inflammatory, but Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock did at least get me thinking. In case you missed it, Mourdock was discussing his stance on abortion in a debate with Representative Joe Donnelly. In explaining how he came to his beliefs that abortion is only okay if the mother’s life is at stake, he tried to point out why rape is not a valid reason in his mind.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” said Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer.
There are several different reasons people are outraged and angered by this comment, including the repulsive image of God planning a rape in order to bring a child into a woman’s life, but the thing that sticks with me is the idea of God’s plan/God’s will and what that really means.
As you know, I consider myself a Christian. I grew up in a Catholic family and now attend Methodist services when I’m home in Texas. (I cannot find a single Methodist in Poland.) I also consider myself a bit lost at times on my faith journey. There are many teachings I struggle to live out and many I just don’t understand. A lot of the distress is due to my human frailty and weakness. Some of that uncertainty is from lack of study. Some of the doubt though comes from thinking on my own and listening to my own heart.
The doubts brought on by the second thing have me wondering if I’m really faithful at all. Am I willing things, God in particular, to match my life because it’s so hard to live up to His calling? Am I being naive about the love I feel He has for us?
My father and I have had discussions about whether or not someone like Mother Teresa would be in heaven if she were not Christian. Would her many good works and generous deeds be enough? Or would God turn her away if she didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus? My heart wants to believe that God knows her heart enough to love her and grant her a heavenly place of rest, but that is not what’s taught. I place my husband’s family in this category too. His sweet Bubbie passed away in 2010, and I loved her so much. She welcomed me to the family right away and loved me easily. But, she was Jewish, so obviously she did not believe in Christ as the Messiah. The God I feel in my heart would never turn Bubbie away. Nor would he reject my sensitive, giving brother for being gay.
See? It seems like I’m believing things in my own way according to the world I live in. Am I confusing my love for God’s?
And this brings me back to Mourdock’s comment and the concept of God directing our lives. I believe God gave us free will. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible. (Seriously, I’m not well-versed on the verses.) So, does God’s will trump mine? Why give it to me then? I’m not asking to be snarky. This question rattles around in my head all the time. What does the phrase ‘God’s will’ even really mean? I interpret it as what God wants done will be done. I do believe He can move mountains and part seas. But does He intend for a woman to be raped in order to have a child? That doesn’t sound right.
Some people refer to this concept as God’s plan. To me that insinuates a life He’s already plotted for me. But, again, if that were so, why wouldn’t He plan for everyone to believe in Him? Did he plan for 2006 to be the year I lost my brother and my son? And this question has been with me for a long time: If my life is already written in God’s book, why does He command me to pray? The word ‘pray’ is in the Bible at least 100 times (depending on the translation used). We pray for healing and peace. We pray for guidance. And I believe my prayers are answered. My husband is the answer to a prayer. My kids are as well. I prayed hard that losing my son would not make my parents abandon their faith. They absolutely have not.
I see the awful things happening around the world as consequences of man. War is the product of humans and their anger and pride (mostly). Car accidents happen because people are careless. Rape is the product of sickness of the mind. But did God make it happen? Man, that’s rough. I just can’t make my heart believe that.
I see God as our parent. And just as a parent cannot stop his or her child from being hurt, God can’t either. He has to let us reap what we sow because He gave us free will. But, like a loving parent, He does His best to provide us love and comfort when we hurt. Like a mother staying up to make sure the kids get home safe, He offers to carry our fears and worries as His.
Then my brain stumbles again because God is not like me, really. He can make trees grow new leaves every spring. He raised His own son from the dead. Why can’t He stop pain and suffering? And why does a woman leading a decent life get raped and pregnant?
Again, I’m not asking to be argumentative. I really do wrestle with these very big faith questions often, and I think Mourdock’s words made many people think about ‘their’ God and what He does and does not do. I wish I had the answers, but all I have to offer is my faith that God is love.