A long time ago, at a camp far, far from home, I was struggling with the question, “why even bother being a Christian?” I could not reconcile a God who loved me with the God who planned my father’s death and further, I could not get that same God on board with kids who were abused physically or sexually by Christian adults. The pat answers that said everything was a part of God’s plan wasn’t working for me. If life was full of suffering, why not drink, smoke, and do drugs anyway ’cause God sure didn’t make any difference. That was the summary of my extensive thoughts about stupid Christians and their God that wasn’t worth spit.
It so happened that the camp far, far from home was a Christian camp. You might wonder how a kid with such deeply held opinions against God ended up at a Christian camp. The short answer … Mom never said, “No,” to church stuff. So even while I considered church and God a waste of time, church stuff got me out of the house — and church camp got me out of the house for more than a week.
There were various “workshops” (I think they had a different name for them) to choose from. I don’t know how I ended up there but in one workshop this guy was talking about Grady Nutt. If you remember Hee Haw, you might remember him. He was a Christian comedian and he died in a helicopter crash. The guy talked about how unfair it was for Grady Nutt to die. The guy talked about asking the same questions I had been asking about what kind of God does that kind of stuff. I had no idea it was theodicy but I did know that no one else had ever talked like that around me before.
The guy talked about how he had talked to some other Christians and pastors about the whole situation and how he finally came to understand that while God does have a plan for our lives sometimes we choose not to follow God’s plan. He talked about how God made creation and loves creation but chooses not to be the grand puppeteer toward creation or its creatures including us. He talked about how God put the laws of physics in place and lets them work. And sometimes things just happen. and that when we cry because our hearts ache from grief and loss that God cries with us because the Creator cares so deeply for us. And I found a God that I could believe in again.
I didn’t know all the theological background for all of the well intentioned but unhelpful comments that had been made as I grieved my father’s death or the different theological background articulated by the guy four years later. I did understand that the very certain statements offered by the former did not convey what the less certain statements offered by the latter did — grace.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin
p.s. I’m pretty sure the guy was Andy Stanley when the only reason anyone knew him was because he was his father’s son but I could be wrong.