What I am about to write is very trivial in the grand scheme of things under God’s plan. I realize that my small daily frustrations are of little consequence compared with the tragedies and suffering and evil situations occuring at all parts of the globe, so little so that I have argued whether this is even worth writing. I could have had a tidal wave come through my living room, and in that situation I might have been slightly more justified in asking God what he was up to. But my analyzing brain will not leave me alone, and plus I think there are some implications that might echo out of the question; so I will ask it.
Here’s what happened today: I had to take a test for the Ed school to get my teaching degree, one of these standardized tests in office buildings where you sit at a computer for four hours. The test was in Richmond at 12:15. By 10:45, I am trying to get all my stuff together and get out the door so as to give myself a nice cushion for arriving early. That didn’t happen, but I pull out of the driveway at 11:00 and hit the interstate. So I’m not late, but I no longer have my time cushion. I drive… okay speed, and then ten miles from the richmond exit, dead traffic. Turns out a tractor trailer had jack knifed and stopped both lanes of traffic. I sat from 11:45 until 12:45 in 2mph traffic and by that time had missed my appointment by thirty minutes. I kept telling myself not to worry, everything happens for a reason, the testing center would surely understand, God must be testting me to see if I’ll lose my cool.
I didn’t lose my cool, but I did lose my appointment. By the time I got to the testing center by 1:00 and explained the circumstances, they politely and apologetically told me that I could not take my test. I might be charged for the entire testing fee again, they added. They wrote me an incident report and said they would have to check with their headquarters, but there was no guarantee that I could retest without repaying. So I had no options but to leave. I drove to my parents’ house and ate lunch with my mom.
I do believe that everything happens for a reason. However, I don’t believe that they will all be revealed to you. I take these suppositions from the things we know about God: that he loves every intricate, minute detail about us and has counted every single head on our head. Also Rom. 8:28 probably has some implications here, that even tragedies and sufferings will be used for our good.
Here were the “reasons why” that I categorized in my head as I drove back to Charlottesville:
Was I disobedient in my morning ritual and did I deserve to miss my appointment? Is this God simply telling me I need to do a better job of preparing ahead of time and that I need to value punctuality more?
Is this the sort of general discipline under which God brings us when he speaks in Hebrews of discipling those he loves? Not because they have done a specific thing wrong on a Tuesday or that they omitted a responsibilty on a Friday, but because in general we are a fallen sinful broken people with dead spirits and dark hearts desiring the wrong things and lacking patience and wisdom. Is this incident an example of that general discipline where, because God loves us, he tries our patience and frustrates us so that we will conform more to the image of his son through perserverance?
Is this some random circumstance God has put in my way to protect me (the building might have exploded) or to use me for a divine appointment (randomly eating lunch with my mom?) I don’t know.
Or is it all random, clockwork, meaningless, just a tractor trailer split open and we might as well respond with nihilism?
I have wrestled with traffic jam questions before, which probably comes to no one’s surprise. All of these previous traffic experiences have led me to conclude God was working through them. These were incidents where I felt I had been obedient all day and still found myself in heavy traffic and potentially late for the wedding or the doctors appointment I was going to. They were opportunities for me to experience conflict, yes, but also to have faith that God could part the traffic and get me to these things on time if he wanted to – opportunities for me not to be anxious and stressed about the dead stand still on the interstate but instead to respond with patience in full knowledge that God cares about the small things and the righteous causes that I seek. And indeed, there have been multiple times that God did clear up the traffic for me to get to the wedding just in time, and I was very glad that I had chosen to keep calm and meditate on the fact that God was in control.
Although I stayed calm, this was not one of those times. I still don’t understand why I had to sit in that wreck,drive two hours for nothing and miss my test.
One parting post-thought: I do believe God is big enough to wrestle – I never believe in prohibiting myself or others from asking why and how of God. The answers might turn up in your life; they might not. God does not owe us any answers. Its true that we need to realize: “who are we to question an almighty God who has spun every fiber of our being and every moon and every galaxy into existence?” Even though we are small and weak, without cosmic power and without any authority to question why God does what he does, I think it is also true that he wants us to question him. I think its very true. I think God in this sense is like a Father and a Dad. You know the difference. He is like a father in that he writes the rules, he lays down the law, whatever he says goes, and you might as well not question it. But he is also like a Dad in that he wants us to come to him and ask him questions and be close and intamate. He wants us to express ourselves because he wants to know us, and us him. We can go up to him and beat on his chest and say “that’s not fair, how could you.” He might respond like a Father, saying “That’s just the way it is.” But he also might say “That’s the way it is, and now that you’re mature enough and have gained good understanding, let me explain it to you, although I’m not going to change my mind. I want to explain these things to you because they all happen for a good reason. I love you, I care for you, and I want you to respect me, so let me explain…” … but not always. Sometimes we aren’t mature enough to handle the why. Can you put your trust in a God like that?