"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
I needed something from our pastor that he would never be able to give me. I yearned for it. I would die without it. Skeptics believe humans created the concept of God to help us make sense of life, to make us feel better amidst all the hardships, to comfort us. So, make me feel better. Comfort me. I was setting him up for failure from the start. It would be an impossible request.
He sat across from me at our friend's house, as we planned Ben's funeral and hid - from the media, from reality, from everyone and everything. From God. The personal God I'd been taught had punished us for disobedience, but then loved us enough to deliver us from our inborn state of sinfulness. Is this punishment for all past indiscretions? Mine? Kyle's? Humanity's? Past, present, future? I'd thought in the ER three days earlier. Because we surely don't deserve "This." Or is this the state of the human condition from which I'd been promised salvation when I'd been baptized years before? Because, this does not feel like salvation. We were outside gathered around the patio table. The umbrella shaded part of his face. He was tall, with a stature that carried the weight of authority. He will know. I wondered if he was nervous, I doubted he had been trained for "This," as I'd found myself calling it in those first few months. This...complete deconstruction of reality, reminder of our mortality, unknown, lack of control, loss, love.
I looked at him. "I need to know heaven is real. I need to know where Ben is." Because he's not Here. He's gone and Saturday, in a private funeral service, he will be in the ground. And, I would later find myself lying on his grave, staring at the stars, wanting to crawl inside the casket with him, thinking that He, was there below me.
I continued. "Will I see him again? I wasn't ready to say goodbye. If there is a heaven, will I recognize him?" It won't save me if you tell me that I won't recognize him.
He leaned into the shade to look into my eyes. "Yes, heaven is real," he said, "and, I believe that you will recognize him." He quoted some Bible verses. Beads of sweat formed on our faces. I watched the heat pulsate around me. I was crawling out of my skin, shifting in my seat.
"But, you don't know for sure." And, that was my only truth, as we sat there planning a funeral, Kyle staring off into the distance. No one knows with certainty, I'd thought. I don't want faith or belief. I need to Know I will see Ben again. Or I won't make it through this. I need certainty.
I had skipped over the need to know God was real, for in that moment I wasn't sure I wanted to know a God that would do, or allow, or watch this occur, or punish or save. I can't be saved. And, if there was no God, then Ben would soon simply be - in the ground.
So, I didn't really want to know,
in that moment,
if God was real.
But, if I could find Ben, I would find God, for between stimulus "Ben never showed up at daycare," and response, there is a space. And in that space, there is a breath, a heartbeat, a silence, a Knowledge that transcends, returns, merging into a heart-wrenching peace, fleeting.
And in that breath is an exhale of all the shattered pieces of physical reality I know to be true
Tell me, convince me, with inadequate words, touch me, listen to me, let me See you.
Followed by a pause
There it is, in nothing but the calm, the knowledge a wave enveloping my body; a gasp.
And an inhale.
And, in that pause, which elicits an impossible response, there is a hope to find God, with a certainty that transcends.