Elizabeth Edwards passed away this week, after a long battle with cancer. I watched a newsclip yesterday...a montage of interviews with her, taken over the past year or two. I cried.
I cried because I found her story poignant...sad, and yet not without hope. Part of my sadness was for Elizabeth, and the difficulties she faced in life that I have never faced...part of my sadness was for her family, and her children particularly...but more than these, my heart was saddened by how her journey had shaped her perspective of God.
In this interview, she said that the God "she has", had to change. She could no longer have a God who intervenes...though she held on to the idea of a God who saves. Perhaps the perspective is simply indicative of one who has moved beyond their hope for this life, and whose focus has moved to the power of God to save us in the life to come. I don't know...the interview provided a window to her soul of just a few moments...nothing of what it would require to truly know a person, or their heart...
Still...I found that her comments raised questions in me...questions about the God "I have"....is the God I have the same God that you have? Is our understanding of God simply the outcome of our experiences in life...our perception of whether he intervenes in our affairs, or does not? In certain Christian communities, it is not uncommon to hear this phrase: "The God of the Bible..."
And yet, more and more these days, various faith communities debate the Bible itself...how to read it, understand it, interpret it...and we can once again be left with more questions than answers. Who is the God of the Bible? Who is God? What does it mean that God intervenes in the lives of men, and does he?
I feel sure that the children, family and friends of Elizabeth Edwards are unhappy with the circumstances surrounding the end of her life...I was very unhappy with the end of my Mom's life...and yes, I experienced a crisis of my faith during those days...what use was it to pray to a God who would not intervene for my Mom? I relate to Elizabeth's perspective more than I might like to admit.
Still, under the layers of disappointment and loss, I sensed in Elizabeth Edwards a kind of hope that I can also relate to...a core belief that even when we don't feel we have a God who intervenes, we have a God who saves. And for me at least, the place I go for answers to the questions, Who is God and what is he like?....is scripture.
All through the scriptures, the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament, God is described as loving, compassionate, faithful to keep his promises, and full of goodness. The Psalmist says it more beautifully than I ever could:
"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
I believe in a God who intervenes. I believe in the biggest intervention of all: I believe in the incarnation.
I believe in Advent....when Jesus came to dwell with us...God became a man, to show us how to live, and then to become that life in us...I believe in Advent when he comes into my life each day, in ways big and small...and I believe in the Advent that still remains...that he will come again in glory. Therefore, I proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
He intervenes, and he saves. And in this, we have hope.