Silent as the Grave: why life is better than death, even when it's not

It's been over 20 years since the day I should have died. I don't have it marked on a calendar or anything. I don't even commemorate the day with a fresh bouquet of dead roses, my way of playing a twisted joke on myself.

Instead, when it rolls around, I just remember. Like magic.

The story is long and far too complex to describe. Let's just say I was alive, then I was seconds away from being not. I was dying from pneumonia, drowning from the inside out. And when my last breath decided not to come, my stubborn mother chose to stubbornly refuse. She yanked my body, literally, back into life.

And there you have it.

I'm alive.

It's a funny thought - this living past your due date thing - that creeps in ever so often, usually when life isn't all that swell. In all honestly, had I expired that day at the fresh-faced age of 15, I would have been spared lots of heartache and disappointments, like $4 gasoline and watching all six seasons of Lost only to still be confused at the end.

Then there's the whole 2008 elections I wouldn't have minded missing. The Janet Jackson Super Bowl snafu. One Indiana Jones movie too many. Celebrities on Twitter. Kanye West on stage. Bruce Jenner on estrogen.

You get it.

Life is often beautiful. But that doesn't mean it can't also be grotesque. Light with dark chocolate swirled in. Blissful but traumatic. Stunning but repulsive. It contains serious, unrelenting, often unbearable black holes. And, like it or not, we're often required to leap into those holes with a perfectly executed forward dive in the pike position.

That's life. The beautifully mundane and desperately disturbing. 

Years ago, I read a book by Jerry Sittser about his life after a drunk driver killed his mother, wife, and daughter. He and his other three children survived. Afterward, people would tell him that God had a plan, God knew, God still answered prayer. But God hadn't answered Jerry's. And now Jerry needed to know why.

The book, When God Doesn't Answer Prayer, delved into unanswered prayer with an honesty I needed at that moment. This moment, too. He was confused, hurt, battling with trust, and he didn't sugarcoat it because he's a Christian. God hadn't fulfilled His part of the contract and Jerry needed answers.

The "go to" Christian responses weren't cutting it.

I got that. I really did. They don't do anything for me, either.

It's possible there are Christians out there who really don't struggle with trust and faith. In each situation, no matter the circumstances, they face it with courage and peace. They never waver, never throw things, never get angry with God.

I want to meet these people. But not here. On earth, they'll only annoy me. Find me once we're in heaven, though, and let's chat.

That perfectly coiffed, perfectly taciturn martyr isn't me. I question. I seek. I investigate. Add to that the fact I'm a passionate person, God help me, and many times He doesn't. In fact, God may allow unanswered prayer and repetitive struggles in my life just to see me wind myself up so He can watch me go.

I've wondered if He'd stop if I started breaking stuff. But, geez, I hate cleaning up the mess after.

Living with unanswered prayer - those times of treading water in the black holes - has no easy answers. None. Jerry didn't really find any either, although he also wrote A Grace Disguised: How The Soul Grows Through Loss, which eludes to some kind of resolution.

He explained that the answers weren't easy. Or quick. Or even all that clear, other than to believe God was still sovereign and still trustworthy even when silent. 

What Jerry did find - I'm not convinced but not yet ruling it out either - is that all pain, loss, disappointment, sorrow, God can and will redeem. Somehow. Even the black hole we're swimming in, God will redeem that, too, like making it into an indoor, lighted pool with a bubbling hot tub.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not that Christian with the sunshine disposition no matter the circumstances. I'm a yeller. I'm a fighter. I'm Jacob, with the broken hip and all. So don't think I've figured it out with a few simple keystrokes. This is a life journey, my friends. One I never really win. I only have cycles with longer spells of wearing dry clothes than others.

I'm not a conqueror. I'm a sojourner. And I keep freakin' sojourning in the same spot.

Jerry is still working it out and so am I. His newest book, released in 2012, is called A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life. I ordered it today. And, funny little fact or not, when I went to purchase the book, Amazon asked me if I wanted to "redeem" my award points to get the book for free.

Why, yes. Thank you. I'll take that redemption.