to my friend with the scary diagnosis

The Japanese have an art form called kintsugi. When a vessel breaks, the broken parts are joined again with a seam of gold. I looked at small kintsugi bowls online the other day, tracing where the scrollwork of a porcelain bowl met the bright metal artery.

Of course it’s beautiful. After all, gold goes with everything.

///////////////

You asked me the other day—

No. Let me recount it accurately: You lay in your bed with the pillows like tender hands holding your hurting parts, your tears matting your dark hair to your cheeks as you sobbed at me, “How do you not hate God for letting this happen?”

This is Brad’s pain, his daily suffering. And now it’s your pain, your daily suffering.

Your question stunned me because it is THE question. It’s the one that underpins my entire faith. How can I know that God doesn’t hate me, because then I don’t have to hate Him? How do I see and feel and touch and know love so I can turn around and give it?

“My husband had to help dry me off after my shower today.” How do I not hate Him?

I’ve had to help pull off Brad’s socks, my nails nicking his engorged ankles, flesh where flesh isn’t meant to be. How do I not hate Him?

“I can’t carry my baby.” How do I not hate Him?

I’ve carried my baby when Brad couldn’t, heaving him in and out of the crib, the car seat, into his daddy’s lap. How do I not hate Him?

I’ve been weeks with this question and the work of articulating the answer. Do I hate God?

No.

But why not? If God is loving and I am His, why this pain? Isn’t it my right to hate him? Don’t I have every reason?

When I think back, I remember what staves off hate. It’s hope. It’s one sentence I found one day while reading one book that has reverberated in my mind since:

I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

David wrote that. You probably know the story better than I do. Saul, Israel’s diminished and raging king is out to get David. David is a young man. He’s an almost-forgotten youngest child sent out to do the dirty shepherding work his older brothers didn’t want to do. But the prophet Samuel finds him and, at God’s direction, anoints him as Israel’s king. Saul is jealous and hunts David through the wilderness and hills of Judah. Starving, running to save his life, battling the Philistines, drinking down the betrayal of his father-in-law, and hustling to keep his family hidden: It was likely in these hard times that David recorded those words.

I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Those words have been on my lips the way “Mama” is on your son’s: All the time–as a prayer, as a request, as a defiant battle cry, as a bracing reminder to my heartsick self. The thing is, as I said the words, I started looking. As I started looking, I started finding. Not in explosive ways that no one could miss (you know that, you know us), but in the quiet moments. In the way the sunlight fell on my desk. In the smile egged on by a dumb YouTube video. In a good day. In the way you hugged me when I told you.

With eyes full like this, hate becomes the unimaginable feeling.

It might be too hard for you to believe those words yourself right now. My dear, my darling, I believe them for you.

As you wake up with the new reality of illness as your companion, I believe you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I believe this grim night will dawn bright. I believe you’ll see this moment in your story as a refining fire, a lens that sharpens forever your vision, the pouring out of tributaries of gold through your broken body. I believe your heart, already scandalously huge, will grow and enfold others who walk a similar path.

The brokenness might never leave. But neither will the gold.

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