We ate, we called people, I posted to Facebook. We talked some. We watched some waiting room TV. We decided I should probably go get my truck so that both our vehicles were at the hospital. My dad drove me back to the original hospital to get my truck, my wife stayed at the hospital so she could pump and be there in case they let us back in. It turned out to be about a 20 minute drive from the Children’s hospital to the one where Micah was born. My father and I talked a little.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“…”, i sighed. Internally I struggled to answer that question truthfully, because honestly there was a lot going on inside. Ever since I was in middle school I became very good at compartmentalizing my thoughts and emotions. If I didn’t want to feel something, I would put it in a box, close the box up, and go on with my day. I could open that box and then feel it later. This was all something that took some learning on how to do and learning when and how to appropriately open the boxes was a good deal of my early twenties. Eventually I learned to do the same with my thoughts. These skills let me take in tragic events or painful moments without much of a reaction, box them up, label them “To think about later” and move on with my day. It lets me move into action quicker and get down to “doing something about the problem.”
This day had been a day for a lot of boxes. I’d made several, and like I said before, I didn’t really feel the full brunt of what was happening until I was alone in the car with my wife. In the car, with my soulmate, with only a single thing I could do at the moment, in that case drive the car, I opened some of those boxes and felt the pain and fear and terror and anger and joy and sadness that all came rushing out. Once we got to the hospital, it was time to close them up again and get back to doing. Figuring out where to park, finding the room, talking to the doctors and nurses, deciding what to do with the rest of the day: getting the car, if we were going to see Maria, informing work, etc, etc.
Now I was in a car again, and I wasn’t even driving. I was riding shotgun with my dad. A man I had had a thousand conversations with, while he drove and I sat shotgun. I grew up driving back and forth to and from airports with my parents, my mom letting me go to stay a month or so with my dad, and then my dad letting me go back. Between my mom and my dad I have had every conversation you could imagine while sitting in the passenger seat of a truck or car. We have talked about everything, from how a nuclear power plant works when I was a kid (him explaining it to me) to how a nuclear power plant works when I was an adult (me explaining it to him). Girls, music, politics, drugs, history, family, God, we have talked about everything.
At this point I had processed some of my emotions. Or parts of some of my emotions. Between the love that was flowing in from our friends and family and the admonitions of the medical staff the sadness, the fear, the terror, the joy, most of them had been addressed. Anger on the other hand, anger was still hanging out. And along with all the other boxes which were open, it wanted out. So I opened that box up.
“I’m a little angry, to be honest.” I said. There was a pause.
“At God? It’s okay to be angry with Him right now.” he said.
Which is true. If you doubt that go read Lamentations or some of the more somber Psalms. You can be angry at God, you just can’t stay angry at him forever. But that wasn’t who I was angry with. I knew it wasn’t God’s fault. Micah’s condition was caused by living in a flawed world, by living outside of God’s presence, by living in a world of material dynamics and consequences, and by living in a world with death. The person responsible for that was Adam, not God. Adam, or the original human or group of humans whose existence was spent with God, took the raw deal of death in exchange for the knowledge of good and evil.
This was a topic I’d thought a lot about leading up to Micah’s birth. It stems ultimately from the question “Why do bad things happen to good people.” and can be phrased many ways “Why is life so hard?”, “Why do bad people seem to have it so good?”, “What the hell did that happen for?”, “Childhood cancer, really, what the hell do we have that for?”, and so forth. And these are very important questions. If God is good, why is so much of his creation bad? Or at least, why is so much of our experience of creation bad?
Every year I go on retreat to Manresa house of Retreats with my father and sometimes other family members. It is a silent retreat focused on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. For me, for these past five years, it has been a time of discernment. A time when I ask God, what should I do, what should I work on, where should I go. Sometimes I don’t come away with a very clear answer. Sometimes I do. One year I joined the Knights of Columbus, another year I started actively professing my faith. This last year, I read the book of Job. I read it while at the retreat. I can’t tell you why I read that book in particular but I can say that I have always been fascinated by it and during that retreat it was very obvious to me that that was what I needed to read. Job is about “Why do bad things happen to good people.”, it’s not about getting your just reward, or staying faithful no matter how bad things get (at least not necessarily, those themes are in there). Job solidly and firmly asks the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. I won’t give you the answer it gives either, I will suggest reading it, and I will suggest you read an annotated version where the translator explains what is going on in each passage. From what I can tell the literal translation of Job loses a lot between Hebrew and English, especially if you aren’t familiar with ancient Judaism. The reason I won’t give you an answer though is because there isn’t really one in there that I can express here. Not a cookie cutter, reading of the day, self help friendly, bumper sticker answer to that question.
Ever since reading it I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Ultimately for me, it comes down to two things. God made the world good, and gave us free will, but in order for our free will to matter, in order for it to actually be free and actually be willful, it had to be consequential. Our actions had to have consequences and those consequences had to be real. And with our free will we did evil and so, shocker that it is, the consequences were evil. That’s the world we live it. Adam chose a world of consequences and evil over perpetual good and adherence to God. And I have too, every day I sin, that’s the choice I make. This world over the better one. And really, the better one would be this one, if we were all faithful, if we were all good. But we aren’t, so it isn’t. Bad call Adam. Bad call…me.
“No, I’m not angry at God. I’m angry at Adam.” I said.
“Oh?” he said.
“Yeah, he took the raw deal that stuck us with this world. We’re supposed to be in paradise. We’re supposed to be with God. Instead we get this. Micah gets born with half a heart. Adam can suck it.” I said.
A little bit of silence followed. Dad got a contemplative look on his face. I was quiet. And just as quickly as the anger had come on, it was mostly gone. It was still residually there, I would still need to deal with it later, but right then I was left feeling tired. Dad and I talked about logistics for the rest of the ride. Where he was going after he dropped me off, where I was going, what the plan for the next day was. And then we were there.