“Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 145:5
I just emptied my trash. There were 300 old e-mails packed somehow within, and, with nothing more than a key-stroke, they’re history. All those words are simply gone, as if they’d never existed.
But where do they go?—that’s what I’m wondering. Isn’t there some law of physics that matter simply doesn’t disappear? I suppose those 300 email notes had no matter; they were nothing but electronic impulses of some kind. But even if they had no matter, they held matter. I’m sure that sometime in the next few days I’ll remember something I should have done, go to the trash file to find some tossed note, and discover it and the horse it rode in on, gone. At one time, they mattered.
But now they’ve vanished, never to be seen again. Strange. Almost scary.
An old friend called last night, just to check in. He said his wife, who’s been fighting depression for years, has switched meds. “A scary time,” he told us, and I understand. What I don’t understand is how a pill can actually change character, alter personality, replace the dynamo of whatever it is that makes us each who we are. That’s scary. But it happens, and it happens all the time.
And why is it that I feel so much, of late, that I’d rather be alone than in the blessed company of other people? Once we were social. Once we looked forward to weekends because they meant games and gatherings. I still look forward to weekends, but the only frivolity I seek is peace and quiet and solitude. If the skies are clear, the dawn compels on Saturday morning. I go alone. That’s the way I like it. Why?
Or this. Yesterday in a crowded shopping mall I read a short story from a new collection, read it almost straight though. I was sitting on a bench near the food court, at the very heart of things. Thousands of people passed me by. I saw few. It was a great story. I loved it. But I told myself that something had changed in me. Ten years ago—certainly twenty—I could never have sat there amid the thronging shoppers and focused so intensely on a single short story. What has changed in me, and why?
There’s so much I don’t understand.
Why do we suffer—honestly? The older I become, the more Job appears, just off my shoulder, one hand raised to heaven in a fist. Three of my friends are dying of cancer; all of them would love to live. None of them are ancient. Yet, all over North America people are building nursing homes to tend the millions who would, any day of the week, volunteer tomorrow for a long-sought trip to glory.
I was born after the Second World War, but I’ve spent more time reading the literature of the Holocaust than perhaps I should have. Arbeit Macht Frei—there’s a sign in my mind that will never leave. I know where Mengele stood right there at the platform as the trains rolled into Auschwitz. I can see his hand determining. And even though I wasn’t there, I can hear millions of bootless cries to heaven.
There is so much I don’t understand about life and about death, about suffering and joy. So much mystery.
And the greatest of all is a gift because somehow, even though I don’t know, I’m confident He does. Faith is a sumptuous gift. I don’t know why his grace comes to me, but I believe this affirmation, that even though don’t get it, even though this flesh will corrupt and I will like those emails, simply vanish, in mystery, he knows.
His understanding has no limit.