I have learned by experience these last few months that God is big. And I’ve seen how believing God is big can bring a lot of relief and peace. It has produced a lot of good fruit in my life. This last week threw me for a curve, though. I had to learn something new, and now that the tears have dried I’m glad I did.
I started getting sick Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning Shiloh woke me up to tell me that all of our chickens had been killed in their hutch overnight by a raccoon.
“Animal-lover” doesn’t do justice to my feelings about animals. Hearing about our chickens broke my heart wide open. I spent the whole day either trying to help my kids navigate their feelings, or trying to work through my own. I went to bed that night with one of those headaches you get when you cry too much.
At about two in the morning I woke up, still sick, and all I could think about was the chickens. I started crying again, but this time it was accompanied by a deep anger towards God. Where was he? How could he let these beautiful birds just be massacred like this? And it’s not just the chickens… it’s so many animals, and so many people! This “big” God was nowhere. My mind was racing. I was up for hours. It seemed I had more proof that there isn’t a God than there is. My big God was failing me. I finally fell asleep with no answers and an even bigger headache.
I woke up the next day, sick, frustrated, and hopelessly tired. I went out to the chicken coop and attempted to clean up the feathers. I didn’t cry much. I was just angry. When I finished I came inside and just sat in my office staring out the window. I breathed deep soul sighs as I continued to try to find some way to make sense of the senselessness.
Around lunch time that day, my son came in crying and upset about the chickens. It was really hard to not just unload on him everything I was feeling too. I just sat and listened to him be angry, let him feel the pain of not understanding. What else could I do? Reciting some typical story that I wasn’t sure I even believed in anymore wasn’t going to be authentic. All I could say was, “Yeah, I get it. I really loved those chickens. I feel horrible too, and I think that’s okay. Let’s not fight it too much, give it some time and let’s see how we feel in a few more days.”
He paused, took a deep breath, and replied, “Dad is setting traps for the raccoon. I think he wants to kill it. Can we tell him to turn the other cheek?”
I couldn’t do it. I told my son that was a great idea and he should share his feeling with his dad, but I didn’t go with him.
As I went about the rest of my day I thought a lot about the chickens. My heart was longing for some sort of answer. My sense that there is something bigger than us can be very subtle at times, but it really is always there. It doesn’t bring me lasting peace or comfort to reject God’s existence for too long, so I usually end up back with my desire to believe, and I rebuild.
What do I rebuild this time? How does this all work? If God is only really big, then none of this small stuff about life really matters. So, where are these feelings coming from? It certainly matters to me. So if something that matters to me doesn’t matter to God, do I even matter to God?
It was right at that moment that I thought of that other character in this tragedy. The raccoon. I couldn’t spin some story about the raccoon’s needs. It didn’t even eat the chickens. Just killed them. I was mad at God and the raccoon all over again, but this time the feeling of anger subsided quickly into a soft resignation.
Deep into my heart distilled the words, “I love the chickens. I love the raccoon. I love you.”
It felt like God was sitting right next to me. Small, humble, and sad. I couldn’t be mad at him anymore. I just sat with him and mourned with him. He didn’t try to teach me some eternal truth about the nature of life or tell me any stories about the plan of salvation or even his Son’s atonement. We were just small and sad together. I could sense he was willing to sit with me there as long as I needed.
That night I saw the raccoon in our neighborhood. I called it a few names I’m not proud of. To be honest, it was a beautiful raccoon. It looked a little scared as it ran down the street trying to find a place to hide. I found I wanted to comfort it and help it in some way. There wasn’t anything I could do, but I found myself saying out loud, “I love the raccoon.”
I still couldn’t make sense of what happened, why the raccoon did what it did (beyond typical placating answers about instincts), or why I hadn’t known what to do to prevent it. Yet, somehow it was okay that I didn’t have answers. I was alive to a sense of a very big, and yet very small, God.
Big enough to absorb all of the pain and suffering of the world, and small enough to feel it all with me, just the two of us.
Big enough to know I needed to feel the grief and not just make it all go away. Small enough to sit and grieve with me, alone and quiet.
Big enough to handle all of the anger I directed at him. Small enough to not want me to always feel that way about him.
I almost made him so big he was unreachable. And when I didn’t think he was there at all, he reached for me. He is big and small, and he loves my chickens.