God and the Stars

For Mom and Max and anyone who has ever been confused

I don’t pretend to understand the world or how it works anymore because there’s not a lot about it that makes any sense–I suppose that’s something you learn as you get older. Every day is kind of a mystery, and it can get the best of you. Yesterday, someone in the world decided to set bombs off in the middle of a marathon… just athletes running for the sake of being alive, for the sake of being a human who can. And then out of no where, someone decided to change the course of too many lives to count, and we’re left wondering what happened. There’s still no one to blame, and even when there is, what are we supposed to say? There’s nothing to say because life, again, failed to make any kind of sense.
The night I left to move up to DC, the car was almost completely packed; I hadn’t shed a tear up until that point because I was more excited than I was scared. I was about to start this journey away from everything I had ever known, but then my mom told me to look up into the sky. I stared up and the night was as clear as it had been in weeks–every star possibly visible was shining brightly against the amphitheater of trees that surround our house. When I looked back down, she was staring at me with tears in her eyes, and she told me, When you look up at those stars, just know that those are the same stars I’m looking at, too. Look at them every night and know that I’m right there with you. And then I cried.
It’s really no surprise because I’ve cried my entire life. I like to believe that it’s become less and less frequent the older I get, but it’s a recurring theme of mine that’s haunted me since that first time I threw up in kindergarten. And a lot of times I’ve cried, I do it because I haven’t understood what was going on in the world–things that other people come to accept pretty easily. It took me years to understand the concept that if my mom left me at school, she would eventually come back. Why that was such a hard concept for me to grasp, I really have no idea. It’s like I believed that Kimberlin Heights led to Hell or Mexico or some other place that you don’t come back from. But then, without fail, after one hour of throwing up and crying, two hours of learning, three hours of me showing people my puppy wallet that had a picture of my family in it, and an hour of recess, my mom would come back and get me, and we’d do the whole thing over again the next day. But when my mamaw died when I was six, I specifically remember crying once. I cried because, even at six, I understood that I wouldn’t see her alive again, and after that, I didn’t cry about it again.
The concept of death made sense to me because our bodies have a timeline, a specified amount of time that we are allowed to live, and then like all other things (puppy wallet included, though I miss it so), the wear and tear becomes too much. My papaw died seven years later, and I’m not even sure if I shed a tear. It was never the expected things that were difficult for me to handle, and at times, I had trouble relating to other people who cried when those things happened. We weren’t meant to live forever–but we were meant to live for a while.
Things like Boston, or 9/11, or Newtown happens and the whole structure of things gets screwed up. The world’s plan gets all screwed up, and we don’t understand the whole of it. And though those events are devastating and stupefying, it happens every day. People are killed in car accidents or get cancer or drown or die in some other way that was never expected, and it doesn’t make any sense why it happened, or specifically, who it happened to. And then I meet people, and occasionally they tell me that they are thinking about suicide. They’ve thought about ending their own life, prematurely, and it breaks my heart because I know they didn’t decide that on their own. I know. My heart pours out for those people because it’s another mystery of life–it’s a catch 22 of sorts. And I know because I’ve been in that position where the only thing that breaks your heart more than the idea of being dead is the idea of having to stay alive–it’s not a choice to feel that way. It is however a choice to choose life. But it doesn’t change the fact that there is a God, or whatever force you choose to believe in, out there that allows these things to happen. When we’re not being shaken by a freak of nature, we’re attacking one another, and when we’re not attacking one another, we attack ourselves.
So it makes sense when people give up on God or hope or life because, honestly, there’s a lot of reasons to. But then with all the pain and hurt we experience, I have a friend who has been consistently updating Facebook with the status of her infant son, and when we’re talking infant, we’re talking baby. He had a lemon sized tumor at the base of his brain, and his chance of living was pretty much slim to none… but every day I’d get on Facebook, Jessica would be asking for prayers for Max and maintaining that God was watching over them. Max, against the odds, has steadily been getting better and better, and there’s a very real chance that he could go on and live a normal life. And it’s the first time in a while that I thought to myself, Maybe, in a way, God doesn’t have so much to do with all the pain we experience in the world. No, I don’t get it, but it’s God or hope or whatever you believe in that makes life okay when everything else doesn’t seem to be making sense. Yeah, there’s the things in life that confuse us, but if we take the time we use trying to find someone to blame and use it toward finding someone to lean on or believe in, then it makes the healing time that much more bearable.
And then I return to the stars. I stare at them, and I know that scientifically the only thing that holds them up is nothing–the lack of gravity, and I’ve been told that the stars we’re staring at have already burned out. But still, I use the thing that everyone says is already gone or non-existent as a way of finding my way back home. In that non-existant thing, I find love and comfort and peace, and whose to say that star that I’m staring at tonight is one that is already depleted. We see the stars in the same way that we sometimes look at the world: hopeless and all but gone, but when I look at them, I see something that isn’t supposed to be. Something that defies the odd. Something that shakes me to my core and helps me believe in something bigger than me. And sometimes when I see them, I still cry.

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