Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

Last Friday Night

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“My God, My God why have you abandoned me?”  While it hardly seems like lyrics from a Katy Perry song, these words remind me of a conversation at a bar last Friday night.

Sounds like a good time, huh?

Well, it was really.  My girlfriends and I are were happy to unveil the sliver of ourselves that has nothing to do with kids, careers or cleaning.  After all, the joy of laughter and friends is always worth toasting.

While out, one of my girlfriends ran into a friend she used to work with and her boyfriend.  Having met this person before, I started talking to them.  I mentioned my endeavor to do Works of Mercy figuring what’s a little spirits without spirituality?

It came up that the boyfriend is atheist.  He was a nice fellow and I listened as he explained his disbelief.  As someone who believes in God, I can’t really say I understand any explanations that are contrary to the basis of my faith.  Nor do I think he understood when my emphatic belief didn’t include corresponding social security numbers or documents to justify that indeed, there is a God.

“Where was God today then, when that baby got shot and killed on his walk?” he asked.

He proceeded to tell me about a one-year-old in his stroller being shot in what was believed to be a robbery attempt while out on a walk with his mother in a neighboring city.

Obviously, this was unimaginable and horrific.  Our world though, increasingly seems unimaginable and horrific and even though this was the first I heard of this particular evil – it seemed oddly familiar.

Still, this doesn’t change my belief in God. And as to where He was while this was going on, I feel sure God was right there with all of them.

He was with that baby and his Mama.  He was there when someone else’s child, still a teenager, pulled the trigger eliminating an innocent life that was given from love and for the purpose to love. God was there.

He didn’t stop it either.  And, as much as I believe there is a God, I also believe He could have stopped it.

Yes, that’s hard to wrap your mind around whether you call yourself a Christian or an atheist.

Likewise, it’s hard to understand how God let His only son suffer and die such a brutal and humiliating death.  It, too, was unimaginable and horrific.

Yet, God was there.

And when Jesus was at His darkest hour suffering a brutal death as an innocent man, He called out “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?”

There is a message in those words that is easy to miss. Jesus did not turn away from God when He suffered or abandon Him as His God.  He turned to Him offering a prayerful lament.

Because Jesus died for our sins, He also did something unimaginable.  He changed death from a separation from life into a way to have eternal life.

And yes, that’s hard for me to wrap my head around too.  But when I do get glimpses on what that means, I see the truth of joy.  I get an inkling of why God let Jesus suffer and die on the cross, and I try to hold onto those glimpses of clarity for as long as I can.

It is easy to understand why Jesus felt abandoned on the cross.  His words were a profoundly human cry that represents not only His suffering but ours.

“He did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him,” Psalm 22:24.

God didn’t abandon Jesus then.  He made a seat for Him at His right hand.

He has also made a place to deliver us from the suffering of this world.  Until then, we have to bring Him not only our praise and thanksgiving but our sorrowful laments.

We choose at the time of our darkest hour whether we turn to Him with our suffering or we abandon Him in disbelief.

When I went home and watched the news story of the teenager who took the life of the toddler, I listened to the interview of the baby’s father.  It was clear the choice he made.

He said he had just come back from seeing his dead son, kissing him goodbye.  He said he knew it was just a body now.  His spirit was gone.

While he said that gunman and his companion must be punished, he offered forgiveness for what they did.  He said he would pray for them.

Wow.

How can you not believe in God then, when only through Him, could a father have the strength to forgive the murder of his innocent baby and the grace to offer the gift of prayer for the perpetrator?

It is a remarkable example of someone turning to God in darkness instead of away from Him.  He imitated God’s mercy at a time when it is hardly plausible to believe forgiveness is possible.  Only through God could this be.

Someone without faith can only see the horror of what is compared to the promise of what will be.  They can only see the abandonment of a God that does not exist.

They see the sobriety of death, not the intoxicating joy it brings through resurrection.

“And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani’ which means My, God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.

Those words are an important reminder of the extent of His suffering, His loyalty to God and His example for us to turn to Him during our own plight.  But those are not the only words He said on the cross that fateful day.

“Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do…”  Luke 24:34

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Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

11 thoughts on “Last Friday Night

  1. Wow. Father Fred needs to read this one. Print it out and stick this one in his mailbox. Funny related story. I got on a plane once with a guy wearing a white shirt with big bold letters that said “Atheist”. It was Southwest so people picked their seats. I noticed he was sitting alone while I and several others passed him by. I am pretty sure he ended up sitting by himself. After all, we are in a flying tin can that could fall to the ground. Do you really want to be sitting by an atheist? I’m sorry if that sounds bad but my answer is No. I need somebody to pray with on the way down.

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    • Lara, this is probably my favorite of your writings so far. Bravo for sticking by your faith. I, too, turned to God in my darkest hour, and have felt rewarded. Lynn, right on! I’m sure that young man even took the time to pick OUT that shirt, whether in the store or as he was packing for the trip, thinking it was “funny” and he’d be making a “statement.” Joke’s on him…..

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      • Sarah,

        I am so glad you liked it. We are blessed to know God and that He is there for us. It makes it all the more important to share our faith with others which just makes for such fun bar conversations!

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    • Lynn,

      No, I wouldn’t want to be sitting next to an atheist should my plane goes down or rather, I am sure he wouldn’t want to be sitting by me! But then maybe he wore the shirt so he could sit by himself on the plane! Either way, I find comfort in knowing we have a God to pray to whatever the scenario.

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  2. Well said Lara. Hope your new “friend” reads this and thinks about your point of view. Happy Easter!

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    • Thank you Ashley! I don’t know if he will read it, but I certainly meant no offense. A lot of people use horrific events to turn away from God and with it being Holy Week we remember how horrific Jesus death was and how He turned toward his father — not away. Happy Easter to you too!

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  3. Lara, again, I love this post as I do all of them, and love your whole project! Thank you for driving this train and letting us ride along. I love the readings you have included. I just love them. They are short and sweet, to the point, and wrap up 2 most important lessons-that you explained so well. Regarding the father of the baby that was killed-I saw his interview too, and thought the same thing-right answer! And how amazing that he can actually say and do it when it is actually his child. Happy Easter!

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    • Laddy,

      Thank you for your enthusiasm! I have many “doubting Thomas” days so I am really glad to hear that you enjoy the posts. With the father of the murdered baby, I was going to explain how some people use tragedy to turn away from God. But when I listened to the interview I was so incredibly moved by his openness to forgiveness. It really did seem to parallel the example of Jesus death and the way He always is ready to forgive us. It was so amazing to me and a true demonstration of faith in action. Happy Easter!

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  4. As a liberal (“open minded”), this blog pretty much sums up two different perspectives. Both parties are adamant about their positions. The hope is that they can remain civil to each other. Unfortunately tolerance appears to be the loser. In Hungary, anti-semitism has reared its ugly head. Here at home, gay bashing is still in vogue. I had a neighbor who was ranting about lesbians and how it was against the writings in Bible and destroying the U.S. He said he still managed to sleep well in our “peaceful” neighborhood. I told him I was perplexed and he asked me why. The fact is a lesbian couple had lived across the street from him. He had no response but hopefully it made him think.

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    • Norm,

      We were civil. He seems like a really nice person and I get it that not everyone believes in God. It doesn’t mean he’s not a good person. He was not intolerant of my beliefs either. But when you do believe and faith is an integral part of life, its hard to understand that someone else doesn’t. He brought up that horrible murder of the baby and I get it that it is hard to reconcile that God would let such a travesty occur. Then watching that man on television show such openness to forgiveness; it was so remarkable. You are right that we need to all practice tolerance but too we you Know the goodness of God you really do want to share it with others — if nothing else than by quiet example.

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  5. On the issue of theodicy, why evil happens when we have an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God:

    http://delightintruth.com/2012/10/29/an-approach-to-the-problem-of-evil/

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