Thursday, June 23, 2005


When I heard the news Tuesday night, I'll admit I was a bit shocked. Brennan Hawkins, the eleven year old boy lost on a Boy Scout campout was found alive and in relatively good shape after spending four days and nights alone in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. Usually those stories don't turn out well. Missing people often become dead people -- either by foul play or by natural events. Brennan was one of the lucky ones (if one believes in luck). But you don't have to look far to find the stories of those who aren't so lucky.

The parents of Natalee Holloway are still waiting to find out what happened to their daughter in Aruba. That small island has so little crime that the authorities don't seem to have enough experience to do a thorough investigation. The result is that the Holloways are lost in limbo. Surely they cannot logically believe that their daughter is still alive, although they are careful to say they haven't given up hope. In truth, they just want to know what happened and bring whoever is responsible to justice. It's sad to watch them waiting and hoping against hope. It's as sad to watch them as it was happy to see Brennan's parents overjoyed at finding their son.

Those of us watching the situation want all the questions answered too. We want Natalee's parents, relatives and friends to have the peace of mind which comes with closure.

But we don't always get closure. At my local Wal-Mart, there is a large bulletin board filled with posters of families who have no closure. Missing small children. Missing teenagers. Even missing adults. Pictures are often computer enhanced to show probable changes in appearance from growing older - that's how long they've been gone. Some of the children have been gone for two years. Others have been missing for up to twenty years. These families just don't know. They have no answers.

I recently heard the story of a family who found their lost daughter after something like eight years. She was a teenager, gone without a trace. It turned out that the girl had gotten mad at her mother and had left, moved a few miles away and got a job. She then lived for all those years intentionally without contacting her parents. A tipster eventually turned her in and the family got their closure -- although I'm not sure if it ended up being as satisfying as they would have liked it to be. But at least they had their answers, didn't they?

Why do we desire closure? Why does a woman who has been dumped by her boyfriend want to go and tell him off? Is it simply a matter of getting in the last word? We love to do that, you know. And at the root of that desire is our own need for control. Even if we cannot control what happened, we at least can master the information. We want to know the whens and whys to make us feel like we can handle it; that whatever happened had a reason and we can watch for the warning signs next time. Not knowing means we have no control at all.

Biblically I think back to old man Jacob. He wasn't that old at the time, but he soon started walking like an old man. Jacob woke up to find himself in the middle of a wrestling match that he couldn't seem to win. Finally after seventy or eighty rounds, the stranger wanted to call it off and Jacob realized just how little control he had in the situation. He was fighting a seemingly endless battle against a total stranger. And now after messing up Jacob's hip, the stranger wants to call it quits. But Jacob doesn't want to stop. So what does Jacob do? He asks the stranger for a blessing! Now doesn't that sound stupid? Hours of sweating and straining and a hip injury and Jacob wants this guy to bless him! Then He asks for the stranger's name. Something. Anything. Jacob didn't like having no control. He wanted some answers. He wanted closure.

As human as it is for us to desire closure, we have to be ready to deal with life without it. Because God is not a God of closure. He doesn't see fit to give us all the answers. From God's thinking, it's not so important that we know all the whys and wherefores. God says, "You may not understand, but trust Me anyway."

And we mere mortals counter with, "I trust you, Lord. Just tell me why anyway." We still fight for the answers. We still fight for closure. Even when we know that He is faithful and trustworthy and true and all that other good stuff, we still hate to be left in an open-ended situation.

I've met a ton of people who wrestle with the whole "Why" question. I've got to admit, I still struggle with it occasionally. Why would God allow a young woman to be abducted? Why would God allow a little child to be taken? Why would God allow a tsunami to kill hundreds? Why does God continue to allow evil to flourish? We think we ought to know. We think we deserve some kind of closure.

We don't.

Our quest for control is futile. Our tiny little chunks of greymatter cannot handle the complexities of God's universe. As He spoke through Isaiah:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We can't even begin to fathom the depths of God or His purposes for each of us. Still, we think we should have closure. How foolish.

I pray that Natalee's parents, family and friends will soon have their closure, and that the perpetrator(s) will be brought to justice. I pray that all the families of those pictures on the wall at Wal-Mart will get their closure. I don't even mind if someone undeserving gets the last word in a relationship. But I know that closure is not necessary for faith.

"Lord, keep me strong in my faith, even when I don't have any control and I don't know all the answers."

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