Brunch with Philip Yancey

First of all, my apologies. I’ve been blogging via my phone and when I looked at my laptop today, the photos are all wibbly. After 10 years at this on various blogs, you’d think I’d be more technically adept.

I spent Tuesday morning at a talk and brunch with Philip Yancey at Crossroads Communications. He’s the Joyce Carol Oates of Christian writing with 13 award-winning books that both liberal and conservative Christians can embrace. My mother is a big fan and we were thrilled to be seated at Yancey’s table along with his wife Janet, and the new CEO of Crossroads, Dr. John Hull. My friend Melinda Estabrooks who was our host with the most at the brunch (and an angel, I’m convinced!) always treats me so very well.

Philip was speaking about his newest book, The Question That Won’t Go Away: Why? It’s a follow up book to Where Is God When It Hurts. He wrote his latest book after he spent some time in Japan after the tsunami, in post-war Sarajevo, and in Newtown, Connecticut two weeks after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. All were places where people were asking how a loving God could have allowed such terrible things to happen.

It is what you do after something awful happens. You want to know what caused it. You want to prevent anything so terrible from happening again. And you want to know why you’ve been singled out. I know I asked a lot of questions last year as I came to terms with surviving a painful divorce only to be lured into a destructive relationship that was meant to be my happy ending.

These why questions are crazy making and – as Yancey illustrates – beside the point. It does not matter why evil things happen. That is not for us to know right now. Theologians can debate ideas of original sin and predestination and the angels dancing on the head of a pin until the end of time: it still sucks for those of us in suffering’s midst.

What Yancey is far more interested in is how terrible situations can be redeemed. What Yancey has learned over his years of hearing about people’s suffering (including his own near-fatal car accident in 2007) is that nothing is irredeemable. There is nothing that God cannot touch and transform into something amazing: beauty for ashes. And it is our duty, as Christians, to operate as God’s emissaries, seeking out those in need and providing what help we can.

I always seem to cry whenever I am at Crossroads and there were several points during his talk that I had to look up at the ceiling and blink, not wishing to ruin my eyeliner (I’m trying that tightline method as part of my French living thing and it does not withstand a whole lot of emotion.) Over the past year, I have challenged God a lot. I have been furious with Him for allowing me to be abused the way I was. And I’ve said, if You are real and the Great Redeemer, then show me (I have all but challenged God to arm-wrestle.)

And on Tuesday, over brunch, He showed me. A year ago I felt broken. I felt alone. And I did not think I’ve ever have peace. I was thrashing about trying to find something, anything, to anchor me through all the chaos.

And God found me.

And one year later, I sat, surrounded by people I’ve come to know and love, listening to Philip Yancey talk about how God can redeem anything.

(I love it when He’s a show-off like that.)


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