Here are the facts, no interpretation or assumptions. Just what I saw. You can decide what you think was going on:
I’m walking Smudge the Dog at about 7:30 in the morning. She dawdles a lot, sniffing out all the messages left by dogs that have preceded us on our route, so I have time to take in my surroundings while I wait for her.
Up ahead, I see a car pull into a driveway. A youngish man in a long sleeved shirt and tie gets out, accompanied by a little girl of maybe 4. The man carries a tiny pink soft-sided suitcase to the front door as the child hurries up the sidewalk behind him. The car is still idling.
He knocks, shifts his weight, studies his shoes. Knocks again (several times) and finally the door opens. He hands over the suitcase to whoever answers, then turns and walks back to his car without further interaction. The child disappears inside the house and the door closes.
As the car backs out and heads down the street, I now see the child and a young woman looking out the large front window. The woman is crying and giving a small wave. The child is stone-faced. The man in the car never looks in their direction as he speeds off.
And I walk by like I never saw anything and like these aren’t tears streaming down my face.
I was a single parent from the time my daughter was a toddler until she was a sophomore in college. My interpretation of the scene I’ve just described is necessarily colored by that experience.
Still, it didn’t fit neatly into my “end of visitation weekend” template. If it did, the dad would have at least waved goodbye, the child would have been sad, and the mother would have been the one stone-faced. Something seemed off. But that’s my bias; I know nothing about these people or their lives and they live just far enough away that I probably never will.
This much I know: there was a lot of pain in that scene and it flattened me. I fought my emotions the rest of the way home and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that fractured young family since – if indeed that’s what they were. That kind of thing moves me deeply, even when I don’t know the backstory or the people.
And this is where I go with it: How does Jesus do it? How is the human part of Him not crushed under the weight of so much pain? How is the God part of Him not compelled to intervene and fix it all?
We really can’t ever fully know what’s going on with other people. We filter it through our own experiences and make assumptions that are probably as often wrong as they are right. And we certainly can’t know the mind of God. But He is good and He is just. I believe that. And He has promised to ultimately make all things right.
In the meantime, I don’t have the deep theological answers but I do have this tiny pink suitcase in my mind and a prompting to pray for the cast of that small drama every time I pass that house from now on.
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