A Holy man was walking through a forest and stopped for lunch.
When he sat down he opened up his satchel and poured the contents onto ground in front of him. He picked up a container of cooked rice and vegetables and began to eat. A short distance away a thief was hiding in the woods and observed this old mans actions, but what caught the thief’s attention was a large precious jewel that also fell out of the satchel. Slowly sneaking up behind the old man he reached around and grabbed the jewel and began to run. After about 20 feet he quickly glanced behind to see if the sage had given chase and what he saw stopped him in his tracks. Sitting cross legged eating his lunch, the old man sat unbothered. The thief was perplexed and yelled
“How come you didn’t chase me?”
“It seemed you need it more than I do” the Holy man replied.
The thief was so challenged that he walked back and sat cross legged directly in front of the Holy man. Reaching into his pocked he removed the jewel and placed it back from where he had taken it and said ‘Teach me’.
I told this story to a group of addicts hoping it would initiate a great discussion around the Idea of what we value. As I finished the story Matt was the first to raise his hand.
“How did the Holy man get a Jewel?” he asked.
I have told this story many times and have never had someone ask that question before. Matt was insistent. His skepticism was contagious, within minutes several guys had bought into the conspiracy of how this Holy man had come into possession of this precious stone.
Some times we get hung up on the wrong question, and some questions can’t lead to answers because there’s no answer that’s good enough. They bounce off the heavens like a bird off a window.
Sometimes we ask questions of the cosmos like it is on trial. And when the deafening silence is returned we feel justified in our anger and continue in our pain. But perhaps there is a way to break the impasse.
Consider Trevor, a thirty five year old married man I met in an addiction treatment centre. He was angry, and didn’t try to hide who he was angry at. When we first met he skipped the usual introductions and said “Let me get straight to the point, why would God kill my little brother?”
As I sat across from him I could see that this question had caused him a lot of pain. I mentioned that it was a good question and I would like an answer to similar questions. But if he was like me, there couldn’t be an answer good enough to satisfy our pain. It turns out Trevor is just like me.
But he was stuck, on the wrong end of an unanswerable question.
We can find ourselves shouting to the universe, shaking our fist at God only to find the silence deafening.
In those moments try asking a different question. Is it possible that there could be a better question? What if instead of asking why God could allow his brothers’ death, he asked if anything good could come from my brothers passing?
The second question was one that might have an answer.
I listened to Trevor tell me how his closet addiction came to a head as he tried to deal with the grief. He lost his job, his marriage ended and he hit rock bottom. It was there that a family member decided to help him find treatment.
And so 5 days into a 5 week treatment program for addiction I looked into his eyes and asked, is it a good thing that you are in here? Is it possible that your brothers’ passing could lead to your sobriety? Is it possibly that it at least has led you here?
Ironically it was Trevor’s turn to ignore questions, and rightfully so. Sometimes it is easier being angry than confronting truth, but only one sets you free.
The senseless death of a loved one can never be replaced, but in a strange way it could bring life to those left behind. This strange transaction brings value to something that seems like an utter waste. There is a word for that—redemption.
I looked at trevor and said, “You are the good that can come from this tragedy”.
Sometimes questions can become impenetrable barriers instead of doorways. While it is true that there is no such thing as a bad question, it is also true that some questions are better than others.
And with the right heart, you may even discover that you answer your own question.
You may also enjoy Grieving Sucks