God is a funny guy, he gives you the test and then you spend a life time trying to figure out if you passed it. And, if you are like me, you want to know what the purpose of the test was. What you were supposed to learn.

I was in more of a pensive mood as I wrote this post. I was on a plane, flying into the sunset. The seat back computer thingy told me that I was 36 thousand feet in the air, and sailing along at a good clip. I’ve always liked flying, it’s a chance to move slightly out of my world. Locating yourself to another place is an opportunity to move slightly to the left of yourself and see things slightly differently. At least that’s what I’m telling myself, as I fly 8 hours in slightly less than 24 hours, so that I can go to a six hour meeting. (And I suppose, if you are a conservative, flying and travelling could have you moving to the right of yourself, if that makes you happier!)

I went to a funeral on the day I wrote this post. For the Mother of a co-worker, she was 86. The pastor conducting the funeral emphasized that the way she was when she died was not how she always was. Indeed, this woman was in great pain in the last years of her life. But, the pastor reminded us in the service that the pain at the end of her life was one type of pain, and she had experienced all manner of hardship and sorrow in her life - there are many types of pain in the life of man. Perhaps, if I am to summarize, where I am now is not where I always have to be.

The readings at the funeral spoke of tests: the agony of Martha and Mary after the death of their brother. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. Indeed, I understand this. I have wondered if our babies died when God was, in some metaphorical , or perhaps real way, not looking. Perhaps He took his eyes off me for just a second. Perhaps he was busy – there is war and strife and famine, and people starve to death almost hourly. Perhaps he was just too busy. Certainly in the midst of my faith I wonder how it can be that God could have taken Gabriel from his parents who loved him.

Martha tells Christ that she knows that Lazarus will rise again, in the last day. She knows that she will see Lazarus again at the ressurection. But whenever I read the story, I’m always reminded that in a very real sense, Martha is reminding her Lord that she hurts now, her brother is dead now, and the resurrection, well, it is literal and real, but it sure seems a long way off. And by the way, there’s a good road from Jerusalem, and we sent you word 3 days ago, and you took your sweet time, and do you mind explaining why that was? Cause if you had hurried, he would have only been sick, not dead. There is a real difference between book knowledge and a crisis of faith. In the reading I can see how she is struggling to reconcile the two, just like I have.

I have always believed the last great test of our life comes when we are amidst the dying. There are no new questions in that time, just the same old ones. “Are you there God? Really? Are you real? Is there more to life than this? What’s next Lord?” And, perhaps most importantly “Will you stay with me God?”

At the corner of Christianity is the iron belief that all is not as it should be. I have always been comfortable accepting that the world is not as it should be. Perhaps because of the neighbourhood I live in, I see prostitution, drugs, homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, the grinding down of the spirit that comes with constant poverty. I am aware of the broken bodies and the broken spirits that surround me. I believe that we are born broken. We are born into a world that at best imitates perfection. Not that there isn’t beauty and wonder in the world, but that it is tainted.

Unlike a normal test, knowing the questions doesn’t give me any answers. I want Gabriel’s life to have meaning. I want it to have counted for something. And I know that it did count for me. But I want an epiphany, to suddenly become like Ebaneezer Scrooge at the end of a Christmas Carol – I want to be a whole new, different, better person because of Gabriel. And I want to understand. I want writing in the sky, big banner letters. I want God to write me a neat and tidy explanation of what Gabriel’s death means. Of what happened. An essay if you will, with a thesis and research and proof. A voice from heaven with a final definitive answer – this experience, of infertility, pregnancy, Gabriel’s birth and death, it means this.

I hear of people who go through a test or a trial, and then some years or months, or in some cases days later say “oh, I get it, God was teaching me this, or God used me to do that. Mostly, I go “huh”. I see the hand of God, sometimes, but more often I generally don’t understand quite what the point was. I’m forever wondering – is there a lesson I’m not learning? Or to put it more colloquially, most often I find myself saying “What the hell was that about God?” And I’m learning that this is ok. That a lifetime of questions, of the same wonderings is ok. Christianity, the heart of my faith is not roses and butterflies, it is hard searching questions, with no promise of answers. One cannot know God and expect all the answers. That's not his way.

Like I spoke of on Tuesday, I understand longing and wailing and great pain now. Is that the lesson of Gabriel? I don’t know. I now this: that I have a life time to learn how I passed the test of Gabriel, and what my final mark is. I’m in no hurry. I think Mr. Spit and I are on a slightly different time line than Gabriel. We are here, and he is in Heaven, and in that last day we shall be together.