Monday, January 18, 2010

Just Lucky To Be Alive

Here's the weather report from my back porch: warm and wet. Following two years of record-setting low temperatures and snowfall, we're now having a soggy, muddy, foggy winter that reminds me a lot of the years I lived in Portland, Oregon. The best word to describe it is "dreary."

I like the snow much better, because it is brighter, cheerier, and a whole lot cleaner. In my ongoing effort to not gripe about things in my life that I can't change, I will say nothing more here about the weather.

However, under old business: I've spent a couple hours looking up the scripture I mentioned in my last post. Thanks to a helpful fellow blogger, I found it easily. But then I became curious, because in five Bibles I consulted, the meaning significantly varies by the omission, addition, or change of one word.

Matthew 10:29 is the verse I was referring to, wherein Jesus says to his apostles, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." I am quoting here from the New International Version of the Bible.

Jesus was trying to illustrate to his followers that God cares about everything and everyone, regardless of worth, all the way from important men to practically worthless, little birds.

When I learned this verse, I thought it meant that nothing happens on Earth without God's knowledge. It was not implied, as I understood it, that nothing happens here unless He makes it happen. That's a really hard concept for us to fathom, but our puny human minds are usually incapable of grasping God's immense powers.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father," the same verse reads in my grandmother's Holman Edition of the Holy Bible. This version doesn't really specify whether God made one of the birds fall, or if He's just aware of it.

My Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible is equally ambiguous, saying, "And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." My Father's what? Knowledge or will?

My Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible says more specifically of the falling bird, "And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will."  That's pretty straightforward: God made it. or let it, fall.

But then I consulted The Living Bible, Paraphrased, which says, "Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it." That's more like I remember the meaning: God didn't make the bird fall, but He knows about it.

A friend of mine who lost her husband in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago, advised me, after mine died the same way last year, "The biggest question you will ask yourself is: Why?" She's right. It's a temptation that's been hard to resist. There's no definitive answer, in my opinion, but it's human nature to ponder the question.

Another friend had a pragmatic resolution to the Biblical gray area regarding the falling bird. "I think that back when the Bible was written, there were a lot fewer people on Earth," he pointed out. "God probably had a good idea of what everyone and everything was doing." Now, however, my friend continued, "He's far too busy keeping track of so many people to bother making birds fall out of trees, or to even care if they do." I am not so sure I buy that.

It is definitely an intriguing issue that nearly everyone seriously considers at one time or another during their life. How many people in Haiti are asking themselves, "Why did this happen?"

Is there such a thing as fate? Can every event in our lives be preordained? Or is everything that happens to us just pure coincidence, a strictly random occurrence? Does luck, good or bad, factor in anywhere?

All I am sure of is that I'm not sure. I waffle back and forth a lot in my mind. Sometimes, I wonder if it's just better to not think about it so much, especially about things that have happened in the past. Absolutely nothing can be changed, of that much I am certain. How we react to what has occurred is the only thing we can control.

So, on that note I guess I'll wrap this up, get ready for bed, say a prayer for all the suffering people in Haiti, and thank God I'm alive and well.

So ... does that mean I'm lucky? Oh please, just stop it. I don't want to be up all night!