Monday, January 23, 2017

Monkey Butt

If God really loves us so much why does he allow bad things to happen?

Before retiring I worked for many years at Hackensack University Medical Center. At least once each day I would ride the elevator in The Tomorrows Children Building. Frequently I would share that elevator with young children who were very, very sick.

One day I stepped into the elevator with a young boy, about five years old and his mother. He was in a motorized wheelchair and appeared to be paralyzed from the neck down a condition I assumed had been present from birth. He was unable to speak but could mouthed words that his mom could understand.

I was overcome by a feeling of pity for the boy and his mother; and in my head I started asking a recurring question, “Why God? Why do you allow such suffering exist?”

I was distracted from my thoughts by the laughter of the boy’s mother. She giggled to her son, “No, you’re a monkey butt!” His eyes were bright with laughter as he mouthed the words back to her, “No, you’re a monkey butt!”

This playful bantering between a mother and child, who obviously loved each other very much, kept up as she wheeled him off the elevator to whatever life-sustaining treatment he was getting that day.

As I stood alone in the elevator I realized that I had been in the presence of God. God was very much there in the flow of love between that mother and child. No matter how much pain and anguish lived in that mother’s heart, no matter how debilitated that little boy was, their hearts were totally open to each other, open wide enough to share the gift of laughter and silliness.

God was present in the center of the cross that was shared by that mother and child, just as surely as he is present in the center of the cross that hangs over our parish altar. Our loving God is with us in the midst of all the bad things, all the suffering we experience.

And in witnessing that scene and experiencing that presence of God between mother and child, I can almost understand why God permits suffering.

The bad things that happen in life and the sufferings that we experience are locked in a moment in time. Yet God, as well as each one of our immortal souls, is timeless; and God is with us here in time, holding our hand through the suffering.

Some day, when we are free of the constraints of human existence and the limitations of human understanding, it will all make sense; there will be a happy ending – or more truly, a happy beginning. If we could see eternity and the timeless love that awaits us with God, the sufferings that we witness and endure here in life might more easily be understood.

God is so good to us that he gives us a preview: he shows us his face in the suffering. All we have to do is look; all we have to do is listen. God is present in the simplicity of the wind. God is present even in the silliness and the laughter of a word like ‘monkey butt’.

Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on

Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life

The Gospel of You, The Gospel of Me: Making Christ Present in Everyday Life

Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministry

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