By Melissa Lewis.
My eight-year-old nephew, Quin, was explaining to me how electrical circuits work. He had a board on the coffee table into which you could snap various plugs and wires and connectors to link a double A battery at one end to a small light bulb at the other end. He explained, “Now, Aunt Missy, if I unhook these wires or take out this section or turn this piece this way instead of that way, it breaks the circuit and the electricity can’t flow, but if I close all those gaps it completes the circuit and the bulb lights up. See?” It was a very clear explanation. Not being very science-minded, I actually learned something.
A few days later I got to thinking. I wondered, if a dog had been curled up on the couch with me, listening to Quin’s explanation, could the dog have been able to understand how an electrical circuit works? My conclusion was no. A dog just doesn’t have the kind of mind that can understand things at that level. It wouldn’t have mattered how clear Quin’s explanation was or how many times he repeated it; a dog simply isn’t equipped to understand the details of human speech, much less the principles of electronics.
Then a few days later I got to thinking about something else. It occurred to me that when something bad happens, for instance, when someone we love dies–especially if they die young or tragically–we often set to work trying to figure out why it happened. We rack our brains trying to find the reason that we had to suffer this terrible loss. It’s only natural to want to understand why things happen as they do, but I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to the workings of God . . . man, we are the dog.
Scientists say that we only use at most about 10% of our brain’s potential. Do I actually think that I, with my little 10% brain, can figure out the workings of the all-knowing, all-seeing Creator of all Heaven and Earth, the benevolent Spirit that organizes everything from the tiniest snowflake to the most colossal galaxies? Can my limited mind possibly understand the infinite Power that can bend the laws of time and space to produce astounding miracles? I can’t even figure out how to set the timer on my coffee maker.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to figure out God. Theologians have spent lifetimes trying. God is a fascinating subject. But just as a dog isn’t equipped to understand things at the human level, I don’t think we are equipped to understand things at God’s level.
However, I believe we are perfectly equipped to feel God, to experience God. But it doesn’t happen in our minds; it happens in our hearts. And the path to get from the mind to the heart is love—the love we feel for those who have touched our lives, whether they’re still with us or have moved on. When we take the time to relive the warm memories of those we’ve loved, our hearts can give us a sense of peace that our minds never could. Even better is when we come together, in a spirit of community, to share the love we feel for those who have touched our lives so profoundly.
So we’re not here tonight to try to “make sense” of what happened. Instead, we’re here to share in the experience of opening our hearts with the memories of those who meant so much to us. We may not be equipped to understand the big picture, but we are perfectly equipped to join together in a spirit of love, support and remembrance. After all, even dogs can love.
Thanks to Melissa Lewis for being our Guest Blogger this week! This reflection was part of a memorial service for hospital patients who had died at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, MD, where the author was working at the time. Melissa is now a chaplain at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you enjoyed Melissa’s insights — see you next week! — Rose