Baby Lewiston's Good, Angry Mother

Lewiston
Jessica Olstad

Baby Lewiston is one awfully cute baby. Wow. All babies are special, but this little guy is picture-perfect.

He seems to be perfect, that is. But as a recent Context segment shows, he has a terrible neurological problem (SMA Type 1) that almost certainly will take his life before his second birthday.

Baby Lewiston has a good mom. Spend five minutes with her, and you can see that. She keeps him close without smothering him. She can talk to the interviewer while never losing touch with her boy. She loves her husband and is determined to let nothing break their marriage: not a broken tiny son; not even a broken heart.

And Lewiston’s mom trusts God—the God who let her precious baby’s body fail to generate some pretty basic proteins, a failure that invariably leads to increasing motor loss and eventual death.

She trusts this God—the God who has let it happen and is still letting this happen, when he could have prevented it and even now could alter it with a miracle.

No wonder that Lewiston’s mom says she is angry with God. She believes in God so rightly and thoroughly that she knows exactly whom to blame, unlike those would-be defenders of God who say, “God wants everything to be good, but can’t make it so” (When Bad Things Happen to Good People), which makes God out to be horrifyingly hapless.

Perhaps even worse, others will try to comfort her by saying, “God loves your baby so much that God wants Lewiston home with him,” which makes God out to be unspeakably selfish.

No, Baby Lewiston has a good mom. And like good people throughout history, and throughout the Bible itself, she gets angry with God in the face of horrible suffering.
“How could you do this?” is a perfectly appropriate question for God, even when we know we likely won’t get an answer.

For God doesn’t always connect the dots, show us the outcomes, and demonstrate why this Bad Thing had to happen in order that a Greater Good would come.

But that’s why Christians go to church, in churches with crosses on them and in them. They worship a God whose own Son was doomed to die a premature death, having done nothing to deserve it. They venerate a God who submits to suffering, and even submits his favourites to suffering, in order to produce a more beautiful, more joyful outcome than would be possible if God didn’t.

That’s the Christian hope. The hope that none of this suffering is meaningless, and that all of it—including every moment of Baby Lewiston’s distress and every moment of his parents’ agony—counts for good.

And she believes that there are worse things for the Christian than death, or grieving the death of a loved one: failing to do our part when we are called by God to contribute something difficult to God’s difficult project of saving the world.

And she believes that death is not the end. She will see her little guy again, and forever.

Lewiston’s good mom may never know why she, and her husband, and her family, and her baby had to suffer so much. But she knows that suffering, including the suffering of her own God, has been necessary to accomplish what simply must be done.

So she is understandably angry on behalf of her loved ones, since that anger comes from a protective, loving heart.

And she believes, and trusts, and obeys anyway, because she believes in the one God who knows exactly how she feels, and who is doing everything possible to make sure that as soon as possible no one will ever, ever have to feel this way again.

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 700 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book is scheduled for release later this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).