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"Can't Never Could"

Chaplain Julia Cadenhead

I was often given to restlessness and boredom as most teenagers are. And, I complained a lot. "I don't have anything fun to do." "There's nothing good on T.V." "I don't have anything to wear." "No body wants to go anywhere!" But, my Granny Griner had an answer for me.

I never crossed granny. She was a crusty old bird. She loved me fiercely, though, I could tell. She took good care of me and my sister when we stayed over at her house on the occasional weekend.

I'm sure it was exasperation on her part. But I also think she knew exactly what she was doing. "Can't never could" she'd snap at me. Like I say, I knew when to stop whining and get on with business when it came to granny. I must admit, she did have to say those words to me more than once. Well, to be truthful, more that eight or ten times over those years.

Can't never could. Early on I wasn't too sure what she meant other than I should stop complaining. Over time it began to sink in. I have come to understand the mystery in my granny's words is that I have some power and some responsibility in any given situation. In other words, much depends on how I perceive a situation and how I live it out.

I learned it when I began to see that life often presents "can't" situations. Some minor in scope some major and devastating. And, complaint is a part of the human condition. Religious writer and thinkers refer to these situations as a 'dark night of the soul." What do you do when you hit an impasse in life? What do you do when there are no good answers to the trouble?

We are in good company. Ezekiel looked out over the valley of dry bones - standing. as it were, by the grave of his hopes and dreams for the Hebrew nation. He faced a situation in which the possibility of recovery was ruled out in advance. God asks Ezekiel, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel's response? "O Lord God, Thou knowest." Hummm. That seems easy enough, but truly it isn't.

But no where in Scripture is there a more dynamic figure than that of the prophet Jeremiah. "God," he says, "why does the way of the wicked prosper - thou seest me and triest my mind toward thee." Everything that could go wrong in his life - had! I mean there was NO good news for him.

Here we see Jeremiah not as the courageous proclaimer of God's Word, but as a lonely, sensitive, suffering man who is pouring out his heart before God. And, to this outburst of a deeply wounded heart we hear God respond in this way: "If you have raced with men on foot and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?"

It is a shocking response from God. Why would Jeremiah be required to 'buck up' in such a situation? But what God offers to Jeremiah is something far beyond an attitude change. God offers something far beyond a quick fix or simple solution. God's responses to Jeremiah in this instance demonstrate an invitation to dialogue. God invites him to a personal relationship. One in which Jeremiah can talk through his hopes and dreams, needs and desires - his future.

God didn't make us to be drones. . .mindless robots with no feelings. It is our sense of responsibility and free will that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. We have the ability to allow God's spirit draws us closer.

Out of this dialogue comes sustaining power for life. When we, as God's people, are willing to allow God to be part of our struggle with our 'dark nights' God will - in a way that is tailor made to each one of us - deliver us through that darkness. God won't leave us alone. We can be transformed in ways we might never have dreamed.

Jeremiah was. Ezekiel was. And, you can be too!