I think I was one of the clean-up crew and we'd finally gotten a chance to eat our breakfast.
That was at a little one-year Bible college in Calgary, in 1981. I actually considered my hair to be short.
That was a rough, rough year for many reasons, the biggest of which was the death of a classmate named John Bannerman, and his brother, in a head on collision with a tour bus. The boys had been skiing during March Break and were driving home to Calgary when their car veered into oncoming traffic, killing them both.
The funeral was utterly brutal, as funerals for healthy young men always are. They left behind grieving parents, and a younger sister. After the funeral, and the burial, where a few of Bannerman's friend threw snowballs at his casket, yes, in anger, we convened back at our school to do what 75 college aged people do, talk about our friend, Bannerman.
There were about a dozen guys named John that year, so they all went by their last names.
I distinctly remember the school principal was totally annoyed, and got in deep over his head when someone asked "Why did God let Bannerman die?"
I mean, it's an honest question.
What did that man, who I previously respected, do and say? The look of disgust on his face shook me up, but his answer shut me off.
"It's wrong to ask God why something happens, just accept it!"
You could feel hearts break even more, all around the room. Most of the students were still in the 18-20 year old range. Most of them had brought a favourite blanket or pillow case from home. Some had stuffed animals. And oh, by the way, their friend just died from the impact of hitting a bus at full speed. But go ahead and tell them to just accept it.
I was so angry. So were most of us. The tailspins of behaviour began at that moment. So many were enraged, but too conditioned as church kids and too numbed by shock to say much. I stopped caring about a lot of things that day. I stopped caring what I said and did. I stopped caring about a lot of the people at that school.
It doesn't matter why, just accept it.
Each of us had to deal with Bannerman's death either with a tight knit group of friends, or on our own. I had a fabulous room mate, and we got through the rest of the year, and the ludicrous experience known as Choir Tour. If you want to make a college kid gain weight, put him or her on a choir tour for 2 weeks.
My life went on, and decades passed, and then one day in church, a couple were speaking to the congregation about a horrific car accident that claimed all of their children. They were stuck in traffic, and a semi hit their van from behind. The dad said they never asked God why, they merely accepted those events as His will, and they realized that asking God why was a sin.
I sat there, furious. And feeling terribly guilty. Those weren't my kids, right? So how dare I argue with the father of none?
Here's the thing. Each of us deals with our life events in the manner which our distinctive personalities deal with things.
We are all different. All of us.
Yes, there are moral and physical absolutes. But there are so many shades of blue that each needs its own name.
Here's another absolute: if we are asking with a heart and attitude of respect for our Maker, with an understanding that He is God and thus doesn't fear our hurt, our anger, our curiosity, or our heartbroken rage, it is not and never has been a sin against God to ask Him why.
But oh boy, it sure is a sin to shush a room full of broken hearted friends and tell them to accept it. Why? Because to do so builds a brick wall of guilt between that saddened friend, and the One who has the answers. The answers may never come, but God was and is there to hold us and love us through it.
If that principle had said "I don't know, I'm sorry. I'm as confused as you are", we'd have been all right, and set on a path of caring for each other as we all mourned and talked things through. Instead, he started a whirlwind of doubt that I personally still deal with when accidents happen and people die.
No, I don't doubt my faith. Why? Because Jesus Himself asked God on the cross, "Why have You forsaken me?"
Jesus knew exactly why, but it still hurt. He still died. But He rose again.
If Jesus can cry out "why have You forsaken me?" in absolute agony, then we all can ask God why, whenever we need to.
So? Go ahead and ask why. Petition God with an open heart. He may or may not answer all your questions, but His love knows no end and His arms are strong enough to hold you tight until you can stop crying.
And don't ever let anyone make you feel guilty for asking why, because if God can create heaven and earth, He can deal with a why.