Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Good God or bad God or no God?

Before I begin this post, I want to state that there are a lot of things I don't know, a lot of questions for which I am still seeking answers. Anybody who has been reading my blogs for any length of time knows that I have struggled with my faith as a Christian. There are many reasons for this. There are some good reasons, and there are some bad reasons.  But there is one thing that is not a cause of my struggles, and that is what happened to Michaela.

Recently I saw a post on Instagram, and on Facebook, about how if God does exist he is a petty tyrant and doesn't care about people or what is going on in the world, and that if he was real, the writer would rather go to hell. What was really disturbing about this was that it was posted by my son. My son who was once training to be a youth pastor. I remember when my little boy grew into a young man, and I would sit a few rows behind him in church. I would see his hands, grown so large to fit his 6'3" frame, raised in worship, and it would literally move me to tears of joy. I watched his spiritual growth with delight for years.

Then came the time of leaving.

I left first. It had been one of the very worst seasons of my life. Jaycee Dugard had been found, and I had so earnestly believed that finding her would mean finding Michaela. When my husband woke me up early that morning to tell me about Jaycee, I leaped up and told him, "We have to get the kitchen painted before Michaela comes home!" That had been followed by over a month of the most intense search for Michaela, as our investigators moved in on the property where Jaycee had been found and literally tore it down looking for any evidence that Michaela had been there, as they brought in search dogs and dug possible gravesites. It had also been physically exhausting, as I spent many days traveling out to the property to watch the efforts of our investigators. The story of Jaycee's recovery was huge, and yet Jaycee was not talking to the media. The media therefore, turned to me, and I was called on to do the early morning New York news/talk shows, and the late evening west coast shows. I'd be picked up at 3:00 in the morning to go to a local studio, often arriving at a building that was closed, locked and dark, and I'd have to find a way in. In the middle I'd travel in the heat of the day to the Antioch property where the investigation was being carried on, and where media camped out. It was all worth it. It is a large part of why Michaela's case is so well known today, 27 years after her kidnapping. But it was completely exhausting. And in the end, it yielded nothing, or at least not what I'd hoped. Having been really convinced for the first time since she'd been kidnapped that I might actually see her alive again, it was a devastating, devastating let down. I fell into the deepest depression of my life. And in the midst of that depression, I woke up one day and said not that I was angry at God, not that he had let me down in some way, not that he had let Michaela down in some way, but rather that suddenly Christianity didn't make any sense. There were some things in the background of my life, like flies that were hard to see but easy to hear buzzing, that added to this fall from faith. But regardless, I fell.

I left church, but my son was still there. At first he was shocked, and asked me questions and gave me answers, which I kind of laughed off. Yet one thing I knew was that I didn't want him to lose his faith. There were times I actually wept over the possibility of my son losing his faith. I remember at the time asking myself why this was. If I honestly thought that Christianity didn't make any sense, if I honestly thought it was wrong, then why on earth would I want my own child to be involved in it? And yet I did, very deep down in my heart. Even as I fell, I recognized this as significant. I recognized this as an indication that perhaps I really did believe.

But my son left, too, about two months after I did. He will swear to you that my leaving church had nothing at all to do with him leaving, but I know that is not true. I know that there were other things at play in his decision, but if I had not put those cracks in the foundation, I think it would have held against those other things.

I have since returned to my faith, dragging along with me a lot of those questions that I accumulated along the way. If I am a wave tossed on the ocean, they are strands of seaweed tied to my ankles. I am kicking and swimming despite that. Will they drag me down again? It is my intention to get to solid enough ground to be able to cut them away. Believe me, I am in search of the truth. There is so much in our world today that gets wrapped up with Christianity that just doesn't belong there. It is a religion, a faith, a state of heart, it is love. It is not politics, and it is a grave mistake to allow what the world has made of Christianity to dilute its true meaning.

The pertinent question is, why did I return to my faith? The answer is, God called me. God calls me, and tugs on my heart, and I resist. Why? Well, that's a completely different subject, which doesn't really fit in this blog entry. But God is difficult to resist when he really wants you, and I melt into his heart. God doesn't just call me, however. He answers me. I have had so many prayers answered. It's funny the way he does it. Sometimes it's just a big, direct answer, but even then it will often take me a minute to recognize: "Oh! Look at that! That is exactly what I prayed for!" So often, though, something will happen in life, and because I am slow on the uptake it may take me a little while to realize its importance, and how it ends answering a prayer of mine in a way I had never imagined. Yes, I'd love to give you examples of all these things, but honestly they involve other people whose privacy I have to respect. It has been more than sufficient for me to believe that God does hear, and does answer my prayers.

That leaves the big question, though, doesn't it? Why didn't God answer my prayers about Michaela? I can't tell you the definitive answer to that right now. One day, when the story has reached its conclusion, I think I probably will be able to, but at this moment, I just don't have the information. I don't even have Michaela's side of it. Did God answer her prayers? I don't know. Just because the prayers were not answered in the exact way I thought they should be does not mean they were ignored. And is there some great, high purpose in it? This morning in my Bible study I happened to be reading the story of Joseph, one of my favorites in the Bible, for obvious reasons. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, who then told his father that he had been killed by wild animals. His father grieved for many years over the loss of Joseph, who had been his favorite son. Meanwhile, Joseph had been highly favored by God and had risen to become the overseer for the entire land of Egypt. Having interpreted Pharaoh's dreams to mean that there would be several years of plenty, followed by several years of famine, Joseph had been put in charge of the land in order to set aside enough food to weather the famine. Joseph's brothers traveled from the land of Canaan to Egypt to buy food for their families, and eventually Joseph revealed to them who he was, and asked them to bring the whole family to live in the land of Goshen so that he could provide for them during the five years of famine yet to come. The evil thing that had befallen Joseph had turned out for good, as he was able to save the lives of many, including his family. Meanwhile, Joseph's father, Jacob, was told that his son was alive, and his heart stood still. I can never read this without it bringing tears of joy to my eyes. Jacob's son, who he thought was dead, was alive, and he went to him, and the Bible says they fell into each other's arms and wept. (Genesis 45-46 if you want to read it yourself.)

What great good could be accomplished by God allowing Michaela to be kidnapped and by not answering my prayers to bring her home? I don't know, any more than Jacob knew in all those years that his "dead" son was living in Egypt, building up stores of grain that would keep Jacob and his family alive during the famine. That I don't know doesn't mean it cannot be true. When I say that God "allowed" Michaela to be kidnapped, please don't confuse that with God "causing" her to be kidnapped. We live in this world, and we co-exist with evil, and all parties possess free will. The Bible tells us that "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28) We know that not all our prayers are going to be answered. There are some things that must be. We all must die, sometime, some way. Because of that we can't all be healed always. We can, however, have faith that death is not the end, that there is something better. I can have that faith for Michaela. I can believe that we will ultimately be reunited, and in the span of eternity our suffering here will become small, but perhaps the good it may have done will become great, even if that good amounts to the touching of just one small, hurting soul, and bringing about healing and reconciliation.

My son concluded that his faith had been based on nothing but "emotions." To that I say, yeah? So? On the basis of "emotions" you believe in another person sufficiently to commit your entire life to them in marriage. On the basis of "emotions" you invest your heart and soul into a child. Through "emotions" you create great art. And if God reaches out and touches you, it will generate "emotions" for sure! It will also generate change in your life. If your faith is weak, God will provide what you need to make it strong. In the end, a lot of our questions are probably dumb and not really questions at all. They are just things we hang onto that would be better left behind. Because of my nature I am still pursuing them, and if I get answers I will share them, either here, or on my other blog, at www.just-sharon.com. But in the meantime, just as I have never fully understood how the internet works yet I continue to post blogs on it, I will continue to seek God's will.

To those who doubt, just look at the night sky. Does it go on forever? And ever? And ever? How can that be? How can that not be? Think about time, this moment you are in, with moments stretching out before and after, endlessly. Our minds cannot begin to comprehend these things, which must be so. Look at all that exists and wonder, how could this all have come from abso-frickin-lutely nothing? All our questions about the existence of God pale in comparison to the questions that must be asked about existence itself, period. Just be willing to ask the questions, and then be willing to hear the answers. I would include my son in this challenge. Don't assume you know things you don't know, even if they are questions. Our brains are limited. Our hearts are infinite.

Michaela, when you were a child I told you that if ever you needed help and I was not there to help you, you should ask God, and he would help you. My greatest desire is to one day hear how he did that.

I love you forever, baby girl. I feel in this moment the first time I held you in my arms, and I feel the next time I will hold you in my arms. God bless you, my love. If you are still here on this earth, remember that God has never stopped loving you, and neither have I.

mom

29 comments:

  1. I love your heart...I love your honesty and transparency. I pray for God to be merciful and allow you to hold your baby girl in your arms again while still on this earth. May He return her to you just as He did Joseph to his father. Praying, praying, praying ♡

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    1. Jolynne, I agree with you in prayer

      Thelma Mandera

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  2. unbelievable.
    no words Sharon.
    with love,
    Rivkah

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  3. You have such a way with words. It was hard to read this because it made me cry hard. You have stayed strong in the fact that you have never quit. I think sometimes we think strength is people who stayed strong and kept the course. However the last few months has taught me something different. I think the people who cry and brake down are still strong. The people with the biggest hearts fall the hardest. I have followed your story for years and I anticipate the new beginning to this story for the questions to be answered and a new start. Edelweiss

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  4. That was the most beautiful and sincere writings ever. I pray for the answers. Bless you.

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  5. Such beautiful powerful writing Sharon.
    Hugs,
    SR Mom

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  6. Katie Callaway Hall, the woman who was rescued in a Reno storage facility where Phillip Garrido was holding her captive and raping her, told me that the police said he had things there that proved he was going to kill her after he was done raping her, and it was likely he had other storage units under different names. He kept souvenir photos in a hidden album that his first wife knew about and concealed from the police. And, Katie said she has met other women and GIRLS attacked by Garrido - who were too frightened to come forward to report it. How many others did Phillip Garrido kidnap with a car, rape, murder? Over 70% of kidnappings involve a vehicle.

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    1. Garrido was thoroughly investigated by our police department, and finally and eventually extensively interviewed and polygraphed, along with his wife. Our investigators have said that unless someone was dead or in jail on November 19, 1988, they are never completely eliminated, but they are satisfied that he was not involved in Michaela's kidnapping.

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    2. Dearest ( Sharon ) I've been encouraged by your writings on this. I plan to keep reading this blog in the future. May God continue HIS strength in you. You are so willing to give out even though you ( temporarily ) feel loss. Wherever Michaela is, God knows. I'll keep her in my prayers. As a matter of fact. I'm going to stop typing right now and pray for her....ok, I'm back. May the Lord continue strengthening you...
      Charles

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    3. Sharon, you've encouraged me today... Thank you. - Charles

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  7. Dear Ms Murch

    What is the update right now with the investigation ? I want this case solved so badly , at this point I want that animal who took her caught , castrated and jailed with prison justice

    A concerned citizen

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    1. The thing about updates in the investigation is that they don't generally release them to the public. In fact, they don't generally release too much information to the family. My previous detective was really good about doing that, but he has retired. Honestly, knowing about some of the things that were going on and waiting for the results with my imagination in full gear has been so hard on me that I told them I didn't want to know all the details. There are a couple of things I know about that seem to be dragging, but those are things I can't really talk about because it could compromise the investigation if the guilty parties knew about them. So there just isn't much I can tell you. Sorry.

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  8. So the rainbow market is gone and is now an Autozone. (I think that is what the market was called.) Does the scene where micheala was kidnapped from being gone make you feel like the world has moved on? I'm basically the same age as Micheala and that area was my old stomping ground. The kidnapping was big news back then and cant believe it is still unsolved.

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  9. A-Bomb, you are thinking of the wrong market. I know there was a Rainbow Foods over on Harder, but that is not where Michaela was kidnapped. She was kidnapped at Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard south of Industrial, almost to Whipple. It is in south Fairway Park, directly across from Chapel of the Chimes. The market is still there, but has been called Mexico Super for many, many years now. If you drive by there you will see that in the parking lot there is a scrubby tree growing next to the building, which happens to be right next to the parking space where the kidnapper was parked, which has yellow ribbons on it from many years past.

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  10. Happy Easter, Sharon! It is Easter morning and there are yellow daffodils placed on the altar of the First Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey, in honour of Michaela. I don't know you except through your posts but under different circumstances and with less space between us, I feel we could have been two people that enjoyed knowing each other. Regardless, I just wanted you to know that I'm sending you happy, loving thoughts today and that Michaela is in the prayers of the First Baptist Church of Trenton. :) Jeanne Johnson, organist, choir director. (But not a stuffy organist, choir director!)

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    1. Thank you Jeanne! Yellow daffodils are perfect for Michaela. Happy Easter to you as well! What songs are you singing today?

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    2. For the first time in thirty years, I am not playing the Easter Service. One of my daughters just bought a farm (for her horse!)and I always provide the egg hunt for the grandkids. There are twelve. Don't ask me how that happened, as I am not quite sure. :)
      So I'm off to her house, stress free and grateful for the farm, the kids, the deviled eggs and everything else.
      Traditionally, we sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" as it is one of my favourites and "Christ Arose." Every year. And I never tire of them. I am hoping that somebody took a picture of the front of the church for me and, if I can get a copy, I will send it to you. Michaela's name is listed in our bulletin and people always ask me about her. I feel (a tad but a tad only!) guilty for not going to church today but Easter Sunday stresses me to the max - I don't particularly care for limelight either - and I'm treating myself. I hope you have a wonderful day.
      Much love,
      j.
      p.s. I'm trying to figure out who gets Michaela's flowers to plant; they are being brought to me. So far, my daughter with the green thumb and the farm is winning but if somebody else begs for them, I'll consider it.

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  11. The other night I watched an episode of Disappeared. It was about a person name Pat Viola who went missing in Feb 2001. The authorities found her body 17 months later on July 27, 2002...Her family was not notified until Sept 2012!!
    From the time she vanished her case was open, active with tons of leads pouring in...Since Pat had disappeared from New Jersey and her remains were found in New York, the two agencies didn't connect the two case...It blows my mind that for 11 years this woman's family continued to search, hold out hope, have rally's on the anniversary she went missing, law enforcement actively work an open case and tracking down leads...All the while her remains are in a morgue 70 miles away!!! It’s bad enough any family has to go through having a loved one go missing. Her family wasn’t notified until Sept 2012 when the “remains’ were finally “processed.”
    To make the family suffer over a decade because some peon file clerk or detective in a different state didn't cross reference the unidentified remains in his or her state with national missing database.. Shame on those New York employees for what they put that family through all those years... The system in this country (America) is sadly broken... Sharon I remember reading here on your blog, something to the effect of Michaela's DNA had been collect from some items & placed into the "System" in case she was found..Sadly Pat Viola is one of literally thousands of Americans who have gone missing in America & have been found and remains are being "housed" for years or decades before the information is literally keyed into the system and cross referenced. Sharon, I love your optimize in life & wanted to hold out hope..(No disrespect indented.) Have you ever considered? Contacting some of the “housing centers” to be 100% certain Michaela isn’t there waiting to be keyed in/processed/found?

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  12. I know what happened.....

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  13. Dear Ms Murch

    I wish you are having a very happy year this time , I follow everything your blog , your Facebook page on Michaela , for me this animal who took michaela that day must be hunted down if justice must prevail . I hope you have also heard about Janice pockett,s case . Two blonde young women kidnapped , children are easy targets to all predators. I don't doubt that your sons would have grown into strong adult men now , and the evil animal would have become a weak pathetic old man if he is alive . I wish there is atleast a death bed confession from that animal if he has honor and wants to save his soul ,the lord is watching
    I hope hayward cracks this case, I am praying that every day and beyond prayers Iam ever vigilant and looking for anyone resembling that blonde ugly man (creature/animal) on 1988 hayward

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  14. You have not written in a while, are you still alive? I was thinking in case something were to happen to you, maybe you could give one of your kids the password to this blog as to keep us updated, I know you made this for Michaela but I come here almost daily. Can I ask you a question, in your heart do you feel Michaela is still out there or is she at peace? I feel like she is out there, she is always on my mind. I am a mom of 3, my oldest is 12. I am a yearyounger than Michaela and I live in Canada I always say if I win the lottery I want to come out there and find her.

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    1. I am still here. I know I haven't written here in awhile. Sometimes it is just hard to. I have another blog where I write about other things, which sometimes end up being about Michaela too. It is at www.SharonNemethMurch.com, if you want to check up on me. As for your question, I just really don't know. I really don't. 😕

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    2. Its like all the time, I dont know maybe because I read a lot of these kinds of cases but who knows. I just think about her a lot, been following this blog for a few years now. I mean they never found her body and that I think is what gives me hope in thinking she is alive somewhere, Plus the Jaycee Dugard case. Im not sure if I remember correctly but wasn't phillip Garridos car hidden in his yard all those years, well they never found the car (the car they think she was taken in, Michaela I mean) that was described, so I wonder if she is still in California somewhere would the car be there too, hidden in someones yard? I am sure there are a lot of cars that look like that one, but hey you never know right? I bet no one thought Jaycee would be as close as she was. Was the car headed for Union City? Whoever took her had to have been from around the area, they knew where they were going and I just feel like they did not go that far. I know Im not a cop or anyone helpful, but its just one of those things you know. Sorry, I am rambling on.

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    3. Well, unfortunately none of those things can be assumed. There is nothing to indicate the guy was local. I tend to think if he was from the neighborhood he would have turned left out the back of the parking lot so he could have disappeared down the main backstreet and emerged on Mission Boulevard out of sight, instead of driving clear around the perimeter of the sizable parking lot at the market, in clear view of the eyewitness and anybody who might respond if she called for help. But even if he was, there are millions of people here and we have thousands of leads, so how do we find him? As for the car, it must have gone somewhere, but we don't even know the make or model so it isn't a clue that is going to lead us anywhere. Jaycee was found 160 miles from where she was kidnapped, which encompasses a huge search area. In other words, there are no answers, just endless questions.

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  15. I happened upon this website today... sitting at my desk at work browsing through Yahoo news stories... I found one about missing children. Your Michaela was one of the children featured. All of the children were beautiful and it broke my heart looking at them. But there was something special about Michaela's photo and story that made me look for more information. I found this website and read your incredible words. You have a gift and your writing has truly touched my heart and mind. One thing I can say for sure, your love for your children is clear.

    I am 36 years old and I have two daughters; Piper is almost 6 and Parker is 4. When I became a mother something inside of me grew heavy. I have struggled with anxiety. I like to be in control, and being a parent... loving another person so completely... has made me feel the most out of control I've ever felt. You've probably heard the phrase Helicopter Parent? Well that would be a kind way to describing me. I worry constantly that something bad will happen to one of my girls. Abduction being at the top of that list. I sometimes wake from a dead sleep and crawl in bed between my girls because I start imagining horrible things that could happen to them. When I say my heart aches for you and all you've endured since your daughter was taken, I mean it with every part of my soul. I wish I could go back in time and change what happened. For you. For Michaela.

    I started going to church and really seeking God about a year ago. I do not come from a religious family, but I've always prayed and considered myself spiritual. Having children opened my eyes more to just how incredible life is. How amazing the planet is. How intricate and exact human existence is. A voice inside kept whispering "How can you have doubts that this... all of THIS... is anything but purposeful?" I started going to church and growing closer to God and it helps me fight the fear and anxiety that I know the enemy uses to attack my faith. When I read this post I felt you were speaking directly to me. I sensed God's plan and I began to pray for your daughter, who I have never met, like I was praying for my own. I was moved to tears. I wish they could wash away even a very small piece of the pain you feel.

    I almost did not post this comment. I rarely leave comments online... because what is one more voice in the sea of voices on the Internet? But this time I decided to reach out. Maybe reading about how your words touched someones life will make a difference in your day. Maybe it will help you feel less alone for a moment. So for whatever it is worth, know there is someone in the world (Texas to be exact) who is praying for you and your family. I pray that your son finds his faith again. I pray that there are answers soon in your search for Michaela. I pray that Michaela, wherever she is, feels your love and God's love all around her.

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    1. Thank you, Rachel. That was really touching! My youngest daughter has a five month old baby and she sent me an article lately by a woman who described the ways in which fears about all the ways in which her child could be killed or injured invaded her thoughts. I understand believe me. It is something I have been thinking of writing about, child safety for the anxious parent. In the end you have to just remember, your fear does nothing at all to keep your child safe, so you might as well let it go. Live smart, live joyfully. That's my two cents. :)

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  16. Rachel I think my finger on my cell phone accidentally deleted your most recent comment. Sorry! Let me know what you think of the book. I came to worry that it would turn the kids into little neurotics. It's like you can't win for losing.

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  17. Read the book. I thought it had good advice that children should hear. I plan to read it to my girls and talk to them about listing to her smart voice. Thank you.

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  18. Dear Sharon,
    I remember seeing the signs with Michaela's info on BART back when I was in 7th grade. It was something that stuck with me as a young child and that I never forgot. I loved her name and ended up naming my own daughter Mikaela (Dad changed the "ch" to a "k") many years later. I think of Michaela from time to time and now that I know this investigation is still open, will be praying fervently for her and for your family. I will also be praying for your son. I find Ephesians 1:13 encouraging when I think of my sister, who had a similar falling away from her faith. It's so hard to understand this fallen world. May God bless your family, and may He lead your daughter back to you.

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