Author Archives: MJ Kirby

MJ Kirby ~ Theodicy Lived Out

On Sunday, March 29th our 2015 Confirmation Class waved their palm branches boldly proclaiming,”Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is The One that comes in the Name of the Lord!”

On tiny bent knees, surrounded by the strength of the community of faith, we prayed over each of them that…

The Holy Spirit (would) work within you,

that being born through water and the Spirit,

you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our youngest, Duke, was one of these tender branches grafted into the faith that had been nurtured in him from birth.

Duke took the oath he was making seriously.

A week prior our son wrestled with whether or not he was actually ready to make such a hefty proclamation. His reservation? An unanswered (and I would add unanswerable) question that loomed heavy on his fledgling heart…

“Why did God ‘allow’ his brother to die?”

Join the club, Kid.

Your pondering includes you in great company with theological Giants who have been unable to unravel the perplexing mysteries of God and evil in the world and suffering and death and dying.

Solomon, one of these greats, wrestled with such despairing wonderings…

I, the Teacher, was the king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless–like chasing the wind. What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered. Ecclesiastes 1:12-15

Life doesn’t wait for you to figure it all out.

The very next day after Duke took that historic confirmation leap, pledging to strive to follow Christ all of his earthly days…

He was sucker punched.

And Eddie and I had the *wonderful* parental privilege of fumbling through attempting an explanation to our twelve year old as to why his DeDe took her life.

She was sad. And sick. And not thinking clearly. And made a terrible decision.

Screams of disbelief and horror. Deep guttural cries.

“No! No! Not Dede! Not MY grandmother!”

Deeper sobs of loss. Of lack of understanding.

“Why? Why did she think I didn’t need a grandmother anymore?”

We have no answers. But…

“God loves you. DeDe loves you. We love you. We are sorry.”

And now I’m holding a broken hearted little boy faced once again with a horrific tragedy I cannot explain, and I, too, am wrestling with “Why.”

and “Not Fair.”

and “How Come.”

And “Where were YOU” when this happened?

I shake my fists at God and scream and sob and ask (Beg. Plead. Barter. Bargain.) for a  do-over that can’t be done over.

No answer.

No explanation.

No do-over.

I’m left with thoughts of how Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless Life can seem!

Duke wondered if he could make a vow to follow God after what happened to his brother.

I, too, wonder if I am capable of keeping my vow to serve God, church and community when I have such unanswerable questions haunting my imagination. I wonder if I am “right” for the role of pastoring young people when I feel so completly lost myself? When I am so angry with God. Feel so utterly betrayed. Broken beyond repair. Cast down. Abandoned to the pit of hell.

Returning to the giants, I am reminded of the internal wrestling of The One–you know Jesus Christ–God in skin–that we waved palm branches to honor on Confirmation Sunday…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. – Psalm 22:1-3

And I think…Duke and I are in good company in our perplexed ponderings.

Reprinted with permission from

MJ Kirby ~ Rewriting the Story


Why do we go to the grave?

While I meticulously arranged and rearranged the flowers we had brought with us to adorn the headstone of our second born son, Jeremy, this thought swirled in my imagination. Why am I here? The reality is Jeremy is not here. I certainly don’t believe that his spirit is held captive in the casket we laid his body to rest in 2010. 

My heart sunk. A wave of nauseous energy overtook me. I shuddered imagining what was actually left of his broken body now six feet under along with all the other bodies.  As my eyes scanned headstone upon headstone reaching out to Hwy 90, separating the grave from the water’s edge, I was brought to my knees.  With jealous rage the grave seeks to devour, yet, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” I know that I know that I know the grave cannot contain Jeremy. 
So, why do we make this annual trek to mark Jeremy’s birth, death, Christmas, Easter and other special occasions? I guess somehow in the ritual of the rhythm of returning to the grave we find comfort as we remember. We seek closure. We find consistency.  We seek to make sense out of a situation that otherwise makes little to no sense. We find the death of a child remains. The. death. of. a. child…have you really ever stopped to imagine the brutal life-long implications? 
It’s not just the loss of the child. That’s painful enough to bear. You love that child. You delight in that child. “This is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy.” You are that child. That child is you. Mothers carry that child for nine months. Fathers help to carry mothers as they carry that child for nine long months. That child is so intertwined to who you are it’s as if an eternal umbilical cord connects your souls.  When they leave a piece of your very soul, the connective tissue holding you and that child together rips away, too. 
But there’s more. Parents are the link to the past for the child. The generation upon generation the child was brought forth from. The heritage. Lineage. Pillar the child is building their life upon. Parents hold the familiar stories of old days that are told and retold to the child. In a reciprocal fashion, the child holds the parent’s future in their tiny little hand. 
Oh, the dreams and plans we make in our imaginations for what are children will grow to be? Do? Achieve? We hope, plan, and prepare for them to go further than us. We willing sacrifice in order for them to have a  better life than us. We long for them to grow in knowledge and stature and far exceed us. We create stories in our mind filled with us helping our children along the journey.  We “see” ourselves loading them up in their car and sending them off to college as we silently weep. We envision ourselves sheltering them from heartache when their first serious relationship  breaks apart. We are there when they enter the workforce, cheering them on. We see ourselves a nervous wreck as they take the hand of their loved one and vow “til death do us part. ” We sit in the waiting room, anticipating yet another generation that will be a branch in our family’s tree. And we feel the warmth of Christmas after Christmas gathered around the fireplace telling and retelling the stories of old that link us to our past, and provide a foundation that will take us into our preferred future, together.
All those carefully ordered dreams that felt like definites are suddenly, violently ripped away.  A branch is torn from the tree. With the shattering of the future dreams comes the equally disturbing ripping away of the innocent, yet blissfully ignorant, sense of security, hope and promise that the future would hold uninhibited blessing. Now, you are left with your family tree missing a branch that cannot be replaced or reformed. A wound in your heart for the child you are missing in the everyday present, but also you are tasked with the daunting reality of recreating a new vision of a family future. A future, if you are completely honest with yourself, that you are not looking as forward to journeying through because someone is missing from the story. Your story. You scramble to begin to rewrite the story. You have a spouse. Other children perhaps. The story must go on…
There is nothing left to do but muster up the courage to journey on. To write new chapters. To sing new songs. Not clinging too tightly to a vision of what you think should be. Nor getting stuck in the past of what could have been.  In ninja-like fashion you become keenly aware that all we have is now. Today. This moment. This breath.
So you embrace this fleeting moment. Breathe in all its complexities. Embrace the joy, as well as the pain.  Be still as the winds of change blow you onward. Living in the moment, loving extravagantly, and laying your head down at night thankful for what you do have.
Reprinted with permission from