Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chapter Six: God is God

"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them".
Ecclesiastes 12:1
"...and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins ... If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied."
I Corinthians 15:17,19
I will no longer defend the actions of God. I cannot defend what I do not understand. Nor can I defend the integrity of God if it means convincing myself or someone else that the world is essentially good and sweet and God works in some predictable and consistent way to be sure the optimist's glass stays half full. I cannot deny what I have seen.
I'll not bore you with an evening of home movies of the suffering and evils I've witnessed over the years, you have seen it too. Let it suffice to say I've lived long enough for people close to me to die, and they've died too soon, too young, too late and too lonely. I've lived long enough to see unimaginable abuse, to know people's most secret failures, and see people's most dreaded of fears come to pass. I've seen rejection, handicaps, natural disaster and unnatural annihilation. In it all I believed in the integrity and love of God but many times at the expense of my own integrity: I denied much of what was rolling and raging in me because I believed. I truly wanted to believe the problem of evil was all a matter of perspective, the glass is half full. But it was a thin blanket against a bitter cold because smiling at and affirming the fullness does not do away with the emptiness, there is still the place where there is absence. Nor is it the "half full" that is the true issue really, it is the fact of any emptiness at all in the face of a God who seems to promise fullness or at least has the power to deliver it but sometimes does and sometimes does not. I sometimes think it would be easier if he consistently did nothing. There would be a certain comfort to be had in even that hopeless predictability, but I've seen God both show up and stand people up without so much as a clue why.
I now realize that the truth that God said of himself to Moses and Job is the only truth about God I can say with any certainty: "I am the Lord God, I am gracious and but I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." God is saying up front, "I am for all practical purposes capricious and arbitrary. I might bestow mercy but I will do it on my own terms. So be it. End of discussion. No more questions because I'm not giving out answers." Without answers I cannot defend what is ambiguous. I cannot offer uncertainty to anyone as comfort. So all I can be is honest.
These things I have resolved. I will bear witness as plainly as I can, to the good and the evil in the world. I will not deny that at times there is both joy and outrage at God's compassion, joy that someone did find mercy, outrage that not everybody does. I will not deny the sense of betrayal I feel when God does not keep his promises of care, of affirmative answers to prayers said fervently and desperately. I will not deny the sense of abandonment I feel when I see the unchecked evil done in the world, nor the fear knowing it could very well be my child, my friends, my family that might be the next victims. I will no longer presume to tell anyone I know or can even make a wild guess at the divine purposes for either suffering or blessings.
But this I can tell them, this I will affirm: that to believe in God is to have hope there is some divine purpose in it all. I can say that God has never promised he would make sense, only that he is God. If nothing else he has the integrity to tell us up front he's going to do whatever he wants because he is God. I will tell of the most senseless thing he ever did: He showed up here. Not to do away with evil, but to deliver himself over to evil. Instead of showing up to rescue the victims and give the victimizers a sound whacking, he became a victim himself and let them and the plagues and sicknesses and heartaches all go on as if he'd never showed up at all. That is God, take him or leave him.
To take him or leave him is the essence of faith.
He says to us as he is being executed for being God, staring straight in the face of all our incoherence, dissolution and corruption, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing." Either he does or He doesn’t. And either we do or don't buy the resurrection, his promise that there is a vast and holy integrity to it all and we too will someday be redeemed from all this suffering.
For my money, in the end, even if the gospel is all a fairy tale hope at best or a damned lie at worst, it is still more attractive than the hopeless and ghastly promises the world hands me.
I admit I’m buying it.


Anonymous Catharsis said...

A perfect God creates perfect beings and their natural way is perfect.

The need to separate good from evil is itself a statement we are evil. When God us not to eat the fruit in Eden it was now good to obey him and evil to do otherwise. Thus we desire the evil, for the evil is the equal and opposite reaction of the action of choosing Good. For good creates an impossible standard of perfection no one can follow to the letter.

So God chose to make us all imperfect or was imperfect to begin with, and he paid the price on the cross for it.

Gods way is about loving others despite their flaws, and forgiving them, including forgiving God.

But in the grander scheme Do as Thou Wildt shalt be the whole of the Law.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Me, too.

11:28 PM  
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11:07 AM  
Blogger stavros said...

Wow. I sure can relate to this posting. Thanks. My problem is, if I try to maintain faith in the face of life's evil and suffering, I always find myself thanking God for the good and blaming God for the bad. Your final statement pretty much squares up with my own feelings. The alternative to faith is horrendous, terrifying... meaninglessness. Better to cling to an uncertain faith than to relinquish and face up to the world's hard facts? I don't know. I cling to a thread of faith. Barely. Thank you for sharing!

7:57 AM  
Blogger Suzanna said...

I have learned through experience that when, after desperate prayers and pleas to God for help, we do not get the mercy we want and expect it is not because God is capricious; it is because of our own poor judgements and decisions that led up to the situation. Like a good parent, God sometimes allows us to suffer the consequences of our decisions in order to learn and grow. You can't really understand that statement until you've been there. This is true mercy, and not the enabling "compassion" we hope and pray for. It's tough. Growing up to adulthood is tough, and God wants us to become strong adults--not codependent weaklings. Since coming to this understanding of mercy, my prayers have become pleas for help to learn, to grow, to endure the suffering and pain I and my loved ones have brought on ourselves--not pleas for God to "fix it" because I think that's the right thing to do.

5:34 AM  
Blogger s-p said...

Suzanna, The older we get (and I'm getting there...) the better we can see the providence of God both in His presence and "absence" in our pasts. And yes, we are stronger for it all if we have wrestled with God and not given up.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

This is the most honest thing I've read in a long, long time. Forcing one's self to see the glass as half full no matter what is happening is unrealistic. Wrestling with life and with God is part of what it means to be human and to struggle with faith.

3:04 AM  
Blogger Hira Animfefte (Xera Anymphefte) said...

I say something very similar in my Grief Manifesto (written early in my widda blog). I wrote it very early on, when I was in shock and both in agony and strangely detached.

God's God. Take him or leave him. I feel the same way about the Christian faith. I prefer an honest Unitarian to a dishonest Christian.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so appreciate the honesty of your post. Thirty years of serving God and I end up with a chronic illness brought on by, of all things, a TICK! Turned my life upside down. I have no way to explain this. I don't want to defend God any more, either. He is beyond understanding and the older I get, the more I believe that. But as Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go; you have the words of life."

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well articulated. A thought process that I think everyone battles through in their life. So many questions. So many answers. What is the ultimate truth? It's hard sometimes to accept the Christian truth because it is so easily accessible, mass produced, mainstreamed, and marketed. A simple faith is a beautiful thing I wish I never lost.

6:42 PM  

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