I think Thursdays are going to be hard. At least until swim team wraps up. By Thursday, I’m done. Thankfully, we can sleep in a little bit on Fridays. Sleep is always good.
I’m more tired than usual today because I had great difficulty shutting off my brain last night as I tried to go to sleep. I was thinking about this blog post. Hopefully I will remember most of what kept me awake for hours last night.
You might want to grab an extra handful of peanut M&Ms. I’m going philosophical today.
OK. Here goes.
A comment posted last week got me thinking. No, not about the benefits of homeschooling (sorry, Anne), but about the complexity of life and how it is so rarely black and white – as much as we’d love it to be, it’s simply not – as well as my…ummm…distaste for simple answers to complex questions and people who seem to have it all figured out with a one-size-fits-all mentality. “My way or the highway” just doesn’t work for me.
(Yes, of course, there are a handful of non-negotiables. Beth Moore calls these “spine issues” – the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, salvation through the Cross – and then there are “rib issues” – all the other theological issues that we tend to disagree upon but ultimately don’t make a hill of beans difference.)
Back when I was young and stupid, life was very black and white. I had a very clear sense of right and wrong, of God and Satan, of good and bad. Every question had an answer to be found in Sunday school. And (regrettably), I’d tell you all about it.
Back when I was young and stupid.
In the middle of being young and stupid, God decided to shake things up a bit. During my junior year of college, He thrust me into a giant spiritual vacuum where, as Richard Foster explained in his book on prayer, God removed my awareness of His presence. Not His actual presence – just my awareness of it.
Think about that. I thought God had abandoned me completely. That’s what it felt like. I can’t explain the feeling other than it was excruciatingly painful.
And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I was forced to rethink everything I thought I knew. Suddenly there weren’t any easy answers anymore. Man, was I ticked.
Slowly, God restored His presence and redeemed my ignorance. Slowly, He rebuilt my faith and forced me to reconcile that He – and life in general – are bigger than the cute little box I forced them both into.
And during the last several years, life has shown me more and more painful shades of gray. The lines between good and evil, right and wrong are much harder to discern. Not that I don’t think that good and evil don’t exist and not that I don’t believe God is the source of all truth – but more that good and evil are much harder to understand. And God? Can’t figure Him out to save my life.
Here’s an example.
A very good friend of mine was in a really awful marriage. It was literally killing her. Her body was falling apart from the stress of it. She prayed, she went to counseling, he prayed, he went to counseling – but things just kept getting worse. She was a wreck.
We all prayed for healing. We all prayed for God to redeem their marriage and their family – to take that which was a broken disaster and make something beautiful.
They divorced. And her physical body? Immediately healed. Her stress level? Incredibly reduced. Is it painful? Absolutely. Is she a million times healthier and happier? Undeniably.
Both she and I are completely baffled. We both know that divorce breaks the heart of God. It’s not something He endorses or encourages or often permits. That’s what He says.
So what’s up with this? How do I reconcile what I see with what I know?
(It’s a rhetorical question. Please please pleeeeease don’t offer me a simple explanation.)
Michael and I are both reading a One Year Bible. Every day, we read an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, a psalm and a proverb. (For the record, on June 17 I am up to the reading for May 12. Don’t judge. We moved. I was a little busy.) And for both of us, doing this reading raises more questions than it provides answers. For instance, what’s up with all the concubines and multiple wives? And all the bloodshed and slaughter of innocents – commanded by God Himself? God seems really…mean. And unlikeable. Even though I know and absolutely believe He has been and continues to be the same God throughout all the ages, I kinda like the New Testament God-of-grace better than the wrathful Old Testament God-of-vengeance. Even some of the Gospel passages make me go “huh?”
I just don’t get it. And here’s the thing. I don’t have to understand it. I don’t have to have all the answers. It is perfectly OK to say “I don’t know.” Maybe there are questions that will eventually be answered, but if they’re not, I can live with that. I’m still trusting that God is who He says He is, that the Bible is true, that I will always belong to Him.
I’ve had several people ask me why Christian fiction is on my list of “Things I Loathe.” With the exception of Redeeming Love, I have yet to read a Christian fiction novel that does not offer platitudes and simple explanations and then wrap things up in a neat little package. They could all be subtitled, “Everything I Know I Learned in Sunday School.” It makes me nauseous. Life just isn’t that simple. Life is complex and horribly messy and profoundly confusing. I think it’s OK to acknowledge that. I am endlessly put off by folks who pretend otherwise.
So there ya go. I’m done now. Stepping off the soap box. Taking off my philosopher’s cap.
Diving into a
second third fourth handful of peanut M&Ms.