Home » exploring the gray » Get comfy on The Couch. I’m getting philosophical.

Get comfy on The Couch. I’m getting philosophical.

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.

He didn’t.

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.


7 thoughts on “Get comfy on The Couch. I’m getting philosophical.

  1. I know, I know…you said no easy answers. Well, it's not easy, but it has helped me understand the divorce of my two best friends from UMHB in recent days…as far as reconciling.Anthropology always trumps theology. Our theology (black and white) is great until we know someone (ourselves included) who experiences something outside of what we think is "white." God is love, God is a god who loves. God is a god who loves right where we are, no matter where we are. But, sin makes things very, very messy (and I'm not talking about a particular sin or person..just the brokenness of the world idea). Things aren't always ideal, even when we seek God and want to do what we feels honors him. Sometimes we just have to admit that we need a mulligan, a do-over, a start over from scratch. I believe God loves and comforts and is present in the midst of the "plan B's" of life. It's a journey that takes twists and turns. The bueaty is havingwalked the journey well whatever was on the path (or not on the path, but in our way!). So, I don't have answers because I'm there with you. However, for me, real life experience tends to shape the lens through which I view theology. After all, we we serve a God who became human, who entered into humanity as he revealed himself.

  2. From one baffled person to another – I totally agree. Life is so very confusing. Regardless of black/white, right/wrong, lawful/unlawful, my heart's desire is to please my Lord. I say "my" Lord because it resonates how close my heart is to Him – my master, my leader, my counselor, my cheerleader, my redeemer. To me, he's not just a distant God who sits on His throne throwing the rule book at me. But rather, He is right here with me, closer than my very own breath.Have you ever loved someone so much that pleasing them brings you the most pleasure and satisfaction? Have you ever loved someone so much that your own heart breaks in two when your actions breaks their heart? I can totally understand where your friend is coming from. How confusing it is to make a choice to leave her husband, which God's law clearly states is wrong, and then experience a mysterious blessing from the very choice that is unlawful. Maybe what your friend experienced was God's grace. God sees behind our eyes, deep into our hearts & motivations. Maybe he saw her heart breaking too.For me, the only thing that matters is to live a life that makes "my" God smile. I don't want to follow the rules just because it's the right thing to do, but because I want to make my Lord happy & proud of his child. The child who adores him. I'm getting a vision of a puppy dog who is so excited to be with his master, please his master, do what his master wants him to do. I am that puppy dog! Regardless of the "color" of my choices, I desire to live the kind of life that provides a fragrant offering, which floats up to the nostrils of my King. For he is the only one in the world who reminds me that I am deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted and complete in Him. No matter what.Jennifer, thank your for writing down your thoughts & sharing it with the rest of us. Reading this post and responding to it has brought me back to into my Lord's warm embrace. You see, the guilt I've been carrying as a result of a recent "gray" choice has relegated me to the corner of God's throne room, not allowing myself to draw close to Him or vice versa. How refreshing & comforting it is to sit in my daddy's lap again. By the way, Redeeming Love is one of my favorite books too only because I can soooo relate!!!

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