I keep telling myself to retain from writing. It is my weakness. My wife is right that my writing is done, mostly for me, and that’s okay. It is more like working your own head-thoughts outside on a storyboard, so that you can connect the dots visually . . . or to find out that the dots are not connectable. I know that everyone has a blog, most are fantastic with lots of good work (without so many typos). I’ve always thought it would be funny scene in a movie where a woman, say in her 40’s or 50’s is sitting in an airport talking to another stranger. She says, “You may have heard of my son, Joe, he has a blog.”
I spent the first 1/2, (I was going to say 1/3 but now it may be 1/2 now), of my life as a typical American Evangelical. I will not even digress into that story at this juncture (covered well in Butterflies in the Belfry). Now, I find myself, in some ways, at the other end of the spectrum, although still a Christian. But I don’t even like to use the term “Christian” (at least in America) because instantly they think of the Evangelical.
I do believe that God is there. I believe that he is a good God. I do believe that the Christian story is true, but there is still so much mystery in the way that God has put this world together that I neither have or want certainty (meaning knowing all the answers) anymore. The old Mike’s world demanded certainty in everything. This is why I shock my Christian friends when I say things like you can’t be a really good Christian (thoughtfully) unless you leave the option of God non-existing on the table. That is also why I can respect atheists. The reason is, if you create a faith that is walled-in by fearful, artificial boundaries then it is built on caulk. I will stop this thought here before I take too much time. Okay, before I stop, I will take one one stab at trying to explain this position because it is so strange to many.
If I had a child who was required to love me, no other options were allowed to even entered their mind or they would be instantly crushed, I would never be secure in knowing that they loved me. But if I had child that loved me, knowing that the option of not loving me was clearly on the table, and within reach, that love would be far more enriched. That’s all I’m trying to say. Faith is not knowing with tremendous certainty, as the evangelical would say. Faith is living a certain way based on the little certainty that we all have in this mortal state.
In the old (spiritually-dysfunctional) paradigm, if what happened to me where to have happened then, I would have had two major conclusions.
The first conclusion was this was some-type of spiritual attack from Satan. I won’t even waste my time with that thought.
The more likely view is that God-himself had orchestrated this complete nightmare. So, if you have a loving God who just poured down holy shit on you, and your entire family’s life, you are left with a real quandary to try and explain that away through theological gymnastics.
We would have pulled verses out of the Bible like Romans 8:28 (read it if you don’t know what it is) to prove that God is behind this. So, what would God’s motives be? In our simpleton explanation, we would have said that God did this to; a) Test us, like he did Job, or b) God did this for some higher purpose, to make me more humble. The first person who says to me, “Mike, maybe this is a good thing, maybe now you will have more time to write” I will be tempted to kill them with my bare hands.
I’m sorry, but neither one of those works here. In both cases we end up with a God who is also a sadist after-hours.
I think for the theist (small “t” meaning someone who believes in God) you either have to let it go as “I haven’t a clue” or try to find some other explanation.
I can’t let things go too easily. But, my thought (purpose of this whole writing together thoughts) is that I think the evangelical, and others, don’t fully understand both the grandeur or the horrors of this world we live in. The evangelical would call it, “The Fall.” But the evangelical “Fall” is made of milk toast. But the real darkness of this world is the possibility of unadulterated tragically at each corner, so, we should not be so surprised when real bad, real pain happens. Real shit does happen and it will happen to all of us eventually.
So, the question is what do we do with it? I don’t think the right thing is to expect something good to come in results. I don’t think I will ever, ever look back and say I’m glad this happened. But I think our calling has humans it to work toward good even it was never “intended” for good. That this is the human mission of fixing a broken world one step by step, with God’s grace. Romans 8:28 seems to be saying this.
I don’t expect to be better person through this as I will probably become a worst person (more grumpy and impatient). I will not do more things in this world, like a retirement of working with refugees (my previous dream). I will, most likely, do less because of the realities. I doubt if this will bring me closer to God, because I think I’m as close as possible already (once again having already worked through this years ago).
But my new calling is to struggle against this real and dark evil of brokenness, and to make the little good I can, with God’s help, with what is left.