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Archive for April, 2011

Walking on my hands

Reading Thomas Trevethan’s “The Beauty of the Holiness of God” I came upon a statement that seems to be meeting me everywhere, and resounding more and more strongly: “Under God, every adversity becomes a mercy, a good generously pressed on us in God’s steadfast love.” Most often, when we quote “All things work together for good for them that love God, for them that are called according to His purpose,” we mean something along the lines of “Everything will work out,” “Everything will be fine,” or, as one of my friends insists, “It just means there’s something better for you, than this seemed.” We’re cheerful; we’re optimistic; we’re sure we have faith; and our understanding is filtered through worldly, power-of-positive-thinking, rose-colored glasses. And the sad thing is, we’re actually cheating ourselves with this glib, blithe catchphrase of comfort. The reality is much richer and much more intimate with God.

Is it true that an adversity is a good, even a generous good? Not something that God will presto-chango, flip inside out and turn into sunshine and rainbows, but a good in itself? No way do we want to believe that! Our entire human, devoted to daily minutiae, stubbornly pursuing that human-defined happiness of hearts and flowers, inextricably inter-twined with this world nature revolts at the thought. Bad things are in the world because of sin, and Jesus conquered sin, so now we can avoid bad things.

Maybe I’m dumb, but I always thought that God took pity on Joseph after his brothers’ wickedness, and turned the lemons into lemonade. At least I did until I reread the story this morning, and realized that nobody said that. Joseph told his brothers that while they meant their act for evil, God meant it for good- no, not made a good of it, but meant it for good. With kindness aforethought.

Well, that’s cheerful. Encouraging. So not only are we in a fallen world, beset with divers temptations et al, but God does bad things to us too. Okay, so maybe they’re good things, but they certainly feel bad. I wish I could remember where C. S. Lewis wrote that we aren’t so much afraid that God won’t give us good things, as we are that His good things might not be what we call good. Something like getting coal in your stocking because you actually need it, so as not to freeze, when what you really wanted was a doll that said “Mama”.

But then we have to wonder about the whole concept of bad and good things. Sometimes saying “God’s thoughts are not ours” is a subtle criticism on our part- when it should be a call to get our thoughts in order. What are bad things? Inconvenience? Discomfort? Illness? Death? Hell and damnation? We can’t really say everything is relative, because not everything is… but many, many things are less than definite in their natures. Health problems are bad today, but tomorrow they help me to be aware of Sofya’s health, and to be understanding of other people- knowing my own limitations. Living with my in-laws last year was bad, but gave me the patience-experience-hope that was a start in dealing with the loss of Yelizaveta. Liza’s death was almost the worst thing that could be (and I hope I never experience a worser), but it finally cut through that blind, ingrown concentration on humanity.

The lack of Liza is always with me- and so is the reminder that this world is not the be-all and end-all, and that reality is really quite different. That there are myriads of ” insignificance” that we should appreciate, and at the same time none of which we should idolize. I don’t think the glass is quite as dark as it was. And I daresay this is a mercy, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

There haven’t been so many bad things in my life, even if I enjoy complaining as much as anyone else; but those things that have been do not have silver linings- on the contrary they are silver, shadowed underneath. At least that is what I’m choosing to believe, and what I’m hoping to feel. If it takes turning your world upside down to understand God, doesn’t that make it worthwhile to learn to walk on your hands?

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