Friday May 20th, 2011
Dearest Sister of my Heart,
I have concluded in life that sometimes we just have to learn things the hard way. It’s no big surprise to me that the way we learn and are disciplined (be it imposed by an authority or by our own lack of forethought) is through suffering. Let’s face it, the great majority of the most functional and critical things we learn in our lifetime are a result of suffering through the logical (or imposed) consequences of one of our actions or another.
My daughter just learned that Peek-a-boo does not travel well. A few days ago she started covering her own eyes to experience the role of the “peeker” for herself and has come to believe that it is by far and away the better role in which to be cast. As a result, our day has become one long drawn-out game of peek-a-boo… peek-a-boo tv, peek-a-boo eating, peek-a-boo singing, peek-a-boo hello to other people, peek-a-boo going to bed, peek-a-boo in the morning… if it’s a waking hour of the day, we’re playing peek-a-boo.
This morning, she saw me across the dining/living room and was struck with the immediate urge to “peek” me so she took off across the room promptly clapping her tiny hands over her baby blues (yes, she’s walking already – she started at 10 months… at least it wasn’t 9 months like her brother). What she failed to remember is that she can’t in fact see when her little digits are in the way. She also failed to recall that we strategically put a support post on the border between our open living and dining rooms to hold up the second story of the house. Consequently, in spite of my warnings and urgent cautionary exclamations, she ran flat faced into the pillar and learned the hard way that Peek-a-boo is only truly meant to be a stationary game.
You know, I think one of the most common questions with regard to God and faith is “If there is a God that is so good, then what’s up with all the suffering in the world!?” It is a question I have asked many times in the past and I never really came up with a satisfactory answer until I’d suffered a little bit myself. I don’t claim to have it all figured out (beware anybody who does)… but just because God is good doesn’t mean we aren’t messed up. If you go back to the beginning (in Genesis), God actually created a world without suffering or conflict in which we are united with Him openly and freely and perfectly. We were the ones to totally mess that up. He gave us ONE rule, that’s it, one. There was only one thing that held consequences of suffering. One… and we went right ahead and broke it. And, honestly, it doesn’t matter if it was Adam and Eve, you and me, or Mother Theresa and Gandhi… we, any of us, would have broken that rule… because we ALL have. Broken rules, that is. Disobeyed. Wanted what wasn’t ours. You name it.
The Bible sometimes looks like a list of rules to live life by in order to please this super demanding, nit-picking God… but look at how it starts (with the creation of a perfect world that we, in short order, screw up) and look at how it ends (with God bringing us Home to a perfect world where we are with Him… just like He created in the first place). So, first of all, let’s not go blaming God for something that we caused. Secondly, the whole point was that God wanted to be WITH us. When we messed that up, we really screwed with His plans and he spends the ENTIRETY OF THE BIBLE trying to redeem a situation that we messed up. It is one long story of God loving a bunch of kids who just don’t deserve it.
Now, I know that this doesn’t directly account for the general suffering in the world from natural disasters and the like, but I have a feeling that the world as God intended it (the “Garden of Eden”) was probably tsunami-free. Suffering, whether it’s our own fault or something that just befalls us, drives us to ask questions and pushes us to our knees. Jesus, the only person to ever walk this earth and not break a rule, EVER, did not have a hunky dory life. Sure, He died on a cross with some thorns on his head (and yes, that is great suffering) but He was born an ugly looking bastard in a poor family who’s siblings hated him and it only went downhill from there. His life was one of suffering… the one person who didn’t “deserve” any of it. But, sometimes we just learn the hard way… Though He was God’s son (and sinless), He still learned obedience and He did it through suffering (Hebrews 5:8)… and so do we all. We just usually disobey first. He had to learn how to be close to God just like the rest of us and the only way to do that is by learning the hard way.
I don’t curse God for the suffering I have walked through in my life, believe it or not, I thank Him. Without it, my inner landscape and my messed up little life would look vastly different… as would the conclusion of my story here on Earth.
The moral of the story: Next time you cover your eyes and start running, don’t get mad at God when you run into a post. Rather, pick yourself up and make a mental note, having learned the hard way that the odds in that situation are against you.