John Pavlovitz, once again articulates something I’ve been working on as I try to look at God/Jesus/The Universe through grown up eyes, shedding the image of a capricious bearded man up in the sky either judging us or bailing us out, or Jesus as a 2 dimensional superhero we put on a pedestal and worship while virtually ignoring the teaching to love one another, and a Universe that is full of awe and mystery and science that is not seen as separate from my faith.
I have always hated plithy statements such as “this is all part of God’s plan to make you stronger” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Even as I’ve sometimes uttered them myself.
I didn’t lose my home 8 weeks ago, or my brother 20 years ago for “a reason,” cosmic or otherwise that had anything to do with me, other than having the bad luck to have them happened around me. And though I may have become stronger, I, like so many people who have faced tragedies, could have been broken by them.. Sometimes I still feel broken by those and many loses in my life. Does that mean God doesn’t love me? Or I failed in some way…a preposterous and I think damaging idea we unconsciously perpetuate.
I lost my brother to cancer, one of the most insidious diseases out there, exacerbated by depression, another insidious disease, one that I am intimate with. I lost my home because of a grease fire in a kitchen, and broken fire extinguisher, and a scared young adult who may have panicked and grabbed water after his fire extinguisher failed him.
God didn’t cause these things to happen to test us, or because He (hard to break the habit of anthropomorphizing or gender-izing,) for some reason hated us. They happened because we live in a world, heck a universe ruled by natural laws, especially entropy. We live in a realm were for whatever reason systems, including fleshy ones, break down. That’s just the way it is, houses sometimes catch on fire, sometimes we face the tragic death of a loved one… and ALL the time, we face the inevitable truth of our own death as well. In other words Shit Happens… It happens equally to the good and the bad.
I love what John said here in this piece. It’s what I’ve been trying to articulate as I contemplate the idea of a “Grown Up God.” and my relationship to it. If you don’t have time to read the whole blog, at least contemplate these passages.
And consider them the next time you are tempted to offer consolation with words that actually offer little…
“It’s exhausting enough to endure the dark hours here and not lose our religion, without the addition of a Maker who also makes us bleed. Instead, I prefer to understand God as One who bleeds along with us; Who sits with us in our agony and weeps, not causing us our distress but providing a steady, holy presence in it. This still leaves me with the nagging question of why this God can’t or won’t always remove these burdens from me, but it does allow me to better see the open opportunity provided in tragedy…
…As much as I hate to admit it, my times of deepest anguish have almost always been the catalyst for my greatest learning, but I could have easily learned different lessons had I chosen differently. Yes, I certainly grew tremendously in those trying times, but I could have grown in another direction altogether with another choice. In that way, those moments of devastation held no single, microscopic needle-in-the-haystack truth to hunt for while I grieved and struggled, but there was still treasure to be found in the making of my choices and in their ripples.
No I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe there is meaning in how we respond to all things that happen to us, even when they are not at all good things.
Be encouraged as you suffer and choose.”
We’ve all received it personally gift-wrapped by well-meaning friends, caring loved ones, and kind strangers. It usually comes delivered with the most beautiful of intentions; a buffer of hope raised in the face of the unimaginably painful things we sometimes experience in this life.
It’s a close, desperate lifeline thrown out to us when all other words fail:
Everything happens for a reason.
I’ve never had a tremendous amount of peace with the sentiment. I think it gives the terrible stuff too much power, too much poetry; as if there must be nobility and purpose within the brutal devastation we may find ourselves sitting in. In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of The Greater Plan that this suffering all fits into.
It serves as an emotional distraction, one that cheats us out of the full measure of our real-time grief and outrage. We stutter and…
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