Let’s Leave Nothing Out

Posted: February 13, 2020 in god
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Here is the standard, modern, pervasive Christian framework, thesis, mindset, paradigm: God is made known in health; God is made known in solutions; God is made known in gain; God is made known in being made known through what we want.

I just refinanced a small real estate loan at a fantastically low rate. My response? Thank you God! Every good gift is from the Father. It’s easy to give that “thank you.”

But this God-as-gain paradigm rides on a thin, brittle epistemic rail of truth; it easily slips off and crashes into a adamantine wall of misunderstanding.

Yes, every material blessing is a gift of God, every lovely forest, towering peak, rushing stream, safe home, good meal, loved one.

A few days ago I spotted a goldfinch in my white blossomed, ornamental pear tree. Astonishingly beautiful! God — a god of beauty.

Yes, God is a God of beauty and of truth and understanding and rationality, and solutions flow out of his very essence, every income stream, every medical cure, every healing, every building plan, every scrumptious recipe — He is somewhere there behind it.

My mushroom and leek gravy today, originally his idea.

Yes, God is the Creator God, architect, founder, maker, artist and through his mighty power we have gained the universe, our gorgeous, looping, spinning solar system, stunning planet earth and all the blue-green beauty and burgeoning fecund good that lies within our small corner plot of good earth.

But God is also made known in ugliness, in pain; God is also made known in difficulty; God is also made known in loss. This is equally true whether we want to hear it or not. The gold finch will one day molder in the ground and frightening a school child along her way — a horrid rictus, an ugly death. 

Yes, God is solution, but yes, His primary, core, existential, ultimate solution involved He himself entering into and embracing pain, difficulty and loss — the incarnation of God in Jesus, God experiencing human frailty, God experiencing human temptation, God experiencing our suffering, God hammered onto a killing machine.

The good news is that Jesus healed and redeemed. And the good news is that Jesus suffered, that God suffered. Let’s face this square on. God is found in pain. How so? His essential solution involved pain.

Last night I dreamed about a broken work relationship in which I felt powerless. It’s rough. I lived that dream. How do I hook theology up to my experience relational hate, rejection and hurt? 

We know that God — agentive — is love. We love that! Let’s never lose that perspective. But the complete truth is that God — by choice, as an agency — is an ouch and a scream and has experience rejection too. God is love — as an amalgam. He is pain-love. That’s his chosen status. Yikes! We wish to rush away in a frenzy of Christian cultural cringe from heaven’s compounded, ugly-beautiful remedy. We don’t want such axiology. For many of the blithely hopeful this kind of thinking is a kind of theo-polution, a negative doctrinal bizarrerie. They won’t have it, and yet they will have it, and they will have it on a plate, and they will eat it and they will grimace and try to spit it out.

I think we who love God want God to be Valentine’s Day, all kissy, gifty and lovey-dovey, chocolate and hearts and seduction. I do. And He is.

I bought beautiful, expensive Valentines gifts for my sweet thing this week, fine pour-over coffee equipment. God too gifts us because he loves us. We are his valentine.

But look around — unblinkered — if you will. All love, even true love, involves also the gift of suffering, involves making a place for things we don’t want in another person. My wife and I have both broken down recently in the face of some overwhelming circumstances. True love involves some ugly tears. It also involves some sacrifices, and it comes to accept the chronic pain of loss, the loss of former glories, and eventually the loss of loved ones from our lives.

Here is the truth: God is made known by being made known in some things that we don’t want. Our response? It is to fight, take flight or freeze or reject.

But what about acceptance of the things we can’t control? What about a salutary acceptance of reality, reality God himself has allowed — your pain, your loss, your relational derailments and deplorements.

What is needed involves a tender, merciful love for ourselves and others, no matter what the unwanted and unvalued physical and material empainments we and they and we-they suffer?

Quite lately, I’ve been learning to be kind to myself, to be tender with my less-than-perfect body, to titrate a new bifurcated identity, powerful and powerless, a new mixed bag of a man extruded out of difficulty, both compensated and decompensated.

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur is a mythical creature, head and tail of a bull, body of a man. The Roman poet Ovid, gets at it: part man; part bull.

God is kind of like the Minotaur, very loosely. He is one thing, comforting, and another, allowing and even embracing discomfort, and we don’t get only part of the great complex of Him. And this is no Minotaur myth. We get all of God; He is a God of comfort and of a tolerated pain and he unifies these much in the way he is unified as a Trinity.

Proof? God once entered our pain, and carried it on his shattered shoulder, and he is still entering into your pain and mine, entering with a keen specificity into our mounting losses. This is the truth, the same as it was with Israel. In all our distressed he too is distressed. Don’t believe those who want to present you with an impassable God, a god who can experience no pain.

Jesus was God, and he took a brutal bag of horrible for us and the Father himself saw it and was moved to weep for in that moment of his kenosis all the horrors, jealousies, atrocities, lies, abuses, rapes, murders and wars in the world were gathered into Christ as God and dealt with them to forgive them. And in this, God’s spiritual agony far outweighed his physical pain. 

Latch on to this. You experience and you hear God speaking to you in your pain too! Amazing! Not our way. Not my way. His way — not our way.

David Brooks has this to say about a life that is a mixed bag of goodies — and badies.

“The valley is where we shed the old self so the new self can emerge. There are no shortcuts. There’s just the same eternal three-step process that the poets have described from time eternal: from suffering to wisdom to service. Dying to the old self, cleansing in the emptiness, resurrecting in the new. “

“One task in life is synthesis. It is to collect all the fragmented pieces of a self and bring them to a state of unity, so that you move coherently toward a single vision.”

Brooks has it right. The great task of life is synthesis, a divine synthesis of our view of God and of ourselves, a synthesis that paradoxically combines comfort and suffering. We take our stand there within suffering and comfort, and we stand there within an enigma, we stand as a theologically branched tree standing strong in a orthodox forest of many other staunchly dual-trunked Biblical truths. 

Fellow warriors, honor the complex truth, this divine complementarity, honor the reality that stretches from you to the very horizon of your life, and  leave nothing out so that we might be complete.

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