It feels like I should be closing out this second decade of my life with something meaningful, but I feel as if I’m falling short these days. What I mean is, I feel like there’s something I should be doing to commemorate the death of my twenties, like there’s some appropriate memorialization, a rite of passage, of which I’m not aware. But this idea of the need for a perfect sendoff is the remnant of learning so long ago that I needed to be someone else — someone other than who I am naturally — to survive this life. And maybe this gradual unlearning of things as I’m exploring in this series of posts is precisely the commemoration my twenties deserve, need.
It is the unlearning, the unbecoming, that has probably best characterized the last two months of my life. The returning — or maybe the turning for the first time — to essentials I believe is necessary for all of us from time to time. Like moving into a bigger house, we always find ways of filling the space we occupy. As I grow older, I’ve found that time has seen me fill my own soul with stuff — almost none of it essential. The necessities are there, but they grow harder to find as the distractions, the numbing trivialities, take over the space. Life gets choked out, like flowers as weeds take over a garden.
It’s a shame it’s taken the kind of marital turbulence it has to get me to inventory my heart. But, relationships are my currency; I think God knew the only way to bring me home would be to upend what I valued most. And He did. I am listening. Strangely, even this I consider grace.
I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
I don’t know about you, but I find Isaiah 45:7 above a troubling verse. The NIV does a better job I feel getting at the heart of what I find problematic where it subsitutes ‘disaster’ for ‘calamity.’ One: God creates darkness. Let that sink in for a moment. Two: God creates calamity or disaster. In other words, evil. Sin. Disaster. Calamity. God makes all these terrible, horrible things. Now let’s pause together.
What. The. Fuck?!
I thought God couldn’t do bad things. I remember being taught that He didn’t ever make bad things happen to people. Who is this God in Isaiah? And who the hell wants to worship Him?
I recognize the abrupt change of topic may seem head-turning to you the reader, but hang with me for a second. Faith I’ve realized is essential to me. And I’ve realized I’ve been worshipping a different God than is actually found in the Bible. Unless the Bible isn’t actually in agreement with itself. But, at this point I’m personally satisfied with my own investigation into that possibility to say I don’t belive that’s the case. So now what?
Where does God creating evil and sin leave my faith? In one sense, it makes Him kind of sinister, right? He can’t be purely benevolent anymore. That’s been violated, yeah? How does this all work? Wha..? I have too many questions.
As my head swims, this possibility enters my mind: what if God’s creating sin and evil, His appropriating chaos and calamity, actually makes Him bigger than the god I’ve been worshipping and maybe even more loving and compassionate? This feels crazy. But there’s something begging me to hold onto this tremendous dissonance.
It’s strikes me that I’ve believed that God is the creator of the universe and all things within it, yet I hold that He didn’t create “bad” things. Is it just me, or does that not make any sense? God has to have created everything if He created all things. Therefore, who am I to decide what He can and what He can’t create? I cannot put limits on a God whom I hold to be limitless. Yet, the fact that God might also create things I call terrible isn’t any more palatable. It just seems truthful, if that makes sense.
So, I’m left to stew in this discomfort for a minute; I’m left to unlearn the rainbows and unicorns god who didn’t actually create everything and who might not actually be in charge of the whole universe.
Suffice it to say, I’ve had some words for God lately. Just look at the story of Job. God doesn’t personally kill Job’s children, but He certainly allows it. I’d go so far as saying that God even ordains it. Is it possible that God similarly allows other terrible, even unspeakable, events to occur in the world? And now this question has me crawling in my skin; this is uncomfortable; tell me it can’t be so. But can’t it? Why?!
I don’t have an answer. In a sense, I’m okay with that. Perhaps it has something to do with bringing sons and daughters home. Perhaps He allows temporal awfulness for some greater result. Maybe, just maybe, the terrible events that are allowed to occur are tailored somehow to enabling us to strip away the extraneous, the artifices that numb and blind us, and see the love and compassion of our Father in a truer, brighter light. Please, I do not make light of suffering; I wish not to come off as flippant.
As I said, relationships are my currency and I’ve badly screwed up in the one that means the most to me. It hurts. And I feel more clear than ever before in my life. The only possible fix is to be who I am — no more, no less. In other words, the problem has been that I allowed myself to succumb to shame and the insecurity it caused; I became a different person — someone less than who I’ve been created to be. Honestly, I lost myself. Even scarier, I lost my way back to who I once knew I was. Not anymore. No excuses.
It’s with this clarity, I suppose, that I will leave you. Maybe this is just the way one could and in my circumstance should shove off into the seas of my thirties. I am certain I would not have arrived at this point without the amount and duration of the calamity over the past two-plus months. And I’m increasingly certain that this has all been grace from my Heavenly Father — somehow I find all this comforting.