Saturday, October 9, 2010

Two sides of the world

      I was driving home earlier on a rather long drive, thinking about... well... the world. I found myself wondering, how do people see it? How does God see it? I guess what follows is an attempt to make some sense of it all.

     First of all, I have to admit that I was taken by the fact that there is a lot that is ugly in this world. There is a lot that is saddening. There is a lot of poverty. A lot of hate. Slavery. Child labor. The sex trade, and slavery and child labor form parts of that. Hate and crimes of hate. Wars. Arguments. Broken families. And in the midst of it all, apathy persists. In a world where our human relationships and society are badly broken, a lot of people very simply don't care.

     Now, there is also a lot of good and a lot of beauty in the world. There are acts of extreme love and sacrifice. There are gifts to alleviate the pain of others. There are relationships so dear to people, so beautiful, it's hard to put into words. Friendship, charity, love, and those working for peace are all still very much alive and well. The natural world is full of beauty, too. I saw a photo earlier that a friend took of a rainbow, and it was stunning. And it was a reminder of the fact that God works in the midst of all the wonder and all the tragedy that meets our life.

     How do you see the world around you? Do you see acts of horror and sadness? Do you see hope? Do you see God working? Do you see it as your job to be a part of God working? Do you see it as fundamentally good or evil? Do you see it at all? I know some days my so-called busy life prevents me from thinking about what I'm doing, why I'm doing, and what God is doing, too.

     There's a lot more I could say or ask. I know very little of this world, after all. I do believe that there is a lot of ugliness and a lot of beauty in the world, and in each individual one of us. But I believe that God is a master artist, and I don't doubt that He is using all of those various elements to compose a work beyond all our imaginations. Sometimes you are the paint He is using, one of the dark or light colors on His canvas. And sometimes you are the brush in His hand, moving around those colors. What most needs healing in this broken world? In your relationships with those around you? In you? And what are you doing about it?


  1. Hi, Brandon! Sorry that I'm getting to this later than I had intended.

    To begin relatively near where you begin, I have no idea how people see the world. I believe that God sees it as His--or one of His--greatest creations and that He made it with care and love. I believe that He loves all of the souls that He placed here.

    However, I don't think that His love for us is exactly aligned with what we think of as love. Quoting someone--perhaps C.S.Lewis--if we were gods and were creating worlds, we might stop with seeing to it that everyone enjoyed themselves and had a good time by the end of the day. But there's no spiritual growth or real chance to turn to God in that way of handling us or all of creation.

    Instead, He chose to give us freewill. Real, live complicated and dangerous freewill with no holds barred. No sippy cups and kiddy scissors for us. No alteration of the basic laws of the universe each time someone tries to do something bad to themselves or to others or to the world around them. On the other chance, free will as the real deal, gives us a chance to actually make an impact on God's creation and build on it as "subcreators".

    What we will and what we do is what happens --even if it ends up not being what God wants from us and very possibly the results of our actions end up being something we regret.

    Free will is a gift and a burden. It is most definitely a gift that we are not permitted to refuse, yet misuse of it can easily result in events that we wish hadn't happened. We never, as a group, seem to have enough foresight to avoid some cataclysmic decisions. But then how often do we ask for guidance before making those decisions? (Oh, yes. And then listen.)

    But God loves us even when we mess around with his gift of free will. As you know, he planned ahead for when we would snarled in its consequences with no way out on our own. He built Divine Help & Deliverance right into his creation from the beginning.

    I believe that without free will, we could not be entirely human and grow to our fullest potential. God didn't want human puppets thing pre-programmed thoughts, or fake trees that can't get Dutch elm disease. He evidently wanted a full-blown creation, from quarks to quasars and, being God, He made what He wanted.

    It's pretty scary sometimes but I'm glad He did it this way. Otherwise, I would have trouble with basic belief in His love, if surrounded by the chaos of choices that led to nothing happening except nullification of the impulse, nullified because the choice wasn't in our best interests.

    That would mean that we--that I--was nothing but a puppet, with no care or interest invested in me.

    Instead, I know that God has great interest in our well-being. He planned ahead for the eventuality of our mis-using our gifts, even as He hopes we will "rise to the occasion" and do the very best that our free will allows. When we do the latter, I think, I hope, that God decides over and over again that creating humans in His image and adding free will to the mix was all worthwhile.

  2. Brandon, nice to see you in the blogosphere!

    Just a couple of quick things off the top of my head before I plunge into the day's abyss...

    One of the roadblocks to my empathy is complaining. In conversations, so many folks begin their outpouring by complaining about their situation. I don't mean the standard stuff we all do - I'm talking about the deep-seated, habitual whinging about everything under the sun. Blaming anything and everything for their current situation.

    That's not to say I will not listen and try to break through to the real issues but, for me anyway, it's a mountain to climb.

    As for apathy, I think we all get so wrapped up in our cocoons that we are loathe to make the emotional investment in someone else's world. It's not so much apathy as, "I'm just not prepared to step into that right now."

    Building relationships is a dirty business, on both sides. They have to open up; you have to open up; and through that sharing of emotional 'dirt' a bond is formed.

    I'm leaving for Haiti in two weeks and honestly, that's my biggest worry, that I won't be emotionally ready to invest, to let the children see that I am there solely because God loves them and I do too.


  3. Thanks to the both of you. Sherry, I caught an episode of "House" yesterday, in which a priest who had lost faith wrestles with with the idea of God giving us free will, free will leading to suffering, therefore God must have wanted suffering, therefore is He a loving God? Even that episode, though, has God using several difficult situations and suffering to bring about a wonderful conclusion. Free will is an amazing and scary thing.

    Mike, I love how you point out relationships being dirty business. That's very true. As a rather shy person, this hold me back a lot. God Bless on your work in Haiti, and know that I'm slightly jealous! I've wanted to go there for a while now!