Friday, January 17, 2014

It's All Good

No, it isn't.

I've been hearing that contemporary saying repeatedly over the last few weeks.  It's surfaced in both of my courses, as something of a mantra among many of my classmates struggling with stress and human mess.  It's been present in conversations outside of studies, and in engagement through social media.  I know it's a well-meaning thing, something people say as they're trying to shake off another one of life's kicks in the gut.  But every time I hear those words, I find myself struggling not to interject with a caveat or five. 

Because it isn't all good.

Oh, sure, bad things can become good.  I think that in every moment, the potential for good exists.  Things can get better, or be turned to a good end.  That possibility rests as a reality in the knowledge of our Maker.  It's also a significant, nontrivial part of the Christian understanding of suffering and redemption.  We can find ways to endure and overcome the challenges of our mortal condition, and in that enduring and overcoming, there is a deeper strength.

But it isn't all good.  There are states of being that do not represent the good.  There are decisions that are not good.  There are actions that deepen social injustice and personal brokenness.  There are choices that establish or reinforce patterns of subjugation or abuse.

When I think to the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, or the lynchings in the American South, or children butchered in the Congo, I cannot find a place for such a saying in the reality of the human story.  I cannot look to them and say, "It's all good."

Neither do I see God's hand in any of these actions.  My understanding of God's power is complex, as complex as Creation itself, and from that I know that within the dynamics of that power space is made for us to deny the best graces of our Maker.  God does not force us to rest in the divine love.  We can cast ourselves into hells that lie far from the nature of God.

When we do, our actions are perversions of God's intent for us, the dark fruit of beings willing to use their God-given liberty in defiance of the one law that measures all human action.  These things are neither good, nor do they serve the good.

It reminds me of the popular saying that so miffed both Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the one that reinforced hopelessness in the hearts of the enslaved people of Israel.  This saying reinforces our sense...a wrong sense...that every moment is great, and that every moment is equal.  'Cause kids?  Some things just aren't good.  They never needed to have happened.

When we say that, and think that, it feels like we're getting it wrong.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you, David, for this. You highlight the complexity of providence, human evil, pain and suffering. It is not ALL good.

    I do occasionally use that phrase and use it to note that, in fact, what I've just been whining about is of little consequence and is, in deed, about the goodness of my life. My reference of "all" is to what I've just been talking about, not "all in human life." So, when I complain about how much I have to do, the dishwasher repairman won't come, and someone didn't like the change in the liturgy and the dog needs out, when I say "but it's all good", I am calling myself back to be honest that everything I am griping about is, in my case, good.

    So, don't be too harsh on your fellow students; they may just be recognizing how good their life is, fully aware that humanity and life for humans is often far from good.

    Blessings in your ministry! Keep posting please.

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  2. That's a good reflection, Charlotte!

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