Thursday, September 15, 2016

All Part of The Plan?

I listened as she spoke, and though my mind lit up with responses, I kept my mouth shut.

Sometimes it's important to do that.

I was sitting with other folks at my little church, as we together enjoyed a book presentation by my predecessor in ministry at my little church.

Well, "enjoyed" may be the wrong term.  Her presentation was engaging and often funny, and the book is well worth the read.  But the book is not an easy one. Her memoir has as its narrative fulcrum the telling of how she and her college housemates were systematically raped during a home invasion robbery.

What lit me up, among other things, were the particulars of the theological struggle she'd had as she'd processed her trauma.

As a person of faith, she offered up her wrestling with the challenge faith faces when it encounters horror.  Why, if God is a God of love, mercy, and justice, did that happen?

The first and easiest response is that it was all part of God's plan.  Somehow, that act of violence was necessary to accomplish some larger goal within the machinations of Divine Providence.  It all works together for the good, or so that line of thinking goes.

She'd stopped thinking that about her own trauma, and she'd stopped saying that to people who experienced major life trauma.

When God set the universe into motion 13.8 billion years ago, it was not part of the great cosmic Design of that she be raped.

I have to say that I agree.  That's not how God works.

Oh, terrible things can be turned to good ends.  There is no moment of being that cannot be shaped or turned away from darkness.  That is the essence of the redemptive message of Jesus.

But I do not ascribe the monstrous and the brutal to divine intent.  Those planes were not flown into the twin towers because God wanted it so.  God does not line you up to go into the camp showers.  God does not require that you betray a trust, or offer a cutting word.

That is our ill wrought choice, made because we know not what we do.  Our cycle of inflicting suffering upon one another is part of the self-annihilating character of sin.

Those actions are the result of our willingness to know evil, the bitter taste of the one dark fruit of Eden.  They need not be so, in the same way that the cycles of bitterness we inflict on ourselves in our own lives do not need to be so.