Tuesday, December 28, 2010


If you're a person who believes in some sort of personal Divine Being, do you ever play this little head game? Something disappointing happens, and either someone says, "Well, God must have a better plan," or you think something like, "God is sovereign and things happen for a purpose, so clearly I'm supposed to learn something from this, or He knew something bad was going to happen if my wishes were fulfilled, so it's all for the best." Then you sit around mulling this over for way too long and trying to envision all the scenarios that you might have been spared from, or trying to figure out what it is you're supposed to be learning.

Here's an example:

I was supposed to fly to Brother-Dave and Sister-in-Lu's yesterday. I was going to use up my last week of vacation for the year during the last week of the year playing with TWCN and Smiley-Guy. But I live in a usually-cold, wintery northern state, and Brother-Dave's family lives in a pretty far away cold, wintery northern state. My northern state had been a little tardy as far as snowfall and winter weather, in comparison to Ireland, where my parents live, which isn't even supposed to get snow, and was having a blizzard along with the rest of Europe the day my parents were scheduled to fly over here. Closed European airports notwithstanding, my parents actually got on a plane, which actually left, and actually arrived safely in our cold northern state that hadn't had any snow yet.

You would think if it had waited this long to snow, it could've waited a little longer, until the winter festivities were over or something. But it didn't. We managed not to get a white Christmas (snow on Christmas is, of course, totally irrelevant to the holiday, but it sure makes for a lovely landscape), but the day after, we began to get a blizzard. In this neck of the woods, it doesn't even seem like it was that bad, overall. But the timing was miserable, and the short version of the story is that I am now not going to Minnesota to see my brother and his family, and my parents, who were supposed to leave today, now have to wait to fly out there until Friday, and are still working on extending their stay, re-hiring a rental car, and getting back to the house here in the meantime.

This is when someone comes along and helpfully says, "Well, God has a better plan." This is probably true, but it sure doesn't seem like it from this vantage point. There's no use in pretending that any of this is of earth-shaking importance, but if it's important enough for God to have another plan than it, it must be important enough to get kind of a reaction from the people affected. The reaction, at least from me, is that being stranded at home on vacation with nothing to do (but church history paper research, which I can't do much of anyway, because the seminary offices are closed and it's hard to find info on the Protestant modernist-fundamentalist controversy anywhere else in this heavily Roman Catholic part of the world), as contrasted with playing tea party for a week with TWCN is a weird kind of "better." I'd debate it.

Then today I woke up with a cough, which has now established itself firmly in my lungs. So--maybe it's "better" that I was prevented from going because Brother-Dave's family spent pretty much the entire time at Sister-in-Lu's parents' house over Christmas, sick as dogs. Surely they do not need to get sick again, even if it's a completely different type of ailment. But really? Wouldn't it have been simpler just to keep me from getting sick?

Maybe God's trying to grow my character, and maybe it's even working, because in spite of this rant, I'm not actually angry, as I might have been in the past--just a little put out and kind of cynical/curious about reasons. Or maybe He's trying to grow my brother's character, by giving him surely one of the most miserable Christmas/New Year's seasons he's ever had. Or maybe He's trying to show two-and-a-half-year-old TWCN that life's just not fair and the sooner she learns it the better: apparently she cried when she found out I couldn't come to visit her. I wonder how she'll take the delay in my parents' itinerary.

Well, it isn't fair. None of this is the biggest deal ever, but it's disappointing and frustrating and disrupting and . . . not fair.

On the other hand . . . This is the kind of thing that leads some people to decide there is no God, or He doesn't love us, or He isn't all-powerful, and that, to me, seems like overkill. If there is a God, it makes sense that He might not make sense. I mean, made in the image of God we may be. God Himself, we are not (in spite of worldviews that try to tell us differently). In the first place, who am I to think any of this should matter to Him, really? And if, as I believe, it surprisingly does, does that mean He's going to step in at every moment, insuring that everything about my life is smooth sailing? (Evidently not . . . because it hasn't been!) I'm not writing this to prove anything. (Fortunately, since I'm not succeeding in that.) I'm just mulling this over. And here's what I'm thinking:

Maybe somehow, in some miraculous, sparkly-snowflake, cheesy Serendipity-movie kind of way, I'll meet this amazing guy this week and be married by next Christmas or something crazy like that, or maybe I'll just be stuck here with a chest-cold and no little-girl tea-parties. But either way, I still believe God is good, and God loves me, and God is all-powerful. I just don't think any of that requires Him to wait on me hand-and-foot, or forestall any disappointments, and I don't even think there has to be a "reason," or a "better," honestly. At least, not one that I'll necessarily ever see. The world is broken, and "broken" things happen here.

We celebrate God's coming into the brokenness at this time of year. He came ultimately to fix it--to fix us--but first He submitted to the brokenness and darkness, the disappointment and frustration and disruption (do I think His leaving Heaven to hang out down here with us wasn't a disruption?), and even now we're waiting for the final "fixing." It'll come. I hope I learn something from this, even if I'm not married by next Christmas, but maybe it's all just part of living here, and maybe, with God around, even if He isn't fixing it right now, that's okay.


chris e said...

I suspect a lot (all?) of such attempts at post rationalisation involve trying to peek behind the incarnation to get at the hidden God.

Trying to work out why bad things happen to me and my own usually just leads to anger.

I think sometimes we forgot the incarnation and assume we are more already than not-yet. Luke 7 seems apposite somehow, I imagine John too was tempted to be 'offended' by the God who's signs excluded letting this particular prisoner free.

Jennwith2ns said...

I think we definitely forget the incarnation. Honestly, I didn't even know I was going to write about it in this post until I started.

John the Baptiser in prison is a story that has been looming large in the last few weeks over here. I suspect I'd better listen . . .

Random Human Ecologist said...

I'll be the second chris e to post (but unique). Although it doesn't happen often since I live in secular Seattle and work with Jesuits, when I hear the "God must have a better plan", I think "well, in perfection, yes; for now we live in the shadowlands so it may not come to fruition yet/here." So much of my frustration with God is wrapped up in my view of G as part of the prosperity gospel...I pray for something and G, like a paid candy machine, should spit it out, right? Honestly, I don't think we learn from everything (phew...we are more than Pavlov's dog), and somedays it just sucks that bad stuff happens for no reason or without observable meaning. It is at those times we have someone who loves us to lean on. And that is nice not to be so alone within these shadows.