|Lemons in my life today...|
I read a blog by Allison Vesterfelt this morning that talks about how we can give God credit for all the good things in our lives, but then turn around and blame God for everything bad that happens. There are some variations on this: I tend to thank God for all the good things but don't blame him for bad stuff (it's God! You can't blame God!). Others rarely recognize God's presence in their lives, yet find it easy to point the finger at God when they witness horrible events (God's the one who could have done something and didn't!). It seems to me that these responses are all symptoms of an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship. Basically, these attitudes reveal that our interactions with the Divine One are mostly passive (perhaps even passive-aggressive) and decidedly fatalistic. Passive because we don't bring ourselves fully to this relationship and this life. Our interactions are ones where we try to hear what God is saying so we can obey and submit to "the plan." They are also fatalistic because we assume no responsibility for how things turn out. God will do what he wants and there's nothing we can do about it. But in all my readings about how God interacts with people throughout history (the Bible), this is not the type of relationship that I see modeled.
From the very beginning (Genesis), the stories we read about God emphasize both his greatness and his generosity, his transcendence and immanence. A show of his supreme, magnificent power is immediately followed by a story about his inclusion of humanity in creative work, in intimate friendship, and in discerning how to make wise decisions. God exerts his freedom to act and create and in doing so, gives us freedom to act and create. God does not want us to be obedient slaves; the many stories of the Israelites in captivity underline the theme of God repeatedly calling his people into freedom. At times the stories of exactly how much freedom God gives his people make us uncomfortable, for there are some incredibly bad decisions made which have dire implications for generations to follow. In these stories we find passionate, rough, impulsive, overbearing, rash, angry, self-important, and aggressive people, but we do not find a lot of passivity. The few characters that are reluctant to exert themselves are portrayed as unwise (Jesus tells the parable of the talents to illustrate this same point). We also find people who question God, who ask God to change his mind, who defy God's directives, who bargain with God, and who express their disappointment at God's apparent lack of concern. In general, we do not find fatalism or resignation. We find engagement. And this is what God, from the very beginning of the story, invites us to.
Much to my chagrin, I find that contemporary faith in God often lacks this vibrant, dynamic element. Our acknowledgement of God's goodness is too often superficial, referring to our comfort rather than a generous and risky offer to participate in living out the kingdom of God in this world. Our shifting of blame to God for every bad thing, big and little, reveals that we don't want to take responsibility for our mistakes, for our unwise decisions which affect others and leave their scars on this world, and that we are averse to correction. It also tells us that we don't trust God enough to work together with him in bringing justice and peace to this earth. God is powerful enough to fix everything, but he doesn't. He invites us to be part of the process. He asks us to be co-workers and friends, to be people who take the gift of freedom seriously and delight in the unique position in which we find ourselves. Once I get a glimpse of the incredible nature of this animated, grace-infused relationship which God offers to me, a trite "Thank God" for a nice turn of events or a reactionary "It's God's fault!" for a natural disaster seem rather inappropriate. God is not a convenient benefactor nor an impotent scapegoat. These roles keep him at a distance. No, this Creator God invites me to create with him, to make something out of this life by engaging fully with the Holy Spirit and the world around me.
"God is good" means that I am invited to be an agent of that goodness in my work, my community, and all my interactions with others. Instead of blaming God for some undesirable turn of events, perhaps we should view any mess or disaster as an opportunity to participate in bringing the kingdom of God on earth through just acts, peaceful intentions, loving-kindness, faithfulness, hospitality, practical aid, and a dedication to rebuilding those things which are broken. If we find our interactions with God consist mostly of asking for gifts or placing blame, perhaps it is time to pursue a more vibrant relationship which reflects the generosity of a God who calls us to responsible freedom.