November 14, 2011
Do you ever get a phone call during dinner and choose not to answer the phone? Has someone ever come to the door when you're having sex with your spouse? Has a sick child awoken you from a wonderful dream?
Psalm four begins with a heartfelt plea for God to "answer when I call." but He doesn't always answer; why not?
How is it that the God of the universe, the God who sees all, hears all, and knows all, is everywhere in God's story asked to "hear," "see," and "know" the needs of his people?
My atheist friend has asked, if God is all knowing, how is it that He doesn't know?
Very few other truths are taught in Scripture as frequently as this remarkable truth: there is a people called by God as God's peculiar people and as His precious treasure. Yet it is almost as frequently expressed in Scripture that these people, despite their high position, frequently feel abandoned and forsaken by their Father.
Not only must the people of God's own possession experience the need for God's help through the course of their seeming never ending troubles; they must also (and this is mind-boggling) actually ASK for such needs to be met. How can these things both be true?
Surely it may be true that there is an almighty creator, a master engineer, a purifier and repairer of the world, and that this Being is benevolent, caring, and intimately and paternally immersed in His creation--yes, this may be true. Or, and it may be true, and how I know this is true, that we are abandoned, alone, lost, and forsaken of God and helpless and struck down in our world of strife, loss, and pain.
But how can both be true?
The two explanations that are typically offered to this quandary are that either 1) God is not all powerful and therefore unable to effect the change we feel is so desperately needed (and therefore unworthy of our worship); or 2) God is more than able to bring about the sought after change and chooses not to, proving that he is uncaring and also unworthy of worship.
But what if there is a third way, a tertium quid? What if our options are not so strict? So narrow? So fundamental? So binary? So rigid? So close-minded? What if this benevolent creator, Father, Savior God is wise beyond our imagination, vast beyond our comprehension, glorious beyond our capacity to conceive glory, and good beyond our wildest dreams?
If so then this life is more than it seems to be, and we live in something like a dream world, an almost Orwellian world, where right may be wrong, good may be bad, and pain may be pleasure.
God, in and amid our uncertainty, our ambiguity—holy ambiguity, as our God could certainly dissolve it in a moment if he were to so choose, BUT HE HAS NOT—our sacred paradox, our tension, our suffering—amid these, there must run some sacred thread, a spinning top proving a world beyond our world, a hope beyond our pain, a life beyond our death.
Our stubborn refusal as a race to yield this point, to give up this hope, is either (in the narrow binary world of unbelief) a sign of our insanity, or, in the case of our BEYOND IMAGINATION third way, our refusal to abandon hope is proof that every delight of our life is a foretaste of some greater life; that every deathly shadow is only a passing one; and that the sun shall soon rise upon the grief of our never ending night when our losses will be requited and righted.
It may also be proof, and this is a sacred mystery, that God's designs include the unfathomable for us. Thus there appear to be two religions in the world: the rigid way of autonomous and "binary unbelief"; or the world of art, mystery, glory, poetry, color, and faith.
There can be no other. That there are so many binary souls that manage to carve out a life of colorful poetic glory is proof: not of God's non-existence, but of the mercy and patience of the all-too-real God whom in their anger or ignorance have spurned.
"Papa? Are you awake?" photo credit: © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.
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