God is good. God is good. God is good.
If I keep saying it enough, will I believe it?
How is it possible that I don't already? I mean, I know that God is good. Of course God is good. There is so much in my life to remind me that God is good. There is so much that speaks to his goodness. And yet something in me questions it. Is he really? Does he really want to bless me? Does it have to be this hard? Sometimes he seems almost even sadistic. Is that weird? How can I even think that?
Texas was awful, but was it really that bad? The last night we were there, at the conference this missionary to Sri Lanka gave a talk, basically about her life story. It was a really emotional story, full of heartbreak and tragedy--coming to somewhat of a climax with the suicide of her father. As she received the news, amidst tears and sobs, she cried out over and over to her pastor on the other end of the phone, "My top button is buttoned! My top button is buttoned!" Which was a reference to a message she had received in training, that when you button your shirt, you get that top button right and all the rest line up straight. That top button is that God is good.
As I sat in the passenger seat a week ago, cruising north of Dallas, I looked out the window at cars flying past us going 90mph. "Of course they don't get a ticket. Here I come down to Texas to seek God, graciously volunteer my car, and this is the reward." As I lay in destitution a few days later, bearing the weight of the flu, feeling like death, I thought, "How much more do you need to break me?"
Then of course comes the reality check. What's a wreck and a ticket, what's a couple thousand dollars compared to losing a parent? What's the flu compared to a friend of mine from Bible College dying in a car accident a few days ago? This isn't that much tragedy. I've been through far worse and turned to God with it. So why does all this now turn me to scoffing and skepticism? to questioning the goodness of God?
The reality is that we button our top buttons long before we step outside and feel the cold wind blow. The wind just shows us how many buttons we missed.
It was not Texas that shook me. No, it was the months before then and God's leading in a personal situation, and then how that turned. That's the soft underbelly. And I can understand it all. I can rationalize it out. I can sit with God on that Friday night of the conference and weep with him, mourning the situation. He can comfort me then and I can feel his love. But the need for healing runs deeper than one night. The need for knowing goes deeper than understanding.
God needed to break me down to speak to me about next year. And speak he did. It would seem that I'm staying in Manhattan again next year, against all expectations. I'm glad. I want to be where he wants me to be. And if it took all that to get me to stay, then of course it was worth it. I mean, damn, I think I would have listened without all that but....
I never would have thought it would be so hard to believe that God is good. Why is my knowledge of his love separated from my understanding of his goodness? I've known a lot of goodness in love. But I've also known some love without a ton of goodness. Of course I don't know much about love. And if I admit it as well, I probably don't know all that much about what is really good. The absence of tragedy? The presence of happiness? of joy? That's another post entirely.
A friend of mine once told me Bart Campolo said that he doesn't always know that God is good. But he knows that he hopes that he is. And faith is trusting in our hopes, even as we lay it on the altar to be sacrificed. Following you old Abe.