Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29: Saints Peter and Paul

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are are really good at heart."
-----Anne Frank

I have a confession to make. It may come as a surprise to some of my readers, but those of you who know me personally will not be surprised at all by what I am about to reveal. Here goes.

My confession: I get pissed at God sometimes. In fact, God and I haven't been on speaking terms for long periods of time in the past.

I'm not talking about an anger that comes and goes quickly, like God eating the last piece of pizza I was saving for breakfast. I'm talking about a lasting and abiding rage that lasts for months, like God seeing me broken down on the side of the road at 2 a.m. and just driving by me, honking His horn and waving.

There have been times in my life when I couldn't pray, times when I felt so betrayed and abandoned by God that going to church was like attending a birthday party for Hitler.

At the start of one of these crises, I was in the office of my pastor friend at church. He already knew the circumstances that brought me to him. I sat on the couch in front of him, sobbing and snotting all over myself.

When I was finally able to speak, I said, "I just want to know what I did."

He looked at me puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"What I did," I said again. "To make God punish me like this?"

Now, I'm sure some of you are wondering what personal catastrophe brought me to this point. So let me clear that up: I'm not going to tell you. What I will tell you is that I was wounded. Shattered, as a matter of fact. And I was looking for reason, logic, sense in a senseless situation.

I honestly thought God was adjusting the scales, meting out some divine justice on my head. I just couldn't figure out what I had done to deserve it.

"You didn't do anything," my friend said.

I shook my head and hugged my stomach, as if I'd been gut-punched.

"Listen to me," my friend said. "You didn't do anything."

I looked at him.

"God doesn't work that way," he said, leaning back in his chair. He waved his hands at the contents of his office. "And I wouldn't work for a God who did work that way."

I shook my head again, gripped by another stomach spasm.

"I'm serious," he said. "I'd resign today and go work at Burger King if I thought that's how the way things were." He said it so firmly and with such conviction that I wanted to believe him. I wanted to be that sure of God's constant and unchangeable love. I was drowning.

It's really easy to blame God for the crap that happens in the world and in your life. He created the world, after all, so He should be responsible for its brokenness, as well. Hurricane Katrina--God. Genocide in Rwanda--God. Racism--God. Mental illness--God. It's a pretty easy formula, isn't it?

But it ain't that easy. That would be like eating a Florida orange and claiming it was the solution to the BP oil spill in the Gulf. I want life to be that simple, that reductive. It's not.

What my pastor friend made me understand was that God did, indeed, make the world. Babies, rainbows, full moons, oceans, sunrises, sunsets, Godiva chocolates. But all the shit--global warming, murder, abandonment, war, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, pornography, mental illness--that's just a symptom of human beings chasing the cracks in creation, the human-made fault lines full of shadows and pain. God always wants what's best for me. For us. He didn't want me sitting in my friend's office, weeping. But God did give me a friend who listened to my cries. God can take a huge pile of manure, add a seed, and make an orchid bloom.

Take Peter and Paul, for example. Peter argued with Jesus on more than one occasion. He pissed Jesus off so much that J.C. even called Peter "Satan" once. Peter was always telling Jesus that he knew J.C. was the savior and son of God, but when the chips were down, Pete's basic response was, "I don't know nothin' 'bout that Jesus guy." Paul was even worse. Paul, AKA Saul, was throwing Christians to the lions. Literally. After his conversion, he suffered from a "thorn in his flesh", which he writes about in 2 Corinthians. Different people have interpreted this "thorn" as an eye ailment; depression; guilt over his earlier persecution of Christians; and a particularly troublesome opponent to his work in Corinth. Regardless of what or who the thorn was, Paul didn't have it easy. Yet, God took both of these flawed, broken men and made saints out of them.

What's my point?

My point is that I know it's OK to be pissed at God. If He can take eight years of George W. Bush, my little bundle of anger must seem like a mosquito buzzing around His head. God doesn't create problems. Humans do. God takes problems and creates beauty.

From the Holocaust came Anne Frank's diary. From moldy bread came penicillin. And from mental illness and anger came a rebirth of love and my beautiful son.

1 comment: