Wednesday, March 11, 2015

God Does Not Explain Himself, But He Promises to Stay With Us

"I will lead the blind on a way they do not know;
by paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will turn darkness into light before them,
and make crooked ways straight.

These are the things I will do,
and I will not forsake them." (Isaiah 42:16).

I love this verse. It's probably one of the sources of the well known saying, "God writes straight with crooked lines." As a person who makes so many crooked lines, I am much consoled and encouraged by God's promises and by His presence.

O Lord, I have so little vision of the mystery of my own life that we might as well call me blind. I am blind. I do not see or feel or understand the deepest works of healing that You are carrying out within my person.
You are leading me, especially and most profoundly, in those 'ways I do not know," the 'places of darkness' and all the crookedness of the wounds of my sins. You are leading me through so many secret sufferings, through the pain of my truest prayer that so often cries out for You, trembling with hunger. 
There is always this hunger, this longing for You, Lord, that seems overwhelming. Temptations pretend that there are other ways to fill this hunger, and they come from all directions. Ultimately, they pretend to offer something of You that I can grasp and make my own. But what they offer is not You (as I have learned by bitter experience). I want You. 
Where are You, O Lord? 
Baptism has made me Your adopted son, and has enabled me to live with You in the midst of Your People, my brothers and sisters in Jesus the eternal Son, "gathered" (ekklesia) throughout history and today in Your Church. The Church and the sacraments have brought me forgiveness and reconciliation, healing, growth and strength in so many ways. 
But the crushing human weight of the effects of original sin and the scars of my own broken life remain in me in ways I don't understand. I am still so blind. 
Yet You do not forsake me. You are leading me through the anguish and loneliness that come from being a broken human being who lives in broken relationships, who remains a sinner even with all he has been given, who suffers disappointment and fears death. 
Father, I am Your child in eternal life, but I am like a newborn baby even after these many years: small, helpless, crying out, and not yet able to see.... 
I am blind... perhaps in part because of Your mercy. You shield my eyes from the things You know I could not bear to see. Or You let me have a very small glimpse: just enough to know that the pain is there so that I can abandon myself to Your loving hands, and just enough to see that Jesus is here with me. 
Father, I believe that Jesus is here in the suffering, in the places that seem senseless, in the wounds that never fully heal.

God makes a way here, a way that I do not know. He does not explain these hidden ways to me, but simply asks me to trust in Him, to persevere on the path and share in the darkness and suffering that remain in me but no longer belong to me.

He has made them His sufferings. They no longer belong to me, and no longer define me, because He has taken them through love.

Therefore, I must not try to hold onto them, as if the incomprehensible depths of suffering somehow might give me a claim against God, a pretext to turn away from Him, to doubt His promise that He "will never forsake" me. I must not hold them up in God's face and say, "I accept that You exist, but I don't accept Your world" (as Ivan Karamazov says in Dostoevsky's greatest book).

My very bones cry out, "Why?" And yet as our dear late Lorenzo Albacete put it, "God doesn't give you an answer. He just shows up."

The "answer" cannot be a solution or a formula or anything that I can grasp with my mind. My mind cannot turn this darkness into light.

The "answer" is a fact that I must adhere to with my mind, with trust. This adherence is called faith. Even in the deepest darkness, I must have faith that He is here, that He has not forsaken me, that He is leading me on paths unknown.

God's answer is not a "solution" in the sense we think we want. It's not the ultimate "self-improvement" manual. Nor is it a social or political or psychological or intellectual solution.

God's answer is Love. His Love. God's answer to my anguish and loneliness is the gift of Himself.

Infinite Love doesn't "answer the question" of my pain; it is a response that is beyond all the terms I use to try to ask the question, and all the loneliness and anguish that drive the question. Still, it corresponds to all my human questions; it even intensifies those questions while inviting me to live them within this Love. Love transforms my longing, my emptiness, my wounds.

Love turns darkness into light.


P.S. -- God gives Himself in Jesus. He is Gift. He who is Love and Freedom can only be freely received. My human reason and freedom are respected by the God who created me in His image, as a person. Infinite Love gives Himself totally as a free gift. He wants to raise me up in this gift, giving me the capacity to receive Him and share His life.

This raises a new "question" for my reason, a profoundly practical question that I cannot escape. Should I accept this Infinite Gift? 

I can choose to say, "No."

A gift by nature is offered freely. True love by nature is the opposite of coercion; when we love someone we seek a free response of love. Clearly this must be super-eminently true for the Infinite Gift who is Love Himself.

He wants me to say, "Yes!" He will even empower me to say a "Yes" that shares forever in His life. But He will not force me to accept Him.

Therefore, I can reject Him. There is a great mystery here, because His creative love sustains me in my very being, which means that "I" can never "totally" reject Him because then I would cease to exist. I cannot exist, I cannot be "me," without depending totally on His Love that gives me my very being, and remains always the Source of "me."

Still, He makes me free. I do not have to accept His gift of Himself, His Love and His "way of love" that He has crafted to bring me to my fulfillment. I can resist Infinite Love. I can remain blind forever, because I do not want to let go of my limitations, my nothingness, my way of measuring reality which ultimately comes down to my misery and dissatisfaction. And I can spin endless rationalizations for why refuse to let go.

I can refuse to let go of my sufferings.

But why would I resist the Infinite Gift (who gives me my being) freely offering Himself to me forever? Such a resistance is not only the ultimate misuse of freedom. It is also the ultimate failure of reason. It is the victory of fear.

I cry out in the darkness, "Where am I? Who am I? Why all this pain?" and the answer is "I am with you. I will lead you. No matter how hard, I am with you!"

I am not given "explanations" about the mysterious depths of my own life. I am given Someone who is worthy of my trust. I need to let Him pick me up and carry me. He will never forsake me.

And He will open my eyes, when the time is right.