There are various suggestions, anecdotal advice offered in hindsight, or reductive platitudes which are offered up as ways to maintain a faithful disposition in the face strenuous or destructive events. I wonder about it often. So far, I have been spared any transformative tragedies. But, I am always afraid; I am afraid of any particular event that would threaten the lives of my family and friends. I’m also afraid over how I would react, how I would attempt to make sense of it in relation to God’s telos. The idea that any event would serve as retribution for one’s sinful existence, or as punishment for the conscious dismissal of Christ’s teachings, seems rather delusional and paranoid. It’s altogether myopic and self-absorbed. In addition, it calls to mind a rather archaic hermeneutic, static, largely counter intuitive to a dominant christian narrative…so here we have a conflict — The psychical balancing act that attempts to arrange God’s plan for the world with the individual relational aspect put forth in New Testament text, bears upon the individual especially hard and activates an oscillation between these respective view points…a vain yet authentic attempt to position oneself, on the one hand, as a faithful subject within God’s plan for the world, and on the other, as a beloved individual whose hair has been counted and whose life has been uniquely predestined by God and loved unconditionally by Christ. So, perhaps, between days and fits of despair, we choose the former, and on other days the latter. On one particular day we may be strengthened by this idea of God’s over all plan and our place in it, a comforting sensation that level’s the horizon, de-emphasizing our all too frequent failures, and placing us helpless yet devoted. Then perhaps the night falls and we find ourselves alone, and the guilt comes rushing back. We recall our chutzpah, our infidelities, those biblical narratives of punishment for turning away from God’s will. We remember the words of Jesus and his polemical words on sin. We recall our failure to act on even the most basic Christian teachings of unconditional love for our neighbor, charity, and proud proclamation of our faith. We wrestle with God’s forgiveness and mercy against the all too oppressive reality of our current state, utterly broken. Unfortunately, at these moments, we can not extend into the future and gaze back from any higher understanding. Rather, we are smaller than ever and anyone who reminds you that God won’t ever give what you can’t handle, and that this is part of God’s larger plan, the reminder to remain in love is, more maddening than ever imagined. There is no solution. The thought of God’s love does not translate, it is met with despairing indifference and a blank stare.
There is, in a certain sense, a Kantian notion to Christian engagement which is contextualized by the power of God and the need for the individual to seek God’s will. Although, the latter part of this arrangement is entirely dependent on God. One cannot do it alone. Therefore, in what could be called the “existential reality,” God is always complicit in this struggle. Paul, in his apostolic authority, tells us that the grace which saves comes from God, not from ourselves….and conversely, we are told in Matthew that only those of us who do the will of Jesus’s Father will enter into the Kingdom, and elsewhere, that we must make ourselves like children. Oh, these competing narratives, the former which emphasizes our helplessness in this endeavor…one entirely reliant upon the grace of God in accordance with his plan, worked out in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph 1:11), vs the former, one which, at the very least, frustratingly, implies that there is something which must be done on our part.
Where do I position myself within this matrix — in relation to my own passions and desires given by the same God who demands I neglect them, the call to make myself like a child and do God’s will, against the words of Paul who reminds us that we are predestined. He tells us that God made known to us the mystery, yet, we are suspended so consequentially in the void. What faith indeed! My goal is not to be antagonistic, but to express the anxiety which is informed by my own insecurity, and frustrated by competing narratives of responsibility and providence. Of course, to surrender to providence does not exclude responsibility, but it does activate the oppression of guilt and the incessant presence of sinful conscious in relation to one’s existence. The love of God becomes a concept abstracted and re-appropriated in a rhetoric devoid of substance. No, this love must be experienced, felt first hand…and the, as of yet, absence of this revelation reflects either on me, or on God..neither of which is reassuring.
Yet I am told to remain in faith and surrender. And in speaking truth, that is all anyone can encourage, in as much as there is no way to express the truth directly. It is no one’s fault, so it must be mine. God created me, and perhaps I exploit discrepancies in attempts to express an authenticity which I have a hard time finding. I tell myself it’s not an antagonistic or boastful exercise, but what do I know? God knows me better than I know myself…how unfair that he won’t give me any more hints! She has to realize how dimwitted and unimaginative I am. What a curious providence that expands so spectacularly, impartially, and seductively into nothing, thus allowing everything.