I am not especially good at living with paradox. It's too disorganized for me. By definition, there are no straight answers or to-do lists. I want to think it all through, box it up with the correct label, and put it in storage. But it just won't stay. Lately I've been spending a lot of time with people in pain. I guess that's what counseling is anyway. But I've also started volunteering as a chaplain at our local hospital. And so I spend a lot of time being with people who are wrestling with sickness and pain and even death in an immediate way.
I keep running up against this problem. People God loves, who are in pain. People God loves, who suffer injustice and abuse. And it just makes me kind of crazy.
So a couple of weeks ago, I was supposed to arrange a lesson for our Sunday School class but then I forgot and so at the last minute I grabbed this Rob Bell video called "Whirlwind." It's about the book of Job.
Job, the man whose life epitomizes pain and suffering and loss. Everything he values is taken from him. In one horrendous incident after another, he loses his wealth, his family, his health. Then his friends show up to tell him that "Everything happens for a reason. God is good, so if bad things are happening to you, it must be your fault. If you'd just admit what you did wrong, this mess would fix itself."
After 36 chapters, God finally responds, but He doesn't give a point-by-point sermon on the theology of suffering. Instead, He composes a poem about the wonder of nature. Around 100 verses of it. He starts off with the sea and the clouds and the dawn and the light and the snow and the rain and the stars. And then He goes into the lioness and the ravens and the mountain goat and wild donkeys and oxen and ostriches and horses and hawks and the hippopotamus and crocodile.
Here's the thing Rob Bell does in "Whirlwind" that just gets me in the heart. He quotes it all.
When you read it in your head--well, when I read it in my head--it's so easy to skim and skip and try to get to the point.
But when Rob Bell quotes it all out loud, it's an overwhelming barrage, a verbal landslide. And by the time he gets to the ostrich, I'm saying, "Stop, stop, I'm still trying to figure out the raven!"
Which is exactly the point.
"I put my hand over my mouth."
There are billions of things I just don't know. I don't know when the mountain goat is going to give birth. I sure don't know why so many bad things happen to good people.
I know Creation groans. I know it's horrible and I hate it.
And somehow, somehow--I know. I know, for sure, that my Redeemer lives.
And lately I have started to think that what I'm really being called to do is to live in the paradox. To experience this pain and this hope together, without trying to quantify it or explain it. Which, it seems to me, is way harder and more exhausting than my preferred box-it-up-and-label-it method.