In my pilgrimage from cynicism to faith, gratitude is my final frontier.
In case you’re new to this blog, I have one exhortation: read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. This book is “a celebration of grace and a recognition of the power of gratitude”—in the most powerful and compelling language I have ever read. It is my current obsession (besides Hunger Games) and progression in my spiritual journey.
|Photo credit: Ann Voskamp|
Ann’s words have challenged my heart, but they’ve also challenged my mind. She’s addressed gratitude in the face of injustice, gratitude in the face of the mundane, and gratitude in the face of pain.
But today I ask, what about evil?
Ann writes that ALL IS GOOD. All is grace.
She says, “All God makes is good. Can it be that that which seems to oppose the will of God is actually used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, the light never stops shining.”
That doesn’t sit well with me.
She asks could it be, “that which feels like trouble, gravel in the mouth, is only that—feeling? What if faith says all is good…I think it. But do I really mean it?”
In my world, there are some things that don’t just feel evil; they are evil.
Death and war and rape and genocide and a million other forms of selfishness and injustice that pepper our world with pain. How are those moments grace, gifts?
I relate to Elie Wiesel, Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and Nobel Peace Prize winner, when he says,
“I feel like screaming, howling like a madman so that the world, the world of the murderers, might know it will never be forgiven.”
Sometimes I hear awful stories and I think I could scream for eternity and it wouldn’t be okay.
I think of catching and stopping warlord Joseph Kony. I think of the incredible victory that will be. But the tens of thousands of children who have been abducted and forced to murder, scream out to me that it will still not be okay.
That it will never be okay.
But God is reconciling ALL THINGS?
I can’t mean it. I can’t.
Not yet. Or maybe not ever.
|Photo credit: The Christian Science Monitor|
I can see good and hope and love. I see things being made new everyday. As Gungor says, I know God makes beautiful things out of dust and out of us. But I can’t call it all beautiful—not in my macro-theology.
In my personal micro-theology I can believe it. I can name my own gifts, my graces. I can name my hurt and pain and walk the path to wholeness, to redemption, to beauty.
I can consent to each of us, on our own micro-level, acknowledging the gifts.
But I refuse to gift-wrap the world’s pain in glib statements of gratitude without the victims’ approval. Like my bloggy friend Adrian Waller commented the other day, I refuse to say, “God causes bad things that are “really” for good.”
I refuse to say that it is okay that this world is so messed up.
I used to think that meant I couldn’t believe in God. Or that I didn’t believe in God.
I used to think I couldn’t be angry and grateful at the same time. That I couldn’t be angry and faithful.
But the other thing I learned from Elie Weisel is that you can.
In fact, I can be angry with God precisely because of my faith in Him.
Elie writes, “I have never renounced my faith in God. I have risen against His justice, protested His silence and sometimes His absence, but my anger rises up within faith and not outside it.”
And so today—from within faith—I wrestle. I protest a world with warlords like Joseph Kony and hot topic issues such as sex trafficking and child soldiers. I protest the poverty I have seen in the city dumps of Nicaragua and Guatemala and in my own neighborhood in San Diego. I protest the less sexy atrocities of lack of access to land and food and crops that I encounter every day at my work. For a few minutes, I let my growing fears that I’m a Capitol dweller in the circus of the 21st century Hunger Games consume me, and I—in the same breath—I ask,
“Where are you, God?”and “Please rain down your GRACE.”
Can you relate to this tension between anger and gratitude? Do you think it’s possible to be angry at God and remain faithful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!