(The words above were penned by someone following the Holocaust tragedy)
These could be our words as we move toward the end of 2017. Has the world ever experienced such a vast mix of tragedies? Terrorism, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, random shootings, flooding, scandals, the opioid epidemic, disintegrating cultural norms, threats of nuclear war, political fights, military tragedies, and an atmosphere in places that reminded me of the sign I saw the other day: “If I haven’t offended you, please give me time, I’ll get to you next.”
“Where is God”, indeed? Has God created the world and then backed away from it? Does anything make sense anymore? How can we say so glibly, “God is protecting us”? I may say it, but I still lock my doors and turn on the alarm system at night. My home has been robbed twice in recent years.
I grew up with the theology of a “vertical God”. God is in His Heaven and all’s right with the world. Everything was up. Now we are realizing that God is more “horizontal”, that is–in the world around us as we look at our neighbors. (God hasn’t changed, our perception changes). How can we discredit the words of Jesus who said, “Love your neighbor as your love yourself”? So this is not a new concept. I guess one of the problems we face is that many people don’t even love themselves as they pour drugs and other poison into their system.
And the word “neighbor” means everyone, not just the people next door, or the people you like or believe like you, or speak your language, or live in your country or are the color of your skin. You had nothing to do with where you were born or with your color. “God blessed them (male and female) and said: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). In other words, God passed the “controls” to us. Have we lost control?
I grew up in a small town, minutes from grandparents, aunts and uncles, with cousins on every square mile, and my world seemed to be so secure and so wonderful and safe. Life is still wonderful, but not safe and I would be foolish to assume that it is. That’s due to God’s gift of “free will”. For we mortals are abusing it terribly. We have messed up the “controls”.
So, when I stand around the Thanksgiving table this year, what do I say if I am called on to pray the “blessing”? I won’t count my blessings on the basis of what I deserve or don’t deserve. Blessings are not entitlements. They are God’s gifts, if we are open to them. I can give thanks that God is still God and is among us—in the food we eat, in the water we drink, and in the beauty of the world around us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (see John 3:16). Now, let me digress.
I believe there’s more goodness in the world than badness, but bad things get publicized more often. Just recently, I have witnessed an out-pouring of God’s grace expressed through so many people, during and after my major surgery in September. Competent doctors who took a personal interest in my procedure knowing that I was a “high risk” patient, nurses and physical therapists at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital who worked with me through pneumonia and impatience, the love of three daughters and two sons, the grace of many friends with cards, flowers, and soup, were constant reminders that there is kindness, goodness and unselfishness all around us—all the time. So if I dare complain, remind me that God is in control (ultimately) and that God is within us, among us, around us, and as the writer of Revelation put it:
“See the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them
They will be with his peoples,
And God Himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:3)