I hate it when God invades my dreams with theology, like a kitten playing with my pen as I’m trying to write. Okay, maybe I don’t hate it… it just makes for a short night.
Tonight it’s this line from a Jars of Clay song: “I am thankful that I’m incapable of doing any good on my own.” That’s not even my theology. I think God has made us capable of choosing, of doing good or evil, and God imbues all our good with the Spirit’s power and nudges and invites and seduces us toward the good.
But still, there’s a certain kind of truth and beauty in the line on a loop in my head at 1am in the work-a-day morning. “I am thankful that I’m incapable of doing any good on my own.” Our weakness shows God’s power and God works for good even when we can’t.
I say to patients all the time a belief that is part of my core — “God doesn’t create suffering. God transforms it.” But, forgive my blasphemy, God, sometimes even that isn’t a comfort. Soren Kierkegaard’s definition of a poet as one whose expression of suffering is so beautiful that people say, “sing again,” that is, suffer more but make it sound like music… that is perhaps, somedays, why I don’t write. My writing comes from eyes and heart wide open to suffering, mine and others. And when I write it becomes somehow beautiful… not the suffering exactly, but the expression of it.
But there is something in me that bucks and snorts at this. Suffering is not holy. Transformation is. God’s loving invasion is. And these things are so often found together. But, again, forgive the blasphemy, sometimes it seems suffering is just suffering. And sometimes it seems that if my suffering or their suffering is transformed, then it had a purpose, which then makes me question you, O God of the Universe. Did you want the suffering all along?
Forgive me, for I know you weep alongside my patients. I know you see their wounds and scars more clearly than anyone, and I know you are not unmoved. But I have to ask… must there, really, be such suffering?
Perhaps the kitten playing with the pen is not God but me… intent on using fumbling paws and active mind and curious heart to steal away this thing I don’t even have the first clue how to use.
God, after it all, I trust you. But please, someday, show me what you intend for the world’s people and your creation. When the groaning is ended and your promise is fulfilled, let it all have meant something, and let me know fully, even as I am fully known.