There are doubts I don’t have. Doubts I hear other people voice, and I wonder sometimes whether that just means I haven’t faced enough personal tragedy to ask these questions, but… I have dealt with some personal tragedy, and some collective community tragedy, and I still don’t ask. One of these questions is “How can a good, loving God run a world (or allow) so much tragedy, sadness, and -well, sin?”
I don’t ask that. Not because I deign to know the answer, but because I view the universal life journey as a great story, one with an author-creator who writes with intention. And what kind of author would write a story with no conflict? I’ll identify as a Calvinist here, not because I have a great handle on what that really means, but because among most people who will likely read this, they’ll know what I mean, except for a few, and, well, you probably know who you are –so I’ll explain what I mean in this context.
I believe every part of life down to the intimate detail is woven by God himself. Notice I said woven –not made or commanded– woven. If you’ve ever crafted anything from a painting to a batch of cookies to a model airplane, you know that materials matter. Quality materials make for a far better finished product, more easily worked with. In the way I view the world, we are materials. Sometimes we are more yielding to the Maker, other times, less so. Whether we can control what sort of material we are is still a mystery to me, but the end product, regardless of the material -quality or not- is in the hands of the Creator, not the creation. Some might say that reduces mankind to an automaton –I don’t think so. I’m delving in mystery here, not an easy thing for an analytically-minded person to handle. I don’t presume to be able to prove anything here, just explain one person’s viewpoint from the top of the desk (yes, that was a reference to Dead Poets’ Society, if you’re paying attention).
What it all boils down to is story, and story needs conflict. And story needs characters. What keeps us reading is waiting for the resolution, the ending. We want to see how the story’s characters will weave their way through the conflict to what we hope is a “satisfying ending.” When we quit the story in the middle, when we get overwhelmed by the conflict itself, we are lost, in a true sense of the word. When we can’t find our way through the pain into forgiveness, through mistrust and betrayal to trust again, when we can’t find our way through fear to love, we are lost to the Truth that the Author has an end in mind to the conflict that is nearly always incredibly more fulfilling and beautiful than any ending we’d have written ourselves.
The root of the word authority -it’s author. Until we start to ponder the Creator as Author, we miss that aspect of the term. It’s not commandority -it’s authority. What author pours his soul into a story he hates? Might he hate parts of the story? Maybe, but I would dare to say an author that despises the story he writes -well, I just can’t see it. And that’s why I don’t ask how God can allow the conflicts he authors. I’m waiting for the happy endings –which aren’t always endings. Sometimes they’re new beginnings, which is the best sort of resolution of all.