One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." --Job 1:6&7
I think of myself as a realist. Most people, optimists and pessimists, do. But if I’m honest with myself, judge myself with fairness, I’d have to say I’m an optimist. I tend to look at the positives, to expect things will work out, to see positive outcomes when the end is uncertain.
In the challenges which face us, my wife and I, we often see things quite differently.
Her emotions swing to and fro. I try not to grab that pendulum; rather, I listen to the rhythms of my own heart.
That can be a tricky.
Brenda’s faith has been badly shaken.
“How can a good God let all these bad things happen all the time? How can a good God do the things He has done to us? Either He’s a cruel God or there isn’t any God at all.”
It pains me to hear such things. It is difficult not to leap to His defense, to point out with heartfelt logic the blessings, the realities of God. But, as I did say to her, I think the reality of God is not based on the evidence of the world around us as much as the evidence we find in our hearts. Faith is based on an internal, not an external, reality.
The last few weeks have been filled with highs and lows, a strange potpourri of juxtaposed moments, events, and circumstances.
Getting my kids legal: The first steps have been done. The papers the lawyer needed to begin the work are turned in to him. There are the passport photos and birth certificates and certified FBI criminal background checks and school records and all sorts of arcane legal proofs of our citizenship.
There was the thorough physicals by the extremely rude, perhaps slightly psychotic doctor with the reputation of producing careful documentations which please the discerning agents of Homeland Security.
There was the disconcerting tuberculosis tests. We were to watch the spot on the arms of our boys where they had administered the tests. A hard oval about an inch long would indicate a positive reaction if it did not dissipate after 10 days. Jeremiah had such a spot within hours of the visit. It lasted 9 days. Apparently he carries the antibodies for TB but hasn’t the disease. He was probably exposed to it at some point but didn't get it.
Brenda says I am a good man. But the truth is something else. I am a man. One who is filled with flaws. One who fails often, andthough I do not seem to swing to wide with the pendulum of life, I still make my share of errors. I love my Lord. But there are things about me that aren’t so noble.
I tried once to explain to Brenda that the world is evil because there is evil in the world, not because God makes it so.
On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." --Job 2:1-2
I erred the other day. I heard a whisper. I entered our bedroom, Brenda was hanging up the phone.
“Didn’t she hang up that phone just a little too quickly?”
She told me she wanted to meet up with a friend who is having a difficult time. She left.
“She is going to meet another man... she doesn’t love you anymore... Things have been too hard for her, she feels old and unlovely and some man has convinced her to come to him.”
I hit redial on the phone. A man answered. I asked for the woman Brenda said she was meeting. He said there wasn’t anyone there by that name.
I jumped in the car. I raced toward Oregon City. I sped. Seven miles out I spotted a car that looked like hers. I caught up. It wasn’t her. I turned around. I drove nearly all the way back. Then I thought I saw her headed the other way. I turned around again. I raced up to it. It wasn’t her. I turned around. I went home. She was there. I told her my suspicions.
She was sweet. Kind. Understanding. I allowed my fears to settle, to quiet. I believed her.
“Well, it all sounds plausible... but who knows?”
I’m not that good a man. There is a force of evil in the world. I have listened to his voice.
They swinging pendulum has brought me some cool things. A week ago last Friday we had the Battle of the Bands, a fund raiser for our PTA. It was so much fun! I was the lead “singer” of the staff band. The dozen or so bands ended up raising approximately $8,400 for our school!
This past Friday we had a visitor from India at our school. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, still carrying on his grandfather’s work in promoting peace. We dedicated a peace pole in the Peace Garden (we have a piece of the World Trade Center on display there).
His accent reminded me of the nearly two years I lived in an ashram. The group of us, following the tenets of a traditional Indian monastery. What makes the memory unpleasant is the knowledge of the history of the leadership there. The guru, Anandaji, was the disciple of Sri Shuruth, who was a disciple of Ramakrishna, head priest of India’s main Kali temple. I am so sorry I was ever associated with any of that.
Had a little fender bender in a parking lot the other day. Minor damage. The other fellow put a much better spin on his story. I was tempted to do the same.
In a moment of frustration Brenda said she wanted to just leave, run away. I told to go ahead. For a moment I fantasized about it. I'm not that good a man.
The pendulum continued to swing.
I was nominated for an excellence in teaching award.
My back has gone out, my skin is splitting, I have a cold.
My lessons have been clicking so well lately, students are really making great leaps which warms me. I even had a teacher come and observe my class room last week from over a hundred miles away.
Brenda and I have been under a lot of stress. Generally we have been kind to each other. Sometimes not so much.
Poor Isaac has had too much on his mind. It is becoming clearer he may not be equipped to handle the rigors of regular class work. He got himself transferred to a regular reading class. I quietly had the school look in on him and they transferred him back to the lower level class. We have spoken about testing him later this month, to see if he would be better served in special education classes.
A week ago he cut the back of his hand with a knife. It bled for quite a while.
His confusion, his struggles, my responsibility. I haven’t helped him enough.
The weather lately has been gorgeous.
I look around me at people I love. People I know who struggle with all sorts of problems. Problems with addictions. Problems with finances. Problems with their children. Problems of every sort.
The Oregon skies have cleared and green is sprouting from every spot of open soil. Himalayan blackberries are growing several inches a day. Cumulus clouds drift lazily across God’s blue canvas, framing northbound geese.
Such beauty can seem an irony to the troubles people are carrying within their breasts.
It can seem that this beautiful world is an irony to the suffering that goes on. The sludge of filth spreading disease in third world cities... the carbon building up in our atmosphere at a rate that is unbalancing our weather... the vanishing species of this world we were given to protect... and the trillium is pushing up beneath the douglas firs.
I’m not that good a man. I have weaknesses, failures. I listen to whispers when I should be listening to Him.
Things have gotten pretty screwed up, that doesn’t mean God is doing us harm. It simply means that free will is in play, that we are on a journey through a world that is dark, ruled by a prince of darkness. But all of us have a lamp we can carry. We don’t have to carry it. It is our choice.
Things have been pretty rough.
But I’m optimistic.