D. Patrick Collins wrote a good post called The Mirror. It’s Snow White, so what’s not to love? 🙂
I’d like to play off his post a bit, first because I love fairy tales but also because I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately, specifically narcissism, entitlement, and envy.
Recently someone mentioned The Problem of Evil, the conundrum between the fact that God is good, always…….and yet we suffer in the world. I said there is no conundrum and I meant that, but what I meant was that I don’t wrestle with the problem of suffering, I don’t perceive it as a conundrum, but of course it is a well established paradox, a frequently debated subject. It’s real enough.
Ah yes, I was busy gazing in the mirror and saying, what conundrum? I don’t see a stinking conundrum at all! There’s no conundrum here…..
A conundrum is, a confusing and difficult problem or question. Or the more fun version, a question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle. “How can God be good …..and yet we suffer?” I suppose that is not a very amusing riddle when you are the one suffering, but it is a mystery most of us must chase at some point in life.
I learned a harsh truth long ago having grown up in what amounted to 3rd world poverty, while also surrounded by poor spirits, the truth being that we are actually entitled to nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not food, shelter, good health, human rights, or even love. Not even our breath is our own. If you have breath, there’s your first thing to be grateful for. It’s a terribly low place to find oneself trapped in, but it teaches you something valuable. There are real treasures hidden in being brought so low. You learn that apart from Him, I am nothing.
When you step from what amounts to 3rd world poverty into first world poverty it can be a bit of culture shock. Good grief, are we entitled! Food, shelter, clothing, running water, electricity, transportation, health care, television, civil rights, fair treatment, safety, crime free neighborhoods, a good wi/fi signal……and the fruit of our labors. If I put in the effort, I better get the darn reward. Sheesh, and don’t even think about cutting in front of me in traffic. I’m a good person, so I’m entitled to all of these things and if I don’t get them, I’ve been slighted, wronged, demoted, and somebody is going to pay.
God Himself has betrayed me if I suffer any discomfort. When bad things happen to us we actually call them “acts of God.” I’m a good person, so it would be unjust for a tornado to hit me! Or, my life is not going down the path I planned out, unfair Lord, unfair…
Back to D. Patrick’s The Mirror, we not only think we’re beautiful, we think we’re good! Deserving, entitled. We have a right to not only be beautiful, but to be the fairest of all and to avoid all suffering and inconvenience that might suggest otherwise. The Queen in Snow White sends the woodcutter off to cut her step daughter’s heart out, so she’s not messing around. She’s entitled to be the fairest of all, no matter what it takes.
Our sense of entitlement, our own vanity, our belief that we are good, has a whole lot to do with why the “goodness of God versus the existence of suffering” feels like a conundrum to us, an unexplainable mystery that just won’t jibe. The cognitive dissonance is actually all on our end. God is not puzzled, we are. Hopefully that comes as no surprise.
When you strip away the fairy tale, (and we’ll call Western civilization a fairy tale,) and return to the harsh reality of life, one devoid of all comfort and love, things begin to make a lot more sense. We are entitled to nothing. If we’re lucky we come into the world with our breath. We aren’t even entitled to survive. Without the benevolence of someone, babies die within a few days. We are not even entitled to the fruits of our labors, locust can devour those in a flash. “Why do we suffer,” is actually an elitist question, one that stems from having been insulated from the harsh truth and realities of the world. Strip away all the illusions and no one asks that at all, we’re far more puzzled and surprised by the fact that we’ve somehow managed to survive another day.
I’ve wrestled to teach this truth to four millennial kids now, unwilling of course to expose them to the kind of suffering I grew up with, and yet watching the world teach them to gaze into that mirror more and more obsessively, perceiving life as their personal fairy tale, one they can mold into their own version of reality, untroubled by well, by truth and reality. It’s been a real battle, this is a tough lesson to accept, a tough one to believe is true, especially if you haven’t experienced it first hand.
That’s been my conundrum, because I didn’t want life to sneak up on them, I didn’t want them to be suddenly confronted by the harsh truth and reality of the world, completely unprepared, believing themselves to be good, therefore fully entitled to a fairytale written by their own beautiful hand. Life has a way of rudely throwing you curve balls you didn’t ask for.
D.Patrick Collins says, “But the paradoxical beauty of the Christian life is that through the death of Jesus Christ, we become all the beauty we do not otherwise possess. Through a forgiveness that transcends both outward and inward realities, He removes from us all that is not beautiful.”
Indeed. There is a fairytale, a real one, a kingdom far away and yet nearby, a place of genuine truth and beauty. When you’re in the bottom of a pit looking up and asking, is God good, you realize that your very definition of “what is good,” springs from God Himself. God is the definition of what is good, He is the longing we feel in our souls, He is the fairytale we try so hard to write for ourselves. He is the one who wrote the script our hearts are seeking.