Monday, September 29, 2014

there are more things in heaven and earth

 'Why doesn't God smite this dictator dead?' is a question a little remote from us. Why, madam, did He not strike you dumb and imbecile before you uttered that baseless and unkind slander the day before yesterday? Or me, before I behaved with such cruel lack of consideration to that well-meaning friend? And why, sir, did He not cause your hand to with after you signed your name to that dirty little bit of financial trickery?
--Dorothy Sayers, "The Triumph of Easter"

You know how there are periods of your life that are defined by books you were reading at the time? This past summer was the summer of Dorothy Sayers. Starting with her wickedly pithy and thoroughly knowledgeable detective stories starring Lord Peter Wimsey, and finishing up the summer immersed in her insightful essays of apologetic theology, I spent the entire summer becoming acquainted with her through her writing, which was really quite beautiful. Reading is an art dedicated to mostly two activities: exploring new world, and encountering other humans.
In all her essays, Ms. Sayers has an overabundance of witty quotes (no surprise there), but the above is one of my absolute favorites. For she cleverly turns a problem on his head that we all usually wrestle with to no avail.
"The limit imposed on evil is Divine Mercy," quoth John Paul II, and for which we are endlessly grateful, for without that mercy, none of us would be in existence. For, as Ms. Sayers so beautifully demonstrates in this short passage of her essay, those questions that echoes in all of our mouths and hearts and minds far too often: "Why do bad things happen?" "Why does evil exist?" "Why does God allow for X,Y,Z global disasters to occur?" are never applied to ourselves. And perhaps instead of moaning over the evil we are forced to endure, we perhaps ought to cry out with gladness that we are not struck based on the evil that we perpetuate.
There is dying to do on the way to the Father.
--Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross
God allows the tsunami to occur just for the same reason he allows for our daily little sins to occur: mercy. Each day, like the father of the Prodigal Son, he watches the road as we make our way towards Him. And each day, we fall, of course, because we are like babies with little rolls of fat on our legs instead of muscles, and so they are often too weak to carry us.
There is no mercy in carrying a child until his legs have grown muscles which can hold his weight up underneath him while he walks.
There is no use in waiting until he is ready to walk to wean him off of crawling.
If her body never strives to walk, it will never learn. And, although perhaps a prodigy baby will prove me wrong one day, no child can learn to walk without exhausting its little nascent leg muscles and fall to the ground, gravity, for the moment, having the upper hand.
The process of learning to walk necessitates a fall.
And there is mercy in the parents who tolerate the falling, painful though it may be, and let the child's muscles work so that they can grow.
But our falls are truly happy faults and joyful failures. Christian belief asserts that perfection is not some sort of higher status we can achieve all on our own steam, but rather, the staunch insistence that if we seek to bring real good out of an undeniably real evil, we will encounter Perfect Love himself. In return for our daily sins and failures, we are showered with the overabundance of divine mercy. And this is perhaps the kindest reason that evil has ever been allowed to continue. For, in our pettiness, the grandeur of divine mercy shines through.
If we did not have this space of emptiness and darkness inside of us, how could we have ever come to understand mercy's ineffable light?

To be told that poverty of spirit, emptiness, and unknowing are part of the game is not very comforting, however, because the sting of failure in prayer is that we truly do fail. It feels like our own fault, and so it largely is. If we consent to be caught up by God's love, our sinfulness becomes manifest as it might never have done had we been left to live our little lives undisturbed.
--Maria Boulding, Gateway to Hope: An Exploration of Failure

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