When I was a little girl, I couldn't fathom the idea that God has always been, that He never had a beginning and had no Creator. (Then again, it boggled my mind to think my own parents had once been babies and had parents of their own.) As I was wrestling through this concept with all the wisdom of a 3-year-old mind, I saw a Sesame Street clip when a paint can was sitting on a black background and, out of nothing, a hand with a paint brush dips into the can and paints a vibrant illustration across the screen. For years afterward I entertained recurrent dreams of God painting Himself into existence so that He could create us.
The only problem I had with this image was, where that can of paint came from in the first place? No matter how I tried to mentally frame it, there always was something to start with, God, a can of pain, the "Big Bang" components. Finally, it came down to a matter of choice for my mind. Something had to be there before, "In the beginning," in order for that beginning to even transpire. I wasn't there (you weren't either) so there was no reproducible "proof" in the scientific sense. There was plenty of speculation and supporting documentation in favor of each argument, but really there was no reason my paint theory wasn't just as plausible as the theory of evolution, creationism, or any other school of thought. Choosing any single belief system came down to a whole heap of a lot of faith, no matter what I choose to place that faith into!
I went with belief in my Father, the Creator God, a Higher Power if that is more comfortable, and confidence in Intelligent Design, that nothing happens in this life without God's direct hand, either causatively or permissively. I am realizing that early struggle with what (Who) I would choose to believe in, would lay a strong foundation for my future. I went from lacking absolute "proof" to knowing Absolute Love that would prove strong and secure through every storm.
Do I believe God directly causes terrible thing to happen to His children? While there are a few references in Scripture I could use to support the argument that He may occasionally bring destruction to a specific people (usually not His children), in a particular time-frame, to accomplish a very specif purpose,generally speaking, I think I can safely answer that question with a resounding, "No!"
Do we live in a sinful, fallen, broken world, far from God's original design and perfection? Absolutely! This isn't to say God is impotent, unable to command thing back into order or obedience. It is to say that God loves us too much to demand robotic behavior, and so, while His hand remains very much involved in our lives, often protecting us from countless, unseen tragedies, He allows us the freedom of will, to take this world He has gifted us and abuse it, reaping a very few of the consequences of our own making. God sometimes allows (not prevents) trials in our lives, for the purpose of course correction toward His greater desire for ultimate good.
It doesn't mean I "deserved" to have six strokes in my 30, it means, we as an entire race have turned our backs on God. We are all sinful and every one of us deserve this and much more! Yet out of love, God protected me from this natural consequence of this sin-festered world, until He knew I was ready to allow Him to carry me through this journey. A fireman will not willingly stand by as a child is burned, instead he will scoop the child into his arms and flee the flames.
Still, the child might receive some burns in the process, but compared to the death and destruction that would have surely been his, everyone celebrates and really doesn't concern themselves overly much with a few burns. Like that child in the burning house, God does not always prevent all "burns" in our lives, but He gives much more! Jesus has already paid the penalty for my sin, by His sacrifice on the cross, the only One who never deserved pain or heartbreak or death, in exchange for forgiveness for each and every one separated from the Father, who will accept His offered grace.
I bet you can see many ways He has sheltered you from "natural consequences" over the years too. Can you think of some "buring houses" that should have brought so much more destruction to your life? For ever situation you can identify, there are probably dozens (maybe hundreds or thousands) more ways God protected and directed you, that you may never even know! This is what I mean by God's permissive will - the small fraction of suffering we are allowed to endure all must be filtered through His nail-pierced hands of grace before it can ever touch us!
This isn't "punishment," this is a reminder that I'm headed to an eternity where all will be restored and God will lift me out of the presence of sin's domain. As a friend recently reminded me, this life's pain is the only taste even close to the suffering of hell I will ever endure. If I did not yet have assurance of a right relationship with God and hope for my future, this grief would be a dim reflection of my future, when God would no longer be protecting me from the full consequences or full weight of sin, where His hand of protection was withdrawn so that I might know the full furry of evil. :(
Back to the paint brush theme, I recently saw a picture that illustrates my life and how that simple childhood choice of faith has made all the difference in my experiences today:
I may not be able to see what my earthly future holds, but I not only see, but personally know, the One who lovingly has been "holding the paint brush" all along! I don't have to be able to see all the way to the end of the path, just know direction will be there for where I next set my foot. He is indeed the Inelegant Designer, and recognition of this fact has made all the difference in my life!
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same...Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
And this latest bump in the road, maybe God is just adding new color to the pallet of my life:- from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
|Today, February 1, is "Wear Red" day for heart and arterial awareness.|
(For those who may not know, my first two strokes came about due to accidental arterial dissection. And the next four strokes, due to blood clots formed as the same artery tried to heal. I had no typical stroke risk factors, just a traumatic injury, leading to multiple areas of brain damage.)
Acts 3:21Here are further theological thoughts, written since this one about God's Paint Brush, on What Constitutes a Miracle? and Still Pondering Miracles, as well as Trees Walking, that should be read in conjunction with the follow-up article, Restored Hope.
He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.