Monday, February 1, 2016

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

Last year was pretty amazing with the birth of our baby boy who, for those of you that don't know the story, we had tried over ten years to have. We couldn't be more grateful and now, at four months old, he's smiling, laughing, saying "Hi", rolling over, and a dozen other milestones.

On the flip side, some pretty awful things happened. Following delivery, I developed a massive breast infection which turned into several abscesses and required drainage surgery and weeks worth of wound care. Read the full story on Unexpectant, a great blog that I was featured on throughout January. In addition to that, two people with whom I am very close and love dearly lost babies to miscarriages. And our beautiful, wonderful 17-year-old niece was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

I hear a refrain so often both from people who believe in God and from people who do not:
"How could God let things like this happen?"

It's a good question, honestly. I'm not going to sugar coat it with cliches or attempt to defend my beliefs by brushing off the bad stuff. Rape, murder, molestation -- horrendous acts happen every day and some even in the very name of God. Many of those are due to human choice, but things like child cancer, miscarriage, starvation... we call these "acts of God", don't we? This implies that not only does God allow them to happen, He actually causes them to happen. It's no wonder atheists so adamantly disbelieve. Things like this often make me wish I didn't believe, myself.

But I do.

And here's why:

I've always had trust issues. It's hard to pinpoint where they came from. Sometimes they're so overwhelming I forget all I know to be true and become paranoid. They affect every aspect of my life. I don't trust myself, I don't trust other people, and I spent a very long time not trusting God because I blamed Him for all of the reasons I didn't trust myself and other people. Plus, you know - all those bad things in the world.

But I came to a point in my life in my late twenties where I realized that whenever I tried to take control of a situation, I screwed it up immensely because I was human, I was flawed, and I was driven by my desires to do things that felt good at the time but were really detrimental to myself and to others. I decided to acknowledge God and ask for a fresh start, and I am not kidding you when I say that absolutely everything changed from that moment on. My mindset, my emotions, my relationships... I felt an immediate difference. There's no way to explain it unless you've experienced it. Call it whatever you want, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a Creator and that it was Good.

How do I reconcile that with the negatives, though? It's difficult. It's not like I glance around the world and see these atrocities and think, "Well, they need Jesus." Because frankly, a lot of situations are covered in Jesus and they still stink to high heaven. (No pun intended. Well, maybe a little.) In the end, I think that God, however one might construe that entity (He/She/It, a Being, a Feeling, the Universe, a Higher Power....) is not absent. I think that God is completely involved in the life of every individual. Just as we have no understanding of light without darkness, we have no understanding of love without the absence of it, and no understanding of good without the absence of it. Darkness is simply the absence of light. Hate is the absence of love, evil is the absence of good. Edmund Burke is attributed with the quote, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing."

There's a great song by Matthew West called "Do Something" -- the lyrics that resonate with me the most are:

I woke up this morning, saw a world full of trouble now.
Thought, how'd we ever get so far down? How's it ever gonna turn around?
So I turned my eyes to Heaven and thought, "God, why don't you DO something?"
Well I just couldn't bear the thought of people living in poverty,
Children sold into slavery; the thought disgusted me.
So, I shook my fist at Heaven, said, "God, why don't you DO something?"
He said, "I did. I created you."

We're said to be created in the image of God. We can sit around and look for something to blame, shove aside responsibility for anything and everything, or we can be the divine reflections we were meant to be. We ARE the light. We ARE the good. We ARE the love.

I keep seeing this meme floating around Facebook with Neil Degrasse Tyson's quote that "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." I absolutely agree. I also believe God is the same way. I believe that you and I are each outposts of God on this Earth and that when we see a need, we're here to fulfill it. When we see hurt, we're here to heal it. When we see hunger, we're here to feed it. When we see injustice, we're here to stand up for the truth. If we're going to sit back and blame, or sit back and not believe, neither of those things are going to do anyone any good and the atrocities will remain.

Whether you believe in God or not, you can be a decent person by doing what you'd want someone to do for you and yours. 
Help people.  
Accept people. 
Encourage people. 
Feed people. 
Teach people. 
Give to people. 
Champion people.
LOVE people.

Welcome to 2016. Let's make the journey a good one for everyone, together.

Stephanie Jean

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