John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise L: Questions for God

(Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, with a story about some questions he has for God.

 

Some beings I care a great deal about passed on recently. I say “beings” because one of them was my cat who got hit by a car the night of my mom’s viewing. I had a few questions for God after that one, so I read the Book of Job a couple of weeks ago. I’m still digesting it but it is a book that calls into question the idea of a judgmental, punishing God.

The first thing that struck me about the book was that the Devil was walking around having conversations with God and the Angels. The Devil isn’t allowed to do anything to Job without God’s permission, which leads me to believe that even the Devil serves God.

I’m going to digress a little and talk about my mom for a paragraph.

My brother was here this weekend and we are preparing the house for sale. As I let go of emotions and things, there was a second or two of excitement when I realized I will be starting a new chapter in my life soon, whatever it turns out to be. Looking back, it was an honor and a beautiful thing to walk by my mom through her death process. I learned a lot about her and myself and love and kindness. I still miss her dearly but talk to her often.

With God’s permission, the Devil takes Job’s family and fortune in a single blow, and then Job’s health with a second. I found it interesting that when Job’s friends show up that they didn’t comfort him or treat his wounds, they instead lectured him about being a sinner. We can be that way at our worst, a friend finds some trouble and we use it as a reason to let them know they are some kind of fuck-up.

 

If humans didn’t suffer, there would be no need for sacrifice, kindness, empathy, and compassion. Compassion and kindness are beautiful things, so who am I to question what God does?

 

Job lets them know that they are off base and explains that he has lived a righteous life which God, Job, and the reader all know to be true. This is another interesting point in the story. The Old Testament and Proverbs are full of stories of God rewarding the righteous and punishing the evildoers.

His friends follow this line of thinking and essentially continue to say, If you had not of sinned, none of these bad things would have happened.

Job questions this with his own observations, saying that he knows thieves who live long healthy lives and see their grandchildren grow up. Job has one friend show up who offers some wisdom. It is not for him to question what God does. God eventually restores Job’s health and prosperity and tells him the same thing. I do things for my own purpose and it is not for you to question.

This is a God of mystery, not punishment. I’m going to tie this in with some thoughts I have been having over the last few days.

As the story goes, before The Fall, human beings did not suffer and enjoyed peace and love in the Garden. I had a spiritual friend tell me that God made human beings without perfect understanding but could obtain it by seeking it. This friend said God never dreamed humans would start to make negative choices. And, indeed, towards the end of the story of Noah, God said he was sad he made human beings. According to my friend, God has been trying to get people back on track ever since, without much luck obviously.

My thoughts have been that God may have wondered how he would respond if he got himself in trouble. In other words, how would he respond if he saw one of his children lying sick and starving in the street? So, if Job and starving children serve God’s purpose, what could that purpose be? The only answer I have at this time is this: If humans didn’t suffer, there would be no need for sacrifice, kindness, empathy, and compassion. Compassion and kindness are beautiful things, so who am I to question what God does?

Another note about my mom.

A couple of weeks after she died, I was lying there on the couch and picturing her in that bed up at Royal Plaza. Part of the reason she wasn’t at home was because, like many of us, she didn’t want to be a burden; so, she was toughing it out on her own. I thought how brave she was. I don’t know how exactly to describe this, but it happens to me every once in a while. While I was having that thought about her bravery, I could hear and feel my heart crack a little. After the crack, a deeper love for my mom and everyone else emerged. I pray that it continues to emerge.

 

John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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