As I See it Now

As I see it now, there are always two ways to tell the truth.

I realized this as I was telling my story for the umpteenth time to a friend yesterday. The telling of my story has changed drastically over the years. Its evolved from some one-celled amoeba to a living, breathing organism. I no longer hold my story by the hands and guide its steps. My story moves of its own accord. It reveals beauty I choose to forget in day-to-day life. It shows me glimpses beyond the veil of this decaying world into a redemption so grand my heart can only now handle infinitesimally small viewings. The kindness of God flows like spirit, guiding my words in such a way that even my feelings are compelled to follow. In the telling, God’s glory and my life feels aligned in honest and raw display. Something of the image of God wakes to life.

It is not something I have manufactured.

It was not always this way.

Bitterness once took the reigns of my story. It is possible it will do so again. And you know what? That bitter tale is just as true as the way I tell my story now. How can that be?

Listen closely.

I’m not talking here of a shift from pessimism to optimism; negativity to positivity; or even bitterness to beauty.

I could tell you my story and point out to you proofs of how now I know God is clearly not kind. I could show you the particularly cruel ways life has handed me exactly what I most feared when I prayed for redemption. I could tell you that God is, above all things, a Master Manipulator who enjoys playing this cosmic game with all of us to see how we react. There is plenty in my story, and probably in yours, to prove this to you. I could encourage all of you like Job’s wife to curse God, live the way you want to live the remainder of your life, and die.

But my narrative unfolds in such a way now that God’s kindness simply spills out. Mercy overflows from a perspective I can’t even comprehend. It’s nonsensical faith. It’s ridiculous hope. The reality of this otherworldly perspective does not take away the grief. The loss and sorrow are as acute as it has ever been.

But this way of truth-telling also refuses to suppress the joy. God’s faithfulness lights candles and I snuff them out and he lights them again and the cycle goes on and on but more and more are lit and eventually I can’t help but notice. Just . . . notice . . . that perhaps . . . there is a little light here after all.

Gently, confidently, God’s kindness whispers:

But wait . . . there’s more.

How long can I wait for redemption to win?

It will never arrive fully; not until the day I die. How can I possibly cope?

By telling my story. By being a living Psalm, crying out to God for help on one hand and shaking my fist at Him with the other. By allowing Spirit to tell the truth of my bitterness or the truth of hope in Christ or the truth of both.

And sometimes, by watching my story remind me of love that defies and defines all my attempts to describe it.

The Physicist

This is a short story reflection of the tension I feel between God’s holiness and humanity. His goodness is in question. My doubts are many. I trust Jesus, but not fully. I disobey Him, sometimes on purpose. I want to forget Him and forge my own path but find His kindness meeting me in solitude and drawing me back to Him all the time. I am like a little kid in the presence of a physicist, angry and afraid of things I can’t possibly understand. And that’s how this story begins.

I meander around the physicist’s equipment, far above where my little arms can reach. I don’t understand anything of what he does. I just know it’s complicated. His eyebrows furrow a lot – the intensity of focus he puts into his work is unmatched.

I dare to interrupt: “Play with me?”

He turns at once, kneels to my level. The warmth in his eyes make no sense in contrast to the coldness of his confounding instruments. I shudder, afraid of all that is mysterious and holy.

“Don’t be afraid, little one,” he says in a gentleness that flows like a rippling brook.

I say nothing, but glance down at the bright blue ball I have in my hands. I toss the ball halfheartedly towards the physicist. He pretends to be taken aback by the strength of my throw, teetering over and falling to the floor. I can’t help but giggle as he sits up with a playful grin.

He tosses the ball back to me, but I miss catching it. The ball careens into a bunch of important-looking glass tubes that crash and explode and before I know it I’ve run into the physicist’s arms.

I don’t know why I ran to him.

I’m shaking with fear and pulling away. “Are you mad? Are you mad?” I whisper frantically. He holds me an arms-length away from him and touches my cheek. His eyes still hold a playful gleam, but there are also tears mirroring my own.

Smiling, he boops me on the nose with a tap of his finger and leaps to his feet. He goes to the corner of the room and pulls out two brooms and a dustpan.

“Cleanup on aisle 2!” He shouts, saluting me and handing me the smaller of the two brooms. I smile then hang my head in shame. Again, he kneels to my level. and lifts my chin. I stare past him, avoiding his gaze.

“You can tell me,” the physicist says, pushing a strand of hair behind my ear. “I already know,” he continues, finding my gaze. He looks serious. I turn away.

“It wasn’t an accident,” I whisper, gesturing to the hundreds of pieces of still-smoking broken glass. “I wanted to see . . . what . . . you would do,” I explained.

The physicist waited patiently. “And . . . it was kind of fun . . .” I finished lamely.

The physicist sighed knowingly. “How do you feel now?”

I look around the room at all the infuriating instruments. “I don’t know,” I reply honestly. “I don’t know if I’m sorry or not,” I admit, crossing my arms in a gesture of self-protection. The physicist nods, sets his broom down, and sits with me on the floor. “Don’t you have to work?” I ask, hoping he will stop paying attention to me. I’m feeling uncomfortable.

“This is my most important work,” he replies, stretching out and leaning back on his elbows.

I have a sudden urge to destroy more things in the lab. I hate all of it – all the things I don’t understand. How can the same man who plays catch with me work with such terrible tools?

We sit for what feels like an eternity. I keep expecting him to leave – to give up. Finally, he gets up, walking out of my line of sight.

I imagine now I can do what I want without his interfering.

Suddenly something brushes against my knee. It’s the bright blue ball, rolling slowly past me. Confused, I turn back towards the scene of the crime. The physicist stands amidst all the shattered glass and offers, “Play with me?”

And that’s how I began to love the physicist.