The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Lenten Season 2019
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” — before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain….Remember him — before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiates 12;1,2,6,7 NIV).
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13,14 NIV).
The Roman Road – Day 15 “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
“So, how did it go with Sofi the other night?”
“Actually, great,” John said. “We cleared the air and she agreed to be part of this whole thing with the Alpha Course.”
“Yeah, I saw her there tonight,” I said. “Didn’t she want to come over for a talk?”
“No, she wasn’t feeling well. Besides, I introduced her to your wife and they seemed to hit it off. Maybe they will get together sometime during the week.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said. “Do you think she’s really interested or just going through the motions to keep you happy?”
“Not sure yet,” John said. “But at least we’re talking.”
“And the baby?”
“That, too.” John looked up at me. “She’s a bit embarassed about that, what with her parents being so Catholic and all.”
“Can they handle it?”
“I hope so.”
“Well, this is what we were talking about,” I said. “Real life.” I wondered if I should press home a bit more. “After all, having a baby is a big thing and you guys aren’t married yet. You were almost ready to dump her last time we talked.”
“That was just talk,” John insisted. “I wasn’t serious.” He was quiet for a moment. “But I see what you mean. A baby is no joke. It doesn’t take much to mess up somebody’s life right from the start.”
“What do you mean?”
John went quiet again, looking at the floor. We were seated on the couch in the living room having a coffee.
“I’m not sure I should be telling you this, but I promised I would be honest with you.”
“Don’t tell me anything you shouldn’t.”
“No, I think I need to tell you,” John said. “Besides it has to do with what you’ve been writing about in your blog.”
I just waited for him to share his heart with me. I wondered what the big deal was. I was about to find out.
“After I left Sofi that night last week, when we had our fight, she had a bit of a crisis of her own.” John was talking slowly, trying to find the right words. “To be honest, I said some pretty mean things to her that night. She had a right to believe that things were over between us.”
“She thought I didn’t want the baby….” John almost choked up but managed to keep going. “She told me later that she had actually gone to a clinic to get some advice about how to get rid of the baby safely.”
“She hadn’t told her parents yet, so she would take care of two problems at the same time – me and them.”
“Did she go through with it?”
“No, thank God.” John sighed. “But it was a close thing. Apparently there was a brochure sitting there on the table from Bethel Child Services offering to adopt the baby as an alternative to abortion.”
Thank God for little miracles.
“That got her thinking about how many other couples can’t have kids and would love to adopt a child. They were just waiting for the opportunity to love a newborn like it was their own.”
“So she didn’t go through with it.”
“No. And she isn’t giving it up for adoption either. We’re keeping the baby and getting married in a couple of weeks.”
“Congratulations. Am I invited to the wedding?”
John smiled. “Of course. But you have to bring your wife. She and Sofi seem to be getting along great.”
“My wife loves weddings but she loves baby showers even more. I’m sure she will help Sofi as much as possible.” But I was thinking about something John had said earlier. “You said this had something to do with my last blog post. What was that all about?”
“Oh yeah. The one about Humpty Dumpty.”
“The Humpty Dumpty principle?”
“Yeah, you were talking about Dr. House and what an idiot he is.” John laughed out loud. “But it was a good point you made.”
“You mean that we’re supposed to fix what we break and undo what we do wrong?”
“Yeah, that stuff,” John said. “Not very realistic, but I totally get it.”
“Do you agree with it?”
“You mean that God has a right to set the standard that high? Even if it is unrealistic?” John looked at me strangely. “Actually, I do. It makes sense.”
“But…?” I could sense a “but” coming.
“Well, how can it make perfect sense and, at the same time, be unrealistic?”
I felt a pause in my spirit and I decided to just stay quiet. After a moment, John kept on talking.
“That’s what I meant when I said that this whole situation with Sofi had something to do with your blog.”
“In what way?”
“Well, it seemed like everything went to hell in a handbasket awful quick. One minute everything was fine. Then we had another fight. I said some things I shouldn’t have. She tells me she’s pregnant and before the night is over she is considering an abortion and is sitting in some dingy clinic somewhere.”
John was exasperated but he couldn’t stop talking.
“I mean. How is that possible? How can things be more or less fine and then go so bad so quick. What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with me?”
“Yeah, it’s like a bad dream. It can get out of hand pretty darn quick.”
“But that’s the thing. The baby could have been killed.” John’s voice was getting louder. “This isn’t a joke. It would have destroyed Sofi, too. And forget about us getting together. It could have all been destroyed in one fell swoop.”
“And you wouldn’t have any way to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” It was a statement more than a question, but John answered anyway.
“Exactly. How would I have ever fixed that mess? It could have destroyed our marriage before it even started.” John’s eyes were moist.
Was this God’s way of convicting John of sin? Now, that was interesting.
“Well, you aren’t the only one that has come to that realization, John. It doesn’t take much to screw things up. Love might be the answer but we, apparently, don’t always show a lot of it, especially when it counts.”
“Not just that,” John said. “This stuff matters. No wonder God is mad at us. Especially the people who take all of this stuff so lightly. Lots of people have abortions. Lots of people get divorced or sleep around or hurt people. The world is dangerous.” John stopped. “I’m dangerous.”
“Me, too.” Then we were both quiet for a while, thinking.
“But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have questions,” John said. “I’m starting to see what you mean that God has a different perspective on these things than we do, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to just accept everything.”
“I would hope not,” I said. “That would be boring.”
“Look, John. Asking the hard questions is the most honest thing you can do. Keep them coming and I will try my best to answer them. Deal?”
“Deal.” He looked straight at me with a challenge in his eyes. “You say that all evil is because we ignore God and have a broken relationship with Him. We don’t listen to him and we do whatever we want. Is that right?”
“Ok, but I still don’t understand why God doesn’t just stop us from doing bad things. I mean, if He is so powerful and all, why doesn’t He just make it so that we can’t hurt each other?”
“Good question,” I said. “Some people call this the “religious problem of evil.” If God is good and God is almighty and there is still evil in the world, how can those three statements all be true?”
“Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. Why doesn’t God just make it so that we don’t hurt each other and be done with it?”
“Well, I have some good news for you. That’s exactly what he’s doing.”
John blinked a couple of times. “That doesn’t make any sense. We are obviously still hurting each other, so it’s not working very well.”
“I seem to remember a certain brochure just laying around in the right place at the right time,” I said.
John just looked at me. “You think that was God?”
I nodded. But I could see that John still wasn’t convinced.
“It isn’t as easy as it sounds you know,” I said, coming to God’s defense. “You make it sound like God can just use force to make us be good.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Lots of people have tried that. Governments, dictators, teachers….doesn’t work.”
John thought for a moment. “But God is almighty so He must be able to do it. He can be everywhere and make sure nobody does any harm to anybody.”
“He could do it but I’m not sure He’d want to.”
“You mean, we would lose free will? Who cares? The world would be a safer place, wouldn’t it?”
“Of course, but if God wanted it to be safer, He could just kill everyone off with a virus or blow everyone to kingdom come with a nuclear bomb or two. Not that He would do that, of course, but the easiest way to get rid of the human problem is to get rid of the humans.”
“That wouldn’t work.”
“No. Besides God is trying to do something more difficult than just stop us from sinning or hurting each other.”
“Getting us to love one another, truly, from the heart.”
John was quiet. Finally he said, “Yeah, I can see how that would be harder. He really does have high standards, even with himself.”
“That’s the way love is. It sacrifices everything to create more love and you can’t do it with force, only with love.”
“Ok, I think what you’re saying is that this has something to do with the cross but that part isn’t clear to me yet.”
“It will come. For now, think about Sofi. You can’t force her to love you, can you? You can only invite her to love you by loving her first. It’s the way love works.”
“But in the meantime, we can still hurt each other.”
“Yes, the world is a dangerous place because people are willing to hurt each other too easily. We are no longer protected from each other, even by God. At least not all the time. This is serious business and it doesn’t have an easy solution.”
John was done for the night. I could tell. His mind was tired and he was still emotional about spilling the beans about Sofi and the “almost” abortion. But I still had one more thing to say.
“Listen, John,” I said. “Sounds like you’re going to fight for your relationship with Sofi, for the baby, for all of it, right?”
“You bet I am.”
“Why? Most guys would walk away. Too complicated. Too emotional. Too much work and no guarantee of success.”
“Because I love her, that’s why.” He smiled. “She’s worth it.”
I waited for a long moment and then I told him the truth he needed to hear.
“John,” I said. “God feels exactly the same way about you.”
The Desert Warrior
Lord, the topic of sin often seems so remote to our daily lives until we have a couple of real situations to deal with. Thank you for teaching us the danger of sin and how easily we can fall into it. Our actions have consequences and we cannot forget that. Thank you for saving us from the consequences of our actions. Teach us to love one another from the heart. In your name I pray. Amen.