Cursing God

Once I was teaching a high school American Literature class, and a student says, “I don’t understand The Red Badge of Courage.  It’s a war book, but there are hardly any battle scenes.  I don’t get it.”

So we did a little Socratic dialogue, and while I don’t remember any particular question, I can tell you I did great.  That day, I was an awesome teacher, leading the young man through a process of growth.  Such awesomeness did not happen often as a teacher, I can assure you, which is one reason that now, instead of being “a writer who teachers” or “a teacher who writes,” I’m just “a writer who writes.”

At the end of the line of questions, this fine young man goes, “Ohhh … That’s why there are hardly any battle scenes — I get it: it’s not a war book.  It’s an anti-war book.”

Absolutely correct.  Stephen Crane wasn’t even alive during the Civil War, and he certainly didn’t think it a swell thing.

This student had a minor epiphany.  I would say, humbly but without qualification, he learned.


So last week I’m driving home from dropping my son off at work.  I’m rehashing several examples of things people have been “off” about in recent months, including me.  Car insurance companies, friends, sources for stories … awl wrong, as my wife’s mother — New Jersey born and bred — says.

This is stuff that in some cases has taken hours of talking and months of back-and-forthing … only to end up, I’m not kidding, right where we started.  I’m further envisioning what might go contrary this very day to what people have previously said.

And I start to curse and rail against God.

“What the bleep is going on?!  This blank is a total waste of time!”

This goes on for about a mile — less than two minutes.  Then I spring the big question on Him.  I think I’ve really nailed it.

Why can’t we bleeping blanking get it right?!”

And I get my own little epiphany, just like that young man in the lit class.  Just as immature in my way, too.  Now I don’t want to misuse the word epiphany and I don’t want to say I’m so darn smart for “getting” it — more like so stupid for not getting it until now.

But I did see.

As the blind John Newton says in “Amazing Grace” — “Didn’t I write, ‘I was blind but now I see’?  And now it’s finally true.”

The goal is not to get it right.  We’re not here primarily to get it right, or help everyone else get it right, or, heaven forfend make them get it right.  It’s not irrelevant, or not part of the plan, but it’s not the first thing.

The first thing is to love.

If we do that, we’ll often get “getting it right” thrown in.  But outcomes our not our problem; that belongs to God.  Our task is the work.  Our task is the love.

I had it wrong for a long time.  First I thought I had to make it right, and kinda sorta mostly make other people get it right.

Even when I matured (?) to helping them get it right — guiding, counseling, directing, whatever — that was still not the thing.

After all, the Holy Spirit is the one who guides into all truth.  All truth.

Now look — apologetics wants to get it right.  Systematic theology wants to get it right.  Even algebra wants to get it right — to get it right, and help others get it right — guiding, counseling, directing, whatever.  [Making people get it right is excluded, completely, of course.]

They help remove impediments.  That’s what is all about.

We accentuate the positive, you might say.

But that’s not the goal.

The goal is love.


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