What of Evil?

I have written plenty before about how I don’t think God is a vending machine, where if you ask hard enough for the pony you get one. Even if the pony is, say, saving your child from a dread disease.

I don’t see God as a master puppeteer, with hands on strings over all of us and the creation around us, such that any sense of free will is illusory, and everything unfolds in a master plan. That’s an image you only have to own if God is above all powerful.

My God is above all love. So I see God as eternally improvising a backup plan for us to get us back toward on track. This is the God the Prodigal Father who lets his younger son run off and waste half his fortune, and then throws a feast for him when he drags his sorry ass back.

You gave me a model of who you are. I grew up with much older sisters (said that way to see if any of them read this, of course), so I was still a kid in the house with mom and dad while they were teens and young adults. I had four great sisters, and I still have three great sisters today.

From home, I saw the toll Sharon had on mom and dad. Alcohol, drugs, jail, bad men, disappearance, all in a swirl. For longer than I think my heart could stand, were I them. They tried all the things: treatment centers and tough love and whatever else they could think of, to help her find her way back to herself. It was decades-long, with these horribly precarious spells of seeming return, swooped away by the next wave of chemicals. It tore them up in ways they kept quiet about but could not possibly hide. How could you possibly hide that kind of hurt?

She did find her way back, and was in a good place when she died, and or a long time before she died. But in the tumult of watching my parents at the door waiting for prodigal Sharon, I saw what divine love looks like. If that’s who you are, Love, I get it. In fact I can’t imagine you are anything other than that.

So, evil. I know the schoolbook answers as well as I know they are insufficient. I know that without Sharon’s fall I would not know that side of parental love…but I also know that the one does not justify the other. All I can tell you, fully aware of how unsatisfactory it is, is that if you really want to dwell on the question of evil, you need to be tolerant of ambiguity and unknowing. I find it easier to stomach evil when I see how it calls out love. That’s really all I can say.

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